Friday, July 18, 2003

Two injured saddlebreds euthanized

Last month's attack proves fatal

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - A top show horse and a stablemate were euthanized Thursday morning, victims of an attack last month by an unknown assailant.

Wild Eyed and Wicked - a two-time champion of the American saddlebred industry's Triple Crown - and Meet Prince Charming were euthanized after tests showed deterioration in their right front legs, veterinarian Carol McLeod said.

The saddlebreds, which were stabled at Double D Ranch in Versailles, suffered injuries after a substance was injected into their left front legs. The horses showed severe swelling in their legs up to their shoulders when they were checked in their stalls June 30.

"We're all devastated by the fact that medicine failed us, but what is most devastating is that this was deliberately caused," McLeod said.

American saddlebreds are high-stepping, muscular horses with long, arched necks that are judged for their distinctive walking styles, or gaits.

Wild Eyed and Wicked, an 11-year-old gelding owned by Joe and Sally Jackson of Overland Park, Kan., won the industry's Triple Crown in 2000 and 2001, taking top honors in the Lexington Junior League Horse Show, the American Royal Saddle Horse Show in Kansas City, Mo., and the World's Championship Horse Show in Louisville.

Meet Prince Charming was a 2-year-old gelding owned and trained by Dena Lopez, who owns Double D Ranch with her husband, Dave.

One other horse, Kiss Me - a 4-year-old mare owned by Jane Burkemper of California - also was in pain Thursday morning, McLeod said. Two other horses injured in the attack, Cats Don't Dance and Sassational, were in better condition, she said.

"Everybody is very, very upset here," said Bridget Parker, a business associate of the Lopezes. "It's not a good deal."

Kentucky State Police have been investigating the attack since it was reported, but no arrests have been made.

Detective Sam Hawkins, who is working on the case, said he didn't think the deaths of the horses would affect what charges might be brought against the person or persons who attacked the horses.

The police are considering charges of third-degree burglary and first-degree criminal mischief - both felonies, and cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor.

But no suspects have been named.

Soon after the attack was discovered, blood and tissue samples were taken from the horses and sent for analysis to Cornell University's George Maylin, a leading expert on equine drug testing and pharmacology. Results from tests to determine what substance was injected into the horses have not been received, Parker said.

Lexington-based USA Equestrian, the national governing body of equestrian competition, is offering a reward for information on the attack. At least $100,000 has been pledged to the reward fund.

McLeod said the conditions of the two euthanized horses deteriorated overnight.

"That's one of the frustrating things about medicine," she said. "You think things are going well but in a short period of time you can have a tremendous change, and that's what occurred here."

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