Two veteran Hunter horse trainers have been found guilty of animal cruelty offences by Racing NSW stewards, after a filly with a "de-gloved" leg died in "considerable pain and suffering.”
On Thursday, Taree trainer Jim Delaney was disqualified for five years for committing an act of cruelty and for three years for failing to take reasonable steps to alleviate pain and providing necessary veterinary treatment.
Cliff Bashford, from a neighbouring stable, was disqualified for three years for an act of cruelty and for two years for being party to an offence by Mr Delaney.
Counsel representing Mr Bashford, Paul O'Sullivan, said his client was "shocked" by the verdict and planned to appeal, but it was unclear if Mr Delaney would challenge the decision.
Both men have been in the industry for over 50 years and pleaded not guilty when they appeared before the tribunal at Newcastle Jockey Club.
The tribunal heard that Mr Bashford was "helping out a mate" in May, when he used a home remedy to treat tendinitis in the leg of an unnamed two-year-old filly owned by Mr Delaney.
The process - known as 'sweating the horse' - involved applying a combination of Listerine, DMSO and Phenyl wheelie bin cleaner to the leg and leaving it bandaged for 24 hours.
Mr Delaney left the bandage on for two days and a wound developed.
He treated it with honey and lime when it began to weep, but the infection deteriorated and the skin “peeled away” from the leg.
Mr Delaney administered penicillin himself to the animal but it did not recover and had to be euthanased in June.
Mr O'Sullivan said Mr Bashford had used an "identical" treatment successfully on five other horses. "Some may suggest it was an old wives remedy, but in his mind it was proven," he said.
Mr O'Sullivan said his client - "regarded as one of the best horsemen in this state"- did not know why Mr Delaney had not taken the bandage off within the recommended timeframe and had told him the horse was "doing okay" when he inquired about its recovery.
He accused the stewards of extending a "frighteningly wide" duty of care to Mr Bashford by arguing he should have called a vet when he returned from a trip to the Gold Coast and realised the animal's condition had deteriorated.
Counsel for Mr Delaney, Christine Iwaszkiewicz said her client, a former leading horseman at Woodlands Stud, trusted Mr Bashford without fully understanding what the mixture was.
She said the fact that there was no deliberate infliction of pain was "all-important”.
"It is human to err," she said. "This was an error or combination of errors of great magnitude... it was very, very unfortunate but not deliberate."
She pointed to the evidence of a veterinarian who testified that penicillin would have been the likely course of treatment for the horse once the infection had taken hold.
Chair of Stewards Marc Van Gestel acknowledged it was a significant penalty but said it sent a message to the community that the industry was operating "at the highest possible standard."
"This has significant ramifications to the image of racing," he said. "The unnecessary death of a horse, with significant pain and suffering."
He said an animal cruelty conviction did not require intent - only an act or an omission that led to an animal being mistreated.
The penalties will be served concurrently, meaning Mr Delaney can reapply for his license in 2021 and Mr Bashford in 2019.