A court hearing over the alleged neglect of a horse ended Thursday in Salisbury with Judge Jane Harper saying she needed more time to make a final ruling on whether she will dissolve a temporary restraining order over the issue of the health of a horse.
The hearing involves local attorney Robert Inge and Lisa Young, the owner of Highland Hills Farms off Old Mocksville Road.
At issue is the horse Cee Mee Streak, owned by Inge, but given to Highland Hills Farms about a year ago. Inge said in court that the use of the horse was "donated" to Highland Hills, but Young says her understanding was that she was, and still is, the owner of Cee Mee.
Inge had Cee Mee for more than twenty years, but as the horse aged, Inge said he wanted to be able to allow Cee Mee to have new experiences and bring joy to others, so he took the horse to Highland Hills Stables where the horse could be part of a program that allows children to interact with the animals and learn to ride.
"Approximately 11 months ago we decided to let him go stay at Highland Hills Stables in Salisbury," Inge posted on his Facebook page. "We weren't riding much anymore. He was about 22 years old and blind in one eye but a wonderful, gentle, beautiful animal. Our idea was that he would go to Highland Hills where he would be loved on by little kids and ridden some by children and otherwise have a nice life."
The facility advertises itself on its web site as "the home of God, kids, and horses," and is a "Christian, family oriented riding facility for kids of all ages."
Inge told WBTV that when he left Cee Mee at Highland Hills on Old Mocksville Road in June of 2014, that the horse was very healthy, but he says within a few months, that changed.
Inge said that his wife saw some pictures on Facebook of a horse that appeared to be malnourished and in poor health, and then realized the pictures were of Cee Mee. Inge showed the pictures to WBTV and they appeared to show the horse's ribcage protruding from its side.
"Our Cee Mee was in a state of starvation," Inge added. "The stable owner refused to give him back and tried to minimize his condition."
Inge said that he contacted Highland Hills and demanded to be able to reclaim Cee Mee, but was told that he would not be allowed to take the horse. Inge also says that the farm's owner gave Inge reasons as to why the horse might appear to be unhealthy and promised to have a veterinarian check the horse.
Rowan County Animal Control was notified, as well as the Rowan Sheriff's Office. Animal Control Director Clai Martin told WBTV that his department did begin an investigation. Martin said his officer found that the owner of Highland Hills had contacted a veterinarian to examine Cee Mee.
The hearing began at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. Inge represented himself, while Young was represented by attorney Ed Ferguson.
The first witness called by Inge was Dr. Andy Gardner, DVM, who testified that he examined Cee Mee after Inge had gotten the horse back from Highland Hills.
When Gardner was asked to describe Cee Mee, he said the horse was "emaciated and quite thin," and found that the horse had developed a heart murmur. He added he was determined that Cee Mee's condition was caused by malnutrition.
"Something had to change," Gardner testified. "This is definitely malnutrition."
When asked if any medical condition could account Cee Mee's declining health, Gardner said no. He described Cee Mee's condition prior to June 2014 as "sort of chunky, a very muscled horse."
An Animal Control officer who was called to investigate says Young was given a civil citation for cruelty to animals.
Highland Hills owner Lisa Young testified that she had recognized that Cee Mee was losing weight, and was taking steps to correct the problem.
"I bought supplements, I increased the grain, I took him out of the (riding) rotation," Young testified. "I should have called the vet sooner."
"The horse was never neglected," Joel Young testified. "We reacted to it the way we thought was proper."
After closing arguments Judge Harper told the court that she needed more time to research the temporary restraining order and the facts of the case before issuing a final ruling. For now, that means nothing changes and Cee Mee remains at the Inge home.