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Hoskins' attorney questions farrier on hoof examinations at horse trial

The attorney for Aurora horse farm owner Beth Lynne Hoskins sought Thursday to emphasize discrepancies he insisted occurred in a farrier's testimony last week about hoof conditions, the presence of thrush bacteria and, in some cases, lameness in 73 horses that were seized from Hoskins two years ago.

Farrier Joshua Burkhardt -- on the witness stand for the second time in the animal cruelty trial in Aurora Town Court -- faced intense cross-examination on the condition of the horses' hooves and whether he or the SPCA Serving Erie County recorded hoof measurements or angle ratios in their medical records of the horses since the agency's raid at Hoskins' Morgan horse farm.

The fourth day of Hoskins' nonjury criminal trial on 74 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty -- one count tied to a horse that had to be euthanized because of its weak condition -- was dominated by defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou going into extreme detail on the hoof examinations done by Burkhardt.

The bulk of Burkhardt's testimony Thursday indicated that specific hoof measurements or angle ratios were not noted on medical records for most of the horses. The cross-examination became so detailed that by the end of the court session, Eoannou was going through each horse's record with Burkhardt. He cited nearly 40 horses by name before Justice Douglas W. Marky adjourned the trial until Monday.

Last week, Burkhardt testified that many of Hoskins' horses had suffered from a bacterial condition on their hooves, hoof distortion, overgrown hooves and, in some cases, abscesses. He cited Raoul as a severe case and noted other horses with serious hoof problems, including Bay. He also said that without proper and routine trimming of their hooves, horses are often in pain.

But Eoannou suggested that neither pain nor quality of life can be scientifically measured.

Burkhardt, however, insisted that hoof pain can be assessed by testing other than hoof measurement or angle ratio.

"There's hoof testing," he said.

He also told Eoannou that he believed suffering can be measured.

Eoannou then insisted that Burkhardt examine records of every horse in court regarding any specific notations on horses. With that, Marky called for a recess while the defense pulled the records on 68 horses. The trial resumed 45 minutes later.

"How do you get a ratio on a hoof?" Eoannou asked Burkhardt. The farrier explained that measurements are taken. "It's geometry," he told Eoannou.

"You testified about pain. But you're not a qualified vet to testify about pain," Eoannou told him.

When the trial resumes at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Eoannou will continue his cross-examination of Burkhardt, with prosecutor Matt Albert expected to further question Burkhardt, as well.