Warning: This post contains disturbing content.
“To live in light, you need to live in darkness too.”
It has been a week since a most disturbing story became known. Two women were on a late afternoon walk in a wooded area of Black Forest, northeast of Colorado Springs, last Friday. Their dog bolted ahead. Moving quickly to regain control of their dog, they came across a warehouse-like structure. The dog entered the open structure. The women followed him in. First, they needed to negotiate a maze of horse fencing panels. Once they were inside, they saw a couple of thin horses. More fencing panels divided the interior of the building. The “barn” floor was covered with inches of muck and horse droppings. What caught the attention of the two women was the corner of a blue tarp sticking up through the muck. Curious, they pulled back the tarp and made a most gruesome discovery. They saw the skeletal remains of an adult horse.
The women pulled back tarp after tarp they found. Under each one, skeletal remains of a horse. One set of remains was found under a trashed stock tank. After pulling back eight tarps, they had to leave the “barn” to catch their breath. One took home the dog and called the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. The other stayed with the horses, searching desperately for food and water. The two, live horses in the “barn” had no food and no water. Neither did the eight horses that were penned outdoors, next to the “barn”. They also stood in a muck in their pens.
Upon arriving on the property, the deputies shooed away the local media. The barn area and outdoor horse pens were encircled with crime tape. After a couple of hours, the deputies were finally able to make contact with the horse owners. They also owned the property. The deputies asked if food and water was available. They owners said they were. Accordingly, they were ordered to feed and water the horses immediately. The two horses in the “barn” were ordered to be moved into outdoor pens.
With the mounted horse unit of the Sheriff’s Department in charge of the investigation, they allowed the horses to remain on the property for the weekend. Many had questioned why the owners were allowed to keep the horses over the weekend. The Sheriff’s Department had indicated their investigation was in progress. The way Colorado law is structured, local animal control oversee all domesticated animals while the state veterinarian’s office oversees all livestock and exotic animals. Wildlife in Colorado is overseen by the state’s Division of Wildlife.
On Monday, the Sheriff’s Department brought in a veterinarian from the state to examine the condition of each horse, as well as inspect the horse operation. Also, the Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant on the property. Late in the afternoon, the Sheriff’s Department seized the ten live horses. They were removed to an undisclosed equine rescue and rehabilitation facility. The search of the “barn” structure led to the discovery of 14 sets of horse remains. The deputies cited the horse owners with extreme animal cruelty. As the investigation continues, the charges may be upgraded to felony animal cruelty.
In the days since Monday’s seizures, the horses are under veterinarian care. The treatment order is food and water, which the horses are taking in nicely. Their hooves, which were in horrible condition, were promptly taken care of by a farrier.
The horse owners, since the discovery last Friday, have given changing stories of what happened at their horse ranch. First, it was business selling cutting horses to cattle ranches. Then, it was a boarding stable. Eventually, the couple admitted they were owners of the horses. To explain the skeletal remains in the “barn”, they said those horses all died from colic last winter. When a horse develops colic, it can be easily treated. For 14 horses to all have colic and die is highly suspect. They have been unable to explain why the “barn” still had skeletal remains in late September.
While this story seems to be headed to a happy ending, it is far from an ending. Depending upon the charging, it’s conceivable the horse owners could get back the surviving horses. It’s conceivable they may not have to serve any jail time. It’s conceivable they may only be fined, and not all that much. They are being charged for expenses while the horses are in rehabilitation.
Renting a home on the property, the two women who made the discovery had no idea the horse operation existed. They said they were glad to have made the discovery, and to set things right. One that survived to be rescued was a world champion cutting horse, a very handsome, chestnut quarterhorse. His previous owner has said he intends to purchase him back at any cost.