by RMHP Staff
“We’re here to take care of them. I just can’t wrap my head around it.” Luana Middleton says her excitement turned into horror when she looked into the trailer. The formerly bright eyed gelding was thin with ribs showing, covered in mud and manure, standing on three legs with puss dripping from his right hock.
Middleton purchased a young but willing dun quarter horse gelding to be the future trail mount for her grandchildren. He earned the name Valiant from Middleton’s granddaughter, who was the first to earn the golden gelding’s trust.
Middleton’s farrier, and self-proclaimed horse whisperer, Troy Mortensen, insisted for months to let him take the gelding for training. Finally giving in, she sent the healthy two year old gelding for a month; which would turn into two when he didn’t return the gelding as agreed.
It was when Valiant was returned in a tiny two horse trailer in early February that she made the horrifying discovery. They didn’t even unload Valiant, but instead rushed him directly to the vet. Mortensen tried to convince her that the injury must have happened in the trailer. Frantic about his injured hock and still trying to get answers, Middleton says when they arrived at the vet's office Mortensen boasted about taking an equine nutrition class and the diet he had the gelding on "because he was so fat." Middleton says she couldn't believe what she was hearing and just wanted to concentrate on Valiant.
Ultimately the vet had a different opinion regarding when the injury occurred. Valiant was treated aggressively over the next five days, but the injury would change the course of his life. The infection reached the joint, and as typical in horse leg injuries, the opposite leg sustained injury from bearing the extra weight. With no hope for recovery, and with his quality of life diminishing by the day, the decision was reached to euthanize him.
Days later Middleton called Mortensen to let him know Valiant had to be put down, and was shocked by his callous reaction. Unable to allow Valiant’s death to go unaddressed, she filed suit in small claims court. The details of Valiant’s tragic death caught the eye of producers for the syndicated TV Court Series "Judge Joe Brown."
In front of Judge Joe Brown and America, Middleton charged that Mortensen's care for Valiant was negligent and abusive and asked for just over $2000 to cover the training costs and vet fees. Even without the examining vet in the courtroom and Mortensen claiming “flat out bad luck,” the judge sided with Valiant not receiving the care that was required.
Middleton now says, “I’m just left to wonder, how he had the guts to bring him back in that shape.” Moreover, she says she is angry at herself for even letting him take the horse to begin with. It is difficult to know what kind of person you are dealing with. You can request and check references; however those are always the references hand picked by the professional.
Rate My Horse PRO is a new website that allows people to rate their experiences with horse professionals including horse trainers and farriers. Even with the judgment, Middleton says she still “felt helpless.” When told about Rate My Horse PRO Middleton said, “I’m elated to know there is someone doing something to help warn others."
Valiant on December 4, 2010
Taken by the brand inspector the day Valiant left with horse trainer, Troy Mortensen.
Valiant's injured leg when Troy Mortensen returned him to his owner in early February (left image)
and the injured leg after treatment was started by his owner's veterinarian that day (right image.)
Photos of Valiant the day before he was put down; the infection spread to the joint according to his vet.