Horse owner disputes biting details

CAMANO ISLAND – The owner of a horse that bit off most of a 4-year-old boy’s ear says the incident should not have happened.

“It could have and should have been avoided,” Jim Johnson, 43, said, adding he felt horrible about what happened.

However, Johnson disputes some of the details Nathan Lynn’s family has presented, saying the family should bear some responsibility.

Contrary to the family’s assertions, Johnson said his horse, an almost 2-year-old colt named Toby, did not bust through a fence to get at the boy. Johnson, who did not witness the biting, said the boy must have been leaning through the three-rail fence or climbed inside the paddock, because his fence was not broken.

Nathan’s mother, Farrah Lynn, still insists the horse pushed its head through a board to get to Nathan, who had been tossing hay through the rails into a bathtub trough in Toby’s paddock.

A look at official statements filed two days after the May 15 incident with Diana Blakely, an Island County animal control officer, shows the main point of contention is whether Nathan or the horse reached through the fence.

The only person to witness the biting, Kristopher Jones, 17, wrote that he and Nathan, his cousin, were tossing hay over the fence and through the rails.

“Nathan was crouched down by the diagonal board on the fence and was throwing it through,” Jones wrote. “He then turned his head to the left to grab some more hay, and the horse reached through the board and pulled him into the tub face down. I then pulled him out by his feet and saw that some of his ear was gone.”

Jones said he yelled to Nathan’s father, Chris Lynn, 32, who was out of sight in a shop nearby. Medics were called, and Nathan was airlifted to Seattle, where surgeons were unable to reattach his ear.

Johnson’s official statement questioned Jones’ version. He said he arrived from his job at a Mount Vernon animal feed store soon after the incident. “Toby was in paddock, no boards or fencing down at all,” he wrote.

At the scene, Johnson continued, he asked Farrah Lynn’s stepfather, Mace Gulliford, what happened.

“Mace said the boy was leaning in over (the) feed tub to feed Toby, and Toby grabbed the boy by the ear and dragged him to the pasture by the ear,” Johnson wrote.

County officials did not have a statement from Gulliford.

Johnson also wrote that a neighbor told him the 17-year-old said Nathan actually had walked into the paddock at one point.

Both Johnson and Farrah Lynn agree that they had talked at least a week before the incident about the horse’s unpredictable behavior. Toby was in the enclosure instead of out to pasture because he had an appointment to be gelded by a veterinarian in a few days. Ungelded horses are typically wilder because of testosterone, Johnson said.

Blakely said state law requires 2-year-old stallions to have a more reinforced enclosure than Toby had, but she did not think any law had been broken, because Toby had not quite reached his second birthday. She was awaiting the horse’s paperwork to verify his age.

Johnson said he sold Toby at a livestock auction, adding, “I didn’t feel right having him there.” The paddock now has a wire-mesh fence to prevent a repeat, even though the horse there now is a mellow filly.

“I felt bad. It’s horrible for the kid,” Johnson said. “I probably should have put the fence up a little sooner, but I thought that they’d watch out for their kids and not go in there.”

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or

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