‘It’s a total misrepresentation of me.’ Man defends his horses despite social media outrage
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REXBURG — A Madison County man is defending the care of his horses after a social media post accused him of neglect and abuse, recently caused outrage in the community.
Norman Riley owns more than 25 horses kept on property along Archer Road. He says he’s cared for many of the animals for two decades and is not abusing them.
Riley takes issue with a Facebook post put on a Rexburg community page by Natalie Childs Tuesday evening. Childs is a Brigham Young University-Idaho student from South Carolina. She posted photos of Riley’s horses and wrote:
Chances are if you’ve ever been to Big Judds, you’ve passed the fields that these horses are in. There are dozens and dozens of them. They have been reported to authorities multiple times over the years, but nothing has been done.
Conditions worsen in the winter when they are only fed straw, the equivalent of us only eating celery everyday. They have BROKEN LEGS, grown out hooves, worms, hernias, and God knows what else. They are bred and bred, and the problem grows.
I rescued one last fall and he has a wonderful new home, but many of these horses are beyond help and sadly need to be euthanized. Sorry for the graphic post, but something NEEDS to be done. As a last resort, I’m hoping that reaching out to the public will help draw attention to the dire need these horses are in.
EastIdahoNews.com visited Riley’s property Wednesday morning, and Riley spent 45 minutes walking through the pasture with a reporter.
“Look at them. Do you see one that’s in bad shape?” Riley said. “The state vet came out two weeks ago and looked at them and said there wasn’t a problem.”
Sgt. Isaac Payne with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office confirms they received a complaint about Riley’s horses a few weeks ago. Animal cruelty complaints are referred to the state veterinarian’s office, who followed up with Riley.
“They came out and inspected and found the level of care to be within their state-approved perimeters,” Payne says. “They did offer some recommendations. They get called out to calls like that to make sure those animals have everything they need and are taken care of.”
Payne says the sheriff’s office follows the recommendations of the state veterinarian and as of now Riley has not been cited.
EastIdahoNews.com reached out to the Idaho Department of Agriculture for comment and will update the story if we receive a response.
Childs stands by her assertions in the Facebook post and tells EastIdahoNews.com that some of Riley’s horses have club feet. She believes it is a genetic condition and is upset Riley continues to breed his animals.
“I know first hand he doesn’t like giving horses away,” Childs says. “It’s hard to get a horse out of there. I’ve called the Sheriff’s Office before and the problem is he only feeds them straw. That is the equivalent to a human eating celery the whole winter and expecting to be healthy. Horses eat hay – not straw.”
Childs did not elaborate on how she knows what the horse’s day-to-day diet is. Riley said the pictures posted by Childs on Facebook are not telling the whole story. He said he does feed his animals an adequate amount of hay.
“They’re not taking pictures of these ones,” Riley says pointing to several of his horses. “I don’t understand those two horses (shown on social media) and why she would do that because that’s a total misrepresentation of me.”
Riley says he agreed to give two lame horses to a woman who recently came to his property and wanted to care for them. Childs says the woman is a friend of hers who wants to stay out of the situation because “she is the only one that’s been allowed to take horses out of there.”
Childs says a private veterinarian looked at the two horses and determined they needed to be euthanized immediately. EastIdahoNews.com could not independently verify that claim.
Riley admits some of his horses are old, but that doesn’t mean they need to be put down.
“Animals get old just like people get old. What are you going to do?” Riley said. “Are you going to need to be euthanized or you think you’re going to make it to 80 … Them horses don’t want to be shot. Look at them wag their tail like they want left alone.”
Childs’ post prompted a woman to create a Facebook fundraiser for the horses and some have even tried to “rescue” the animals, according to Riley.
On Tuesday night, he said one person posted they were going to cut his fences down and let all the horses out.
“We would like to caution anyone considering taking this matter into their own hands,” Payne says. “Vigilante justice will not improve this matter. We ask for the community’s support as we reach a resolution through lawful means.”
Childs says she will continue to call the sheriff and pursue other avenues until something is done. Riley says he will continue to care for his animals despite what anyone says.
“Everybody can see them and that’s alright. I don’t have a problem with that,” Riley says. “I don’t need bad mouthing saying they’re not getting taken care of.”