Horses stolen from stable are recovered with wounds and signs of mistreatment
Published: September 7, 2012
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ST. CROIX - Jill Hurd spent the early morning hours Thursday carrying water, cleaning wounds and trying to nurse two of her wounded horses back to health - something she had been doing for the last week after five of her horses were stolen and abused.
Hurd and her husband, Paul Wojciechowski, run Paul and Jill's Stable and Farm out of their home in Estate Sprat Hall in Frederiksted.
She said the business has been around since 1976, offering tours through the lush rainforest to locals and visitors to the island.
Sometime during the night on Aug. 26, someone cut the chain link fence on the property and took two of their horses. Someone returned the following night and took three more horses.
"Now, this wasn't the first time that our horses were stolen, so we made a report and put out posters to find them," Hurd said.
Hurd and Wojciechowski were eager to find the horses and get them back to the farm, where they knew the animals would be taken care of. "We offered a $50 reward because we really wanted to get them back," Hurd said.
A few days passed, Hurd said, before some young boys came to the farm saying that they knew where the horses were and wanted to collect the reward to return them.
Hurd said she went to an Estate Grove Place location, where she found two of the horses. They had been ridden bareback for days and had not been given any food or water.
"They were in such bad shape," Hurd said. "They had bruises and rope burns, and they were so, so weak."
Hurd said that based on information she has gathered, she thinks the boys who returned the horses could be the same ones who took them. Hurd said she thinks the boys had been riding the horses in William's Delight, Lorraine Village and Estate Grove Place.
Hurd's sister, Jennifer Andrews, said the stable has had horses stolen at least four times this summer, and they are very concerned about the neglect of the animals that takes place when the horses are taken.
The horse with the most severe injuries is a quarter horse that Hurd said barely was able to stand up when they found him. Bruises and swelling around his legs, as well as rope burns around his belly and whip marks on his side, are evidence of how hard and long he had been ridden during the week he was gone from the farm.
"He is in so much pain," Hurd said as she patted the horse, hoping to given him some comfort. "He is so lethargic at this point, I don't know what to do."
The horse is being seen daily by a veterinarian, who is treating him for azoturia, a disease of horses that are worked or run too hard after several days of inactivity. It is characterized by muscle stiffness, paralysis, excessive sweating and excretion of dark urine and can lead to kidney damage.
One of Hurd's Arabian cross horses, which is the lead horse on the riding tours, has a gaping wound on his head, right over his eye. Hurd said she was told that the injuries happened when some young men were riding the horse in William's Delight and the horse fell along with the rider.
"We've been putting medication on her wounds and just trying to keep them comfortable," she said. "This is by far the worst treatment of animals."
A police report has been filed in the incident, which initially was characterized as unlawful taking of an animal. Andrews said she is hoping that residents who may have seen anyone riding or abusing the animals report it to police.
"Studies have shown that there is a direct link between animal abuse and domestic violence and other crimes of violence," she said. "We need to get a handle on it now before the abuse turns to other children."
Hurd said they have moved to horses to a more secure area and hope that now that the summer is over, there will be no more thefts of their animals.
Anyone with information can call police at 911 or call the Crime Stoppers USVI anonymous tip line at 1-800-222-8477.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.