A potential disaster could be developing in south-east Queensland with a dozen horses dead in within hours of each other.
The horses were based at a property at Kooralbyn, just to the west of the Gold Coast.
Biosecurity Queensland is currently at a loss to explain the spate of deaths with the entire Beaudesert equine community on edge as they await test results.
Steve Hogno is the owner of the horses, he only moved the animals to the new location after they were originally based at Oakey near Toowoomba.
The ramifications could be disastrous depending on what disease is found in the horses, but at the moment if’s probably even worse given nobody knows what the cause is.
Hogno was working in the western Australian mines when his horses first started to die and he made the trip back to Queensland almost immediately.
“I left straight away when I heard the news and got here at 5.30 this morning,” he said.
“It’s very sad – my partner and I have breed them and cherish them.
“They have a few ticks on them but I don’t think, and the vets agree, that it’s enough to do the damage that’s been done.”
Resident of Kooralbyn and fellow horse owner Doug Wilson said there was nothing he or his family could do as they watched on when horse after horse simply dropped dead in front of them.
“It’s just distressing to watch a beautiful horse die in front of you – choke to death – and there’s nothing you can do,” he said.
“They were thrashing around and not in a good way.”
A number of locals attempted to comfort the horses in their final moments, a potentially dangerous move given the threat of Hendra hadn’t been ruled out at that stage.
It has now, but that just leads to more questions including form some as to whether or not this was a deliberate act.
“Let’s hope there hasn’t been an intentional poisoning or something stupid like that,” Wilson said.
For Hogno it’s little comfort although he is relieved Hendra has been dismissed as a cause.
“The Hendra tests have come back clear which still leaves it as a mystery, but at least it will put the local community’s mind at rest that there’s no Hendra in the area,” he said.
Autopsies are being carried out today in a bid to discover what has happened with a result seen as a matter of urgency from BioSecuirty Queensland.
The surviving horses at the property have been moved elsewhere as experts monitor their condition after a change in feed and water.
Heather MacKay is a local horse rescuer and said she has never seen anything like what she encountered yesterday.
“To be honest they’re just dropping to the ground dead,” she said.
“(They’re) having seizure-type movements and some of them are taking a while to die.
“No one is being allowed on or off the property at the moment.”