Heart Six Ranch owner says poison killed horse

October 18, 2017 GMT

The owner of Heart Six Ranch found out late Tuesday that his beloved mini horse Buckwheat died of gallic acid poisoning. Owner Frank Chapman, 49, cited toxicology reports from G Bar G Veterinary Services.

The report comes a week after the Teton County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation to find out why Buckwheat and his corral mate Booberry were so skinny.

Deputies responded last week after a complaint was filed about thin horses at Heart Six Ranch, in Buffalo Valley north of Jackson. While neighbors allege neglect and cruelty, Deputy Doug Raffelson found no signs of negligence at the scene. But he did find two unhealthy horses, one of which later died.

Ken and Bobbi Eva, the reporting parties, are not happy with the animal control officer’s findings.

“The pony died because he was neglected and starved,” Ken Eva said.

Raffelson believed the horse was sick, not starving.

“Yes, the horses are skinny,” Raffelson said. “But there are many reasons that can happen.”

Buckwheat died Thursday at G Bar G Veterinary Services in Riverton.

“A necropsy was done and they found a twisted gut,” Raffelson said.

Although that was probably the cause of Buckwheat’s death, the poison was slowly attacking his body weeks before that.

“He showed signs of liver failure and other issues during the necropsy,” Raffelson said.

The investigation started Oct. 7 after the Evas called police.

“I first saw him on Wednesday, Oct. 4,” Bobbi Eva said, “and was shocked at his condition as this pony is always butterball fat.”

Eva claims she looked in the pen and Buckwheat didn’t have any hay. Eva says she called Heart Six out of concern for the horse. She said a man on the phone told her Buckwheat was fine but had a worm problem.

That’s a detail Chapman disagrees with.

“Nobody called the ranch,” Chapman said. “We have one that’s sick and they want to make a big deal out of it.”

Chapman, who lives part-time in Florida, said he’s displeased with how the situation has been handled.

“I’m disappointed in them,” Chapman said. “They were looking for sensationalism. There’s absolutely nothing we could do to save his life.”

When deputies first visited Heart Six on Oct. 7 the horses had fresh hay and water, they reported.

“If a horse is starving it will eat everything in sight,” Raffelson said.

Buckwheat lived in a separate corral with Booberry, who was also thin.

The managers of the ranch, who cooperated with police, had noticed the horses were emaciated and were trying home remedies, Raffelson said. But when the deputy returned to the ranch Oct. 11 Buckwheat couldn’t stand.

“He had been walking around the night before,” Raffelson said. “I asked them to take him to the vet.”

Ranch managers loaded Buckwheat into a trailer and took him to their vet, G Bar G Veterinary Services.

Buckwheat died around 1 a.m. Thursday, Raffelson said.

After learning of Buckwheat’s death ranch managers loaded up Booberry and took him to the vet, too, in case he was suffering from the same sickness.

“Us rushing Booberry to the vet may have saved his life,” Chapman said.

Inquiries to the vet about Booberry’s condition were unanswered, but Chapman said he’s eating well.

“We’re as sad as everyone else that Buckwheat died,” he said. “He was so friendly. He ate everything. He would fight to steal the other horses’ food.”

Chapman bought Heart Six Ranch two years ago, he said, but he’s had horses his whole life.

“I know the proteins that are in all the different grains and what you need to feed them to make them fatter,” Chapman said. “Some horses will put on weight and some won’t.”

The pen where the two were kept still had edible vegetation, Chapman said.

“If they would have eaten everything in that pen we would have moved them.”

The other 150 or so horses corralled at Heart Six Ranch are healthy, Raffelson said.

Requests for the toxicology reports were not immediately answered.

Gallic acid poisoning is most commonly contracted from red maple trees, Chapman said his veterinarian told him.

“All I’m going to say right now is there are no maples on my property,” Chapman said. “Someone really has to have a lot of knowledge to know that would kill a horse.”