Horses have never had it so good. So why are so many at risk this winter in Massachusetts?
It's not a disease or a predator that is stalking horses in the Bay State. It's the dangerous after-effects of eight feet (or more) of snow.
What may be the snowiest winter in the state's history has been a disaster for many horse barns, stables, and indoor arenas in the eastern part of the state. Two horses lost their lives and dozens have been left without a roof over their heads as buildings are simply giving way under the weight of snow and ice.
The Jurga Report has created a video file from local news reports, one of which arrived just this morning as this article was preparing for publication.
Let's begin there, in Norwell, Massachusetts. A combination stable/arena collapsed early this morning, according to news reports, trapping the horses within.
For many horse owners in the Northeast, complaints about barns never end, and neither do the repairs. That rickety old wooden barn is drafty. The floor isn't safe. The roof leaks. The electric wiring needs updating. The pipes freeze.
New barns have their problems, too.
But many learned this winter that the roof may be what matters most. In the past few weeks, New Englanders are seeing too many horse barns on television news broadcasts.
In Andover, Massachusetts, a collapse meant just a portion of the roof of a large equestrian complex at Flying High Stables came down.
"The side over the indoor is what collapsed first, so the roof where it connects to the walls on the stall-side of the building held...probably saving the horses," stable owner David Wilson said the day after the disaster.
"The horses are out and literally unmarked," he continued. "One horse must have banged an old scrape on his leg, so it was opened again, but nothing more than a kid's road-rash. All of the horses have roofs over their heads and hay in their bellies.
"The horses we pulled from the building were all put out in paddocks with extra hay and in such a way that they all had company."
In some cases, it was not just barn roofs that brought firefighters out to help horses. In one incident, a horse was reported to have been hit by a huge falling icicle. In this video case, in Hamilton, Massachusetts, a horse became stuck in a snowdrift.
Watch the video when this horse is freed to see how much snow is in the horses' pastures.
Bobby's Ranch in Westford, Massachusetts suffered not just one, but two, barn collapses. The worst one was a Quonset hut converted to a barn. When it collapsed, two horses died beneath the weight of the snow.
Rainbow's End, a therapeutic riding center in Attleboro, Massachusetts also had a barn collapse.
Is the worst over? Rain and more snow are predicted for this week, and meteorologists fear what may happen when the melting begins, if repeated re-freezing cycles occur.
Are your horses safe tonight? Not everyone can say that theirs are. Across the state, horse owners are looking up at their roofs, and wondering what's next.