A world-renowned farrier testified in the Beth Lynne Hoskins animal cruelty trial Thursday that the condition of her horses’ hooves would not have caused pain or suffering, based on the photographs and medical records he reviewed from the raid of her horses three years ago.
Randolph Luikart, who has worked with horses for 46 years and is considered an expert in the care of horses’ hooves, was the final defense witness called to the stand in the nonjury criminal trial before Aurora Town Justice Douglas Marky.
The trial has had an on-again, off-again rhythm, stretching for a year, but there were indications Thursday that closing summations could come as early as next week. Luikart is scheduled to be cross-examined by the prosecution today.
“There was no condition on the horses’ hooves that would have caused pain and suffering,” from what he saw, Luikart said. The Ashland, Ohio, resident is featured in the Kentucky Derby Museum as part of the international Hall of Fame for veterinarians and farriers.
Luikart testified in great detail about intricate parts of hooves and what is considered normal, as well as hoof distortions, which he testified “are somewhat normal.”
He drew pictures for the judge and insisted he did not see any records indicating Hoskins’ horses would have been in pain.
Defense attorney Thomas Eoannou on several occasions asked Luikart about various aspects of testimony from prosecution witness Joshua Burkhardt, a farrier who assisted the SPCA Serving Erie County in its medical evaluation of Hoskins’ horses after the agency seized them.
Burkhardt had testified that the horses showed signs of severe neglect, bruising and hoof damage, and that some had extensive heel growth and neglect that could be painful and affect their balance.
Luikart disputed many aspects of Burkhardt’s testimony, which was paraphrased by Eoannou.
The defense attorney asked: “Do you think there was extensive neglect on her horses’ hooves” based on your review of records from March 18, 2010, the day of the raid?
Luikart replied: “No.”
When asked about the presence of thrush infection in some of the horses’ feet, Luikart said that a horse’s foot is never sterile and that no evidence of thrush was noted in medical records that would have caused pain or suffering on the day of the raid.
He also said one would expect to find thrush in a herd of that size – in Hoskins’ case, numbering 73 horses.
“I’ve seen thrush in a barn that you could eat off the floor of. It’s not unique to environments,” Luikart said. “It’s everywhere.”
He also testified that some horse owners choose to have their horses’ hooves trimmed and shoe them at different times, or more frequently than others. He also noted that horses turned out in pastures can get along with “just about anything” on their feet. And he said there is an optimum hoof length for each horse and that it can even differ from one leg to another on the same horse.
When questioned by Eoannou, Luikart said horses would not suffer pain from standing on frozen or uneven manure packs.