Sports Outside the Beltway

Officials blame mineral overdose in polo horse deaths

Local prosecutors say this isn’t a criminal matter. From AP-

Florida officials say a mineral overdose is the probable cause of death for 21 polo horses that fell ill as they prepared for a championship match earlier this month.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Tuesday the animals likely overdosed on selenium, a common mineral that can be toxic in high doses.

The horses from the Venezuelan-owned Lechuza Caracas team began collapsing as they were unloaded from trailers at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington. Some died at the scene, others hours later. All 21 horses were dead by the next day.

The toxicology results say the animals had “significantly increased selenium levels.”

How much significantly increased? Ten to twenty times the normal amount Dr. John Harvey a University of Florida veterinarian tells The Palm Beach Post.

Citing anonymous sources, an Argentine newspaper reported last week that the supplements included 5 milligrams per milliliter of selenium instead of 0.5 milligrams. Harvey said the horses’ blood and livers contained 10 to 20 times the normal amount of selenium.

The Florida Department of Agriculture declined to offer any details of the ongoing probe.

The poisioning of these horses had to take place over a period of time. A one-time dosage I think wouldn’t have caused those levels to occur.

The question that stumps Harvey is unlikely to be solved by the ongoing investigation into who is responsible for the bad batch of supplements that killed the polo ponies. His question is less complicated.

Why, he wondered Tuesday after the test results were announced, would anyone inject a benign but unnecessary supplement into healthy horses?

“I’m not sure why one needs a mixture like this,” Harvey said, referring to a generic version of Biodyl that became lethal when too much selenium was added. “I’m sitting here saying, ‘Why give them intravenous vitamins?’ I would recommend a good balanced diet.”

Humans usually out of ignorance give themselves drugs and vitamins they think are good for them, when they are of no benefit or even detrimental. Why should their behavior be any different when it comes to animals?

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