An emaciated 4-year-old Thoroughbred named Sarahs Tiger needed a sling hung from a special scaffold to keep him upright when he was brought by equine ambulance to the UW Veterinary Medical Hospital on Tuesday.
It wasn’t long ago when Tiger was a handsome gelding 16 hands high and presumably with a future as a race horse.
But after he failed to win on the track, he was left to starve on an Illinois farm before rescuers stepped in late last month and tried to save him.
Now the weakened horse is in the care of a UW veterinarian, but it might be too late to think Tiger’s luck has changed.
Dr. Sarah Jacob said Tiger’s condition was guarded to poor.
“The next 24 to 48 hours will tell the story of how he’s going to do,” she said.
Kami Earlywine, who owns a farm near Rockford, Ill., found Tiger during a drive to a farm in Bull Valley, Ill. Earlywine said the owner gave her Tiger, already 400 pounds underweight, for free.
Earlywine gave Tiger constant attention and hoped he had turned the corner. But he lay down around 9 p.m. Monday and couldn’t get up because he was so weak.
Earlywine called Donna Ewing, who operates the Hooved Animal Rescue & Protection Society in Barrington, Ill.
HARPS brought the horse to Madison and will pay the vet bill.
Tiger’s case is not unique among big-animal veterinarians. The number of starving horses brought to their attention has increased since the economy worsened and slaughterhouses were closed by the federal government.
“It’s been bad the last year,” Jacob said. “I’ve seen a lot more than we should.”
So has Ewing. “This is the fifth hideous case I’ve seen this year,” she said.
Ewing blamed “well-meaning do-gooder animal lovers” for leading a campaign to stop people from shooting horses when they can’t sell or afford to take care of them anymore.
Shooting “is one of the kindest, quickest and most humane ways to euthanize a horse,” Ewing said. “You can put them down like a farm animal but you can’t let them starve or suffer. If you do, you can go to prison.”
If Tiger survives, Earlywine wants him to live out his life in her pasture.
“Just be a horse, because that’s what he deserves,” she said.