Given the extent of his injury, Northstar, the 6-year-old American Paint horse deliberately splashed with a flammable liquid and ignited in Athens Township almost three weeks ago, is doing very, very well.

Described as “friendly and personable” by the team of professionals at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, now responsible for his treatment, Northstar suffered first-, second- and third-degree burns over approximately 40 percent of his body.

“His attitude and demeanor and interaction with people is excellent,” Dr. Samuel Hurcombe, assistant professor of Equine Emergency and Critical Care at OSU’s Galbreath Equine Center, told The Tribune Thursday afternoon, eight days after his patient’s Sept. 5 arrival at the center. “Eating well. Behavior good. Wounds themselves coming along very nicely. Good healing tissue in the beds where the wounds are. We’re definitely making tangible improvement every day,” the doctor said.

As Northstar, owned by Jessie K. Woodworth of the Centerville area, makes his way along what will be a long path to recovery, his story is spreading across the nation. A story posted online Wednesday afternoon by the Huffington Post, for example, quickly went viral.

With the help of approximately $10,000 in donations raised online by Erie organizers, Northstar was originally treated at the Marley Veterinary Clinic in Titusville and arrangements were put into place for his treatment in Ohio; Tim Girtin, a trainer at Presque Isle Downs & Casino, donated Northstar’s transportation.

The university’s College of Veterinary Medicine has created the Northstar Equine Emergency Critical Care Fund in his honor. “The fund was specifically set up for people to donate for Northstar’s emergency and critical care,” Hurcombe explained, noting that the fund will continue in his name in honor of the brave horse. In the long term, donations to the Northstar Fund will support equine critical care patients in need of veterinary care as well as critical-care research at the center.

Although he isn’t making any promises, Hurcombe is hoping that within a couple of weeks they’ll be able to start the grafting process. “It’s probably a 12-month process to see what we can cover with haired skin,” he explained. “There will still be scarring and disfigurement.” The goal, he added, “is that he is comfortable — and can live a reasonable quality of life as a lawn mower.”

Horrific and intentional

Hurcombe doesn’t mince words when talking about the crime that brought Northstar under his care.

“This is a horrific and intentional abuse case,” he said. “In addition to obviously the physical harming of this horse, the other sad situation is that the laws for the perpetrator are so weak and lackadaisical.”

“This,” he continued, “is a problem in that the punishment does not fit the crime — at all. I would call for reform to animal abuse laws.” That reform, according to Hurcombe, would significantly raise the kind of assault Northstar suffered above its current misdemeanor status.

While the team at the equine center tends to Northstar’s physical wounds, “We’re trying to turn a positive out of a very sad situation,” Hurcombe said. “Although it’s horrible that this has happened, it has been a fantastic community builder. It’s brought much-needed attention to equine treatment in terms of critical care.”

For example, he continued, one of the positive things they want to get out of this situation is raised public awareness that even in a situation of great adversity, euthanizing the horse isn’t always the only option. “If you don’t try, you don’t know,” he said. “If money is available and you have an owner and a community committed to trying, the possibilities are endless.”

Reward for information

Crawford County Humane Society Executive Director LeRoy Stearns announced Thursday that a $500 reward has been established for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for the attack on Northstar, a horse intentionally set on fire recently. Stearns asks that anyone with information contact the Humane Society at 724-5115, extension 225. “In turn, we’ll forward the information to the Pennsylvania State Police Corry barracks,” Stearns said.


- Anyone with information about the attack on Northstar, which took place in Athens Township between 7 p.m. Aug. 25 and 6 p.m. Aug. 26,  is asked to contact Pennsylvania State Police, Corry barracks, (814) 663-2043; or toll-free by dialing (800) 922-1975.

- To donate to the Northstar Equine Emergency Critical Care Fund at The Ohio State University’s Galbreath Equine Center, visit, click on “search all funds” and enter Northstar.


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