Sudden Death of 21 Polo Horses

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28th April 2009

The sudden death of 21 polo horses at a championship in West Palm Beach, Florida on the 21st April initially caused authorities grave concerns as to the reason why 21 seemingly healthy horses could just drop without warning. The horses from the Venezuelan- owned team Lechuza Caracas became ill just before the tournament started, collapsing and dying on the scene according to Associated Press (AP).

The deaths shocked the equestrian world, the International Polo Club Palm Beach hosts the US Open Polo Championships every year, president of club operations, John Walsh said "this was devastating, It was heartbreaking, to see so many horses get sick all at once".

Dr Scott Swerdlin, a vet at Palm Beach Equine Clinic treated one of the sick horses; and told reporters, ‘A combination of something with an error in something was given to these horses caused this toxic reaction".

Toxicology reports later found that the deaths resulted in an incorrectly prepared supplement which had been given to the 21 horses. The Venezuelan polo team had a local pharmacy mix up a concoction after it was unable to legally take a supplement into the US that makes their horses more resilient. The chemicals were mixed wrong and the horses died in rapid succession.

The Lechuza polo team had hoped to get a similar compound to the name brand supplement used safely around the world to help horses with exhaustion but had not been approved by the US Food and Drug Adminstration.
An internal review at the pharmacy responsible for mixing the medication found that ‘the strength of an ingredient in the medication was incorrect'.

(Compiled from AP and SMH news sources)