Sudden Death of Horses
Italian Horse Protection Investigates
(Update 2)

This is a second followup to what is happening at the Italian Horse Protection Association Rescue Center in Italy.
Earlier this year (March 2019) we reported a first update on how IHP found itself in the grip of a tragic crisis. The organisation suffered the loss of 9 horses back then by a sudden and unknown problem or sabotage, which ended the lives of those beloved equines in a matter of minutes.
After numerous tests, toxicology reports, agricultural examinations and more, there is no conclusion and the saga continues to bring more devastation.
Another 4 horses have been lost, taking the count to 13...

Article written by Jonathan Fleming.

Founder and president of IHP, Sonny Richichi, is in the midst of despair and for good reason. The tests, examinations and reports that are having to be carried out are at a cost to IHP, but with no results, IHP have to continue quarantining their equines and go on requesting more examination with no understandable place of where or what to concentrate on.

The cost now is to the extent that IHP is evaluating the possibility of closing their Rescue Centre in Tignano, which is the only registered horse protection charity / association in Italy.
We can’t bear to see that happen so Charity Needs Foundation (CNF) is asking the public, once again, if they know someone who is a professional in the areas of agriculture, particularly in soil testing, or whom have an understanding of plants, grasses or living organisms (Botanists, Biologists and such like); anyone that knows about equine toxicology (even knowledge of bovine toxicology may highlight some clues or answers); those that know about water borne disease (Geologists perhaps); Veterinarians; Pathologists; feed analysts or the like.
We’re basically seeking out experts or professionals anywhere in the world who can apply their talents to solving this ongoing mystery by analysing the reports and samples that remain. The reports can be shared with qualifying experts in the hope that it might prompt a missing thought process or ultimately find a concrete, conclusive result.

Part of the reason IHP is in the jaws of closure is the lack of responses from competent authorities such as the Ministry of Health who Sonny places at the top of his list saying, “we have been asking for months for an operational protocol that would allow immediate investigations to establish the causes of deaths and the creation of a communication network among experienced toxicologists. These are formal requests that the association will renew with great determination, while at the same time a new complaint will be made to the Public Prosecutor's Office, since this massacre of horses remains a mystery that unfortunately does not exclude the hypothesis of intent, given the results of the post-mortem examinations.”

Says Sonny, “Again we suppose that the problem could be with the pasture. We’ve been told to keep the horses in confined spaces and far away from the grass, but have not been given any convincing and documented explanations. Indeed, at the end of April and again at the beginning of October, during two meetings with ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, or in English, Local Health Authority) and IZSLT (Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Lazio, or in English, Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Lazio) they told us that the pastures were safe”.

With the reassurance of having been told the pastures were safe, on the 9th May 2019, IHP began to let their animals back out into the fields, but very slowly over a four week period starting with an hour a day, then two, then three and so on until they were allowed out all day and some even overnight. During this whole release period no abnormalities were recorded in the health status of the animals which was being performed after having had tests on both soil and water.

Chemical tests on the water were performed for parameters such as pH, Turbidity, Conductivity, Color, Smell, Flavor, Tot, Hardness (° F), Football, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Iron, Manganese, Aluminum, Copper, Nitrates, Nitrite, chloride, Sulfates, Phosphates, Ammonia, Free Active Chlorine, Hydrogen sulphide, Counting of Colonies at 22 ° C, Counting of Colonies at 36 ° C, Counts Total Coliforms, Count Escherichia coli, Count Intestinal Enterococci, Count Clostridium perfringens (including spores) and Count Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

And chemical tests on the soil were performed for such substances as, Cyanides (none of which was found), Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Cobalt, Total Chrome, Chrome VI, Mercury, Nickel, Lead, Copper, Selenium, Thallium and Vanadium.

It is the lack of answers, however, and contradictory indications that have led IHP to consider stopping the activities of their Rescue Centre having suffered this last wave of deaths from October 2019.

Lapo Lapo, one of the fortunate horses unfortunately detained in a holding pen at IHP Rescue Center.
Picture by: Victor Janjic for IHP (
Sonny went on to explain, “A new emergency management of horses, the same as the one undertaken between January and April, would expose the association to financial collapse and to a risk of injury for horses and staff, and the unlikely event of moving elsewhere would be even worse.”

Asking for funds is not something CNF is focusing on here as we can’t guarantee how much will need to be spent on endless examinations and tests without knowing an end result can be achieved fairly quickly, but we can’t get away from the fact that IHP need financial support too, so if you are happy to support IHP in the continuation of these examinations, tests and quarantining, then please do give what you can, use the button below to donate directly to IHP as IHP’s reserves have been depleted.

Getting the voluntary professional services of specialists who may be able to provide answers to this ongoing crisis would go a long way to helping the charity survive the extremely upsetting spend they are having to endure and nightmare they’ve been living through for over 10 months.

This situation must not be isolated to IHP, all eyes from the rest of the equine world should be focused on what is going on here, this could be an elaborate act of sabbage whereby the saboteurs have cleverly introduced something so lethal that it kills within minutes and leaves no trace. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, like something out of a spy movie and totally unbelievable. The mere mention of it feels like it shouldn’t even be on the page, but although this is just pure speculation, the reality is staring us in the face — it could happen — IHP’s story has no answers and no conclusion from tests carried out by leading authorities, universities, officials and other experts, which in itself gives substance to this scenario. Let it be known that the results of the first four deaths stated that no cause of death came from a viral or bacterial origin and that the cause could be the probable action of a toxin.
You can use your imagination to think what kind of manipulations and shenanigans could follow from unscrupulous persons if this is something that could be gotten away with, therefore It is why foul play cannot be ruled out.

After the first three or four deaths, even IHP’s resident vet, Dr. Agnese Santi, raised concerns that intentional poisoning could at play. It is also why CNF are asking the public who own or look after horses to report to CNF anything they may have suffered in the past that seems anywhere near similar to this case. Again, such information may prompt a thought process that has been missed or it may reap a conclusion.

It is likely to take the dedicated talents of some of the worlds finest experts to solve this mystery, and IHP needs such good characters to come forward offering their professional services for nothing more than the glorification they or their team will receive in the concluding article we want to see them written into.

Sonny Richichi is not placing any reliance on the authorities already contacted by IHP as there have been far too many hitches, mistakes, delays and other incompetences to glean confidence from. For example, on the 18th February 2019 the first coordinated meeting was convened at ASL of Volterra to take stock of the situation. Representatives of ASL of Volterra, the Commander of the Carabinieri Forestal station of Volterra (they’re a bit like the Forestry Commission in the UK, but in Police form) were present, as were officials of the Investigative Unit of the Carabinieri of Pisa (one of Italy's main law enforcement agencies) and Sonny Richichi himself. In that meeting, Sonny learned to his dismay, that none of those present, all of whom were supposed to have received reports of the autopsies already issued some weeks prior from the laboratories in Bologna where the reports were generated, had not seen them. Nor did they receive news or information from veterinarians in charge of the exams. It was Sonny himself, during the meeting, that provided the evidence, news, reports and other information by downloading files from his mobile phone to have them printed from an ASL computer. As a result, no substantial element emerged from that meeting concerning the investigations on the death of horses, leaving open the hypothesis of food poisoning (or contaminants in the soil) and that of malicious poisoning.

There are three possible outcomes to this story, one is that it is a genuine mystery that will get solved. Two is that there's a toxin to blame and will be proved. And the third is a dangerous ‘C word’ — ‘Conspiracy’, because this story is getting far too elaborate to play out as just ‘one-of-those-things’.

Please contact Compose and send an email now or use the contact form here CNF Email Form.
Hazel is the trustee at CNF that first brought forward the story of the Italian Horse Protection Association in her article Neglect of Italian Horses (Google it) before their move and the dilemma they are now in. It will be Hazel who shall be concluding the story when we get that elusive answer that the world is waiting for, much less IHP.

For the record, these events are unprecedented for IHP in its 9 years of running horses and other equidae at its rescue center.

To those that have passed and whom IHP will always miss (numbered in order of deaths by name):

1. Mc Flurry — age 23, died 31/12/2018 after falling to the ground, spasming and gasping, then passing a few minutes later, time 10:30, place: paddock along dirt road at IHP Rescue Center

2. Koral — age 26, died 01/01/2019 in same manner as Mc Flurry, time 16:00 place: hangar at IHP Rescue Center

3. Wild — age 28, died 01/01/2019 in same manner as Mc Flurry, time 16:00 place: hangar at IHP Rescue Center

4. Brica — age 20, died 02/012019 as she was being moved by halter and passed two minutes after collapse to ground and convulsing, time 08:30, place: recintino shed on ground of IHP Rescue Center

5. Happy Muna — age 20, died 03/01/2019, found lifeless with no sign of rasping on the ground as if having suddenly collapsed, time 14:00, place: big paddock (solfatara) of IHP Rescue Center

6. Ethereal — age 27, died 03/01/2019 found in same way as Happy Muna 30 minutes later , time 14:30, place: paddock grande (solfatara) of IHP Rescue Center

7. Wimpy — age 19, died 03/01/2019 in front of all the volunteers at IHP and staff from Carabinieri Forestale di Volterra station that was called in after the first few deaths and just after drastic action was being taken to move the horses out of the fields into a shed and a hangar. The gelding fell to the ground convulsed, gasped and was gone two minutes later, time 16:50, place: great paddock (solfatara) of IHP Rescue Center

8. Danea — age 19, died 03/01/2019, went in the same way as Wimpy with all eyes watching, but took a few more minutes to go than Wimpy, time 17:20, place: big paddock (solfatara) of IHP Rescue Center

9. Fritz — age 26, died 21/02/2019, Sonny and two employees saw him suddenly collapse on the ground, shaking his legs convulsively and slowly expire, all in a period of about 3-4 minutes. The horse was fine until a moment before, time 10:00, place: small rectangle of IHP Rescue Center

10. Foster Dra — age 17, died 09/07/2019, found deceased after not seen returning from the paddock with other horses in her group, yet at 15:00 that day the horse had been checked and was very well, grazing normally. On the site of the find there were no signs of rasping, nor external signs on the body. Death time 20:00, place: big paddock (solfatara) of IHP Rescue Center

11. Wivinade — age 23, died 17/10/2019, time 19:00, place: big paddock (solfatara) of IHP Rescue Center

12. Ray — age 6, died 18/10/2019, time 14:00, place: big paddock (solfatara) of IHP Rescue Center

13. Rebecca — age 14, died 22/10/2019, time 17:00, place: paddock in front of the shed of IHP Rescue Center

IHP Rescue Center Here is an aerial view of where the horses were when they collapsed and died.
Use this link to zoom in and see a live detailed view through Google Maps
Picture by: Sonny Richichi for IHP (

Please help!
This is to be continued… but when is another story.
Rebecca Rebecca, grazing in the field — age 14, died 22/10/2019 minutes after her collapse, time 17:00, place: paddock in front of the shed of IHP Rescue Center.
Picture by: Antonella Alicervi for IHP (

Do you think you can offer any answers or suggestions that the Italian Horse Protection could look into for their investigation? If you can, please contact IHP (live links are in the footnote of this page).
You can drop an email to Compose and send an email now
Or contact them through their Facebook account

You can find our previous articles about this worthy nonprofit at these links which are given in order of release:
1. Neglect of Italian Horses
2. IHP - On The Move
3. Sudden Death of Horses
4. Update 1 — Sudden Death of Horses

This is a CNF Feature Article

This page is embeddable, click for code
Head/Cover picture by: Head image by: Head image by: Victor Janjic for IHP (
Head/Cover image description: The volunteer Noémie Dupeyre, a long term member of the staff of volunteers at IHP is with Marchino (the Skewbald in the foreground) and Orlando (the Chestnut in the background). They are inside one of the buildings where the horses stay overnight during the emergency management, otherwise they would stay in the fields 24h/7d. Noémie was about to put a halter on, just before taking a blood sample for more tests.
Article written by: Jonathan Fleming
Article edited by: Charity Needs Foundation
Article Length: Words count is 2276 from 14216 characters
Released — 16-11-2019 - 18:39
Modified — Never

Closing Credits from CNF:

  • Thank You to IHP:
    CNF would like to state that IHP have been a most cooperative organisation helping us to put together the details of this update even though they have been under such intense pressure and not really had the time to concentrate on administrative tasks, so thank you IHP for giving us your time.


  • Volterra:
    References to Volterra means the walled town southwest of Florence, Italy in the province of Pisa.

  • Carabinieri Forestal:
    Carabinieri Forestal in english means Forestry Commission/Police, references to Carabinieri Forestal station of Volterra means the local forestry commission/police in the town of Volterra

  • ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale):
    ASL, in english is short for, Local Health Authority and where you see ASL of Volterra in the article it is referring to the local authority in Volterra which is a walled town southwest of Florence, Italy in the province of Pisa.

  • IZSLT (Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Lazio):
    IZSLT, in english is short for, Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Lazio.

    IZSLT mission is:

    • to control and improve animal health
    • to protection animal welfare
    • to control the hygiene of farms to guarantee the quality of primary productions
    • to protect the safety of food of animal origin and animal feed to guarantee consumers’ health

    This mission is carried out through the following activities:

    • animal diseases and zoonoses diagnostic services;
    • laboratory test to determine the clinical and welfare status of animals;
    • food and feedstuffs control by means microbiological, chemical physical and organolectic examinations;
    • technical and scientific support to the action on veterinary drug-monitoring;
    • experimental research in the field of animal health and welfare, food safety and hygiene of farming and livestock products;
    • studies on animal welfare and development and application of alternatives to the use of animal experimental models;
    • studies, experiments and production technologies and techniques needed to monitor the safety of food of animal origin and animal feed;
    • scientific and technological cooperation at national and international levels;
    • epidemiological surveillance on animal health and food safety, on health of livestock and livestock products, including the environmental factors;
    • risks analysis linked to the animals and animal products;
    • the production of culture media, autovaccines;
    • support, technical assistance, training and hygiene information to breeders and manufacturers of food of animal origin;
    • training of veterinarians and other operators of the National Health Service and of other countries.

  • Italian Ministry of Health:
    Italian Ministry of Health url (english version):

  • Contact IHP:
    Sonny Richichi (Founder), email:

  • Contact CNF:
    Hazel Arnold (CNF Trustee), she knows all about this story, email: or use the contact form here CNF Email Form

  • Donations to IHP:
    Send donations direct to IHP through their PayPal account: IHP PayPal Account
    Your donation will help to survive this misfortune

  • See Article: IHP - On The Move:

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