FOUNTAIN, Colo. - An Ohio woman is accusing a local horse transportation company of subjecting her animal to such horrific conditions, it cost the horse its life.
Lindsey Deckers hired Nation-Wide Horse Transportation, a Fountain-based company, to ship her horse Elle from Ohio to her university in Virginia. To make the trip from door to door, it would take seven hours. However, the company told Decker it would be transporting several horses at once, so the trip would take one day.
Decker said the horse was supposed to be delivered on Sunday, but it didn't show up until Tuesday. She said when Elle arrived, she was extremely dehydrated and could barely walk off the trailer.
Two days before her departure, a veterinarian checked Elle and certified that the horse was healthy. Upon Elle's arrival to Virginia, a veterinarian diagnosed Elle with pneumonia. Decker said it's likely from being unable to cough to clear debris from her lungs because her head had been tied up for so long. Also, Elle was diagnosed with laminitis and it pained her to walk.
Decker said it was clear during the three-day trip Elle never left the trailer.
"You can't do that to an animal," said Decker.
Within a few days, veterinarians said Elle's condition would not ever improve to a point where she could live comfortably, so Decker had to put her down.
"It's hard anytime you lose an animal. And it's part of the horse world, they don't live forever. But this was so preventable and so unnecessary. It broke my heart," said Decker.
Decker said her family contacted the company's owner and considered pursuing a lawsuit. However, after learning how much legal fees would cost, Decker decided instead to take a different course of action. Decker posted Elle's story on Facebook and within one day, it was shared more than 23,000 times.
Since she posted it, Elle said other people with similar experiences have contacted her about the injuries to their horses because of the horrific conditions during the transport. There are more than a dozen online reviews in which customers discuss similar stories.
"It seems like they have been getting away with it for a very long time; people told me they had this experience 15 or 20 years ago. It's mind-blowing that they have been able to do this for so long," said Decker.
Company owner Brenda Steele said she was unaware of Decker's complaint until the Facebook post.
'Complete surprise. Oh my gosh, we have all, it came out of nowhere," said Steele.
Steele said since the story was posted on social media, her employees have been inundated with harassing phone calls.
Steele said Elle's death was out of her company's control. She believes the horses already had pneumonia and started showing symptoms after she was picked up. She said people do not understand how the horse-transporting business works. She said putting horses in trailers can be very stressful on the animals and causes them to have health issues.
"We did not do anything out of the ordinary. We move horses, we take care of them. They drink, they eat," said Steele.
Decker said she is sharing her experience in hopes that it will prevent other horse owners from feeling the same heartbreak.
"It's not about the money to us, it's about making sure it doesn't happen to horses again," said Deckers.