Beatrix on the left and Java on right.

Unanswered Questions, Unreleased Documents Hamper Efforts to Explain Lyme Horse’s Death

The cause of death and burial location of a Lyme show horse that died under unclear circumstances at a Marlborough boarding barn nearly three months ago remain a mystery to the horse’s owner as she awaits the results of an investigation by the state Department of Agriculture.

And requests made more than three weeks ago to the department by CT Examiner for public documents under state Freedom of Information laws have gone unfilled. The requests are for reports of any previous inspections, complaints or investigations involving the Marlborough barn and the horse transporter that removed the horse’s body from the barn and buried it in an undisclosed location. 

An email sent this week to Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt and his staff attorney, Carole Briggs, asking for the status of the requests drew no comment from Hurlburt and a one-sentence reply from Briggs.

“I am still waiting to see what records are available,” she wrote. 

An emailed statement from the barn’s owner to CT Examiner on Friday — the barn’s first public comment on the matter – read: “We are withholding comment so we do not interfere with the investigation by the state of CT. We will be happy to talk to you after they have completed the investigation and will be more than happy to have you out to the farm.”

The horse’s owner, Dana Ramsey Maxwell, said she has been rebuffed in persistent attempts to obtain the location of the body so that she can exhume and inspect it. 

“Can you please explain why I am not legally allowed access to my horse – if that’s even my horse?” Maxwell asked investigating state Animal Control Officer Tanya Wescovich in an Oct. 12 email. 

“Your attorney is the one that will be able to get you the location and the permission to access the body if it’s possible to do so,” replied Wescovich, who previously acknowledged the department is aware of the burial site. “I do not have the authority to give you or anyone else (including myself) access to the property.”

“I do not need an attorney to ask questions,” Maxwell wrote to Wescovich. “I am asking you because you are or were doing an investigation and identifying the horse’s body would be part of that.”

Maxwell said Wescovich’s response only adds to her growing dissatisfaction with the department’s handling of the case.

“Because they won’t disclose the location of Beatrix’s body, I can’t even do my own investigation,” she said Friday.  

The case has drawn significant attention in the equine community and on social media, and Maxwell said she has obtained information that makes her suspicious about the circumstances of the incident. 

“I know enough to know that a lot of stories aren’t lining up,” she said Friday. 

Wescovich told Maxwell earlier this month that her preliminary conclusion was that Beatrix died of a brain aneurysm and was not subject to any form of cruelty, based on the opinion of a state veterinarian and a private veterinarian contacted by the barn the day of the incident. 

It is unclear if the veterinarians actually inspected the horse’s body or if a necropsy has been done – or if they made that finding solely on witness accounts.

Beatrix was a registered Hanoverian and a champion hunter-jumper whose show name was By All Means. 

Maxwell had leased the horse to a Haddam woman who began boarding it at the Marlborough barn on Aug. 31 – four days before it died.

According to Maxwell, the Haddam woman told her that the barn had notified her that Beatrix died of a suspected aneurysm after shaking, rearing up and collapsing while being led to a barn from an outdoor paddock, where she had spent the night. 

Maxwell said the transporter she hired to remove Beatrix’s body from the barn property told her that it was extremely bloody, bloated and in apparent advanced rigor mortis when she arrived a few hours later.

The transporter, who Maxwell described as a friend with whom she has done business for a decade, has subsequently refused to tell her where the horse is.

Maxwell said she is hoping that the investigation will finally reveal the location of Beatrix’s  body, and whether the death was preceded by violence in any fashion by a person or other horses. 

She emailed Wescovich on Friday inquiring about the status of the investigation. 

“I will be submitting my report for review shortly,” Wescovich replied, and “I would imagine that it will be approved by the end of next week.”

Maxwell said the protracted search for answers has been painful and all-consuming. 

“It’s been distressful beyond my imagination,” she said, “and I’m determined to get the truth.”

Latest from Steve Jensen