Horses in critical condition after lodging with trainer for months

Leslie Berndl says two of her horses were in near-starved condition after leaving them when abroad at Miller's Unbridled Horsemanship

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A national equestrian in Lexington says two of her horses were nearly starved to death by a trainer after she sent them to be saddle broken while she was competing abroad.

“It’s just killed me, you know, it’s just killed me,” says Leslie Berndl.

Berndl left her 2-year-old Thoroughbred, Tino, and 2-year-old Dutch Warmblood Stallion, Paxton, at Miller’s Unbridled Horsemanship in Lebanon Junction. Berndl says both horses were supposed to be there for three months to be saddle trained while she was in Europe for an equestrian competition, but she picked them up on Monday a month early after hearing of some health concerns.

“I trusted them to someone who I thought would take as good of care of them as I did,” says Berndl.

Ellicot Miller, the founder and trainer at Miller’s Unbridled Horsemanship, says he noticed Berndl’s horses dropping significant weight around August 14th and alerted Berndl to this on August 22nd.

“I started to increase their feed more and more and more until I got up to about we were feeding them 3 scoops in the mornings and then 3 scoops in the evening,” says Miller. “With those morning scoops they were going to get flax seed and vegetable oil.”

Miller says on top of the grain, the horses were on 24-7 turnout with grass to eat, but he noticed the horses were still dropping weight so he suspended their training. Miller says he suggested Berndl come pick up her horses early after he saw swelling on Tino’s back left hock that didn’t go away after two days of wrapping and sweating it.

“You know being not as much a horse trainer but as a horse man, obviously for anything, any animal that I ever come in contact with, dogs, whatever, I try to bring that care of that animal first,” says Miller.

Berndl says Tino and Paxton were looked at Monday by their vet at Rood and Riddle. She says the vet told her it would take about two months with no food for the horses to get in that condition. Berndl also says the swelling on Tino’s leg was an abscess that had to be lanced, along with bruising near his back hooves.

How long will recovery take? Berndl says Paxton is in better condition than Tino so his recovery should be about 6 months. For Tino, she’s worried he may not live through this, but if he does it could take up to 10 months to regain the weight.

“These are my family,” says Berndl. “I want him to live and I want him to feel better.”

Berndl says the vet ran blood tests on Tino and Paxton to see what’s wrong. Paxton’s blood test coming back OK with some dehydration. Tino’s also showing dehydration plus an elevated white cell count Berndl thinks is from the infection on his leg.

Berndl has filed a report with the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office against Miller. She says she wants to take legal action so this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s horses.

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