A group of more than two dozen horses allegedly neglected by the California non-profit Fallen Horses, Inc. has landed in a safe place. HiCaliber Horse Rescue in Valley Center has opened its doors to the horses.
Executive Director Michelle Cochran says more horses are being picked up this weekend after Fallen Horses signed all of them over. The majority of the horses are retired thoroughbreds and a couple of Appaloosas. They have one thing in common, according to Cochran, they are emaciated. “These horses deserve way better.”
A thoroughbred mare that won more than $200,000 in her racing career had maggots pouring out of a wound on her shoulder. More serious is the mare named Warp’s body condition score (BCS). Cochran says it is a 1 on a scale of 1 to 9. A score of 1 is considered emaciated with no body fat, while a 9 is extremely fat.
Also turned over to HiCaliber were two stallions. Fallen Horses was using at least one of them for breeding. Since arriving at HiCaliber, the two horses are now geldings.
So how did so many horses fall through the cracks while in the hands of an organization established and purportedly funded to help them?
“We had very hands-off board members,” KC Arabians ranch owner Victoria Hardesty says. She said one board member lives out of state and another has never been to the rescue. Hardesty is the CFO of the rescue in title, but says she has no records pertaining to the rescue.
Hardesty got involved with the soon-to-be-defunct rescue in 2013 but says her involvement ended in mid-2014. Despite what she calls her lack of involvement, she continued leasing the non-profit space for the horses at her stable, so she saw them daily. The first signs of a problem came in October 2014, Hardesty says when she had to loan hay to the rescue for the horses to eat.
Some are critical of Hardesty saying, “she walks past four fat, happy Arabians to the dead and dying rescue horses.”
Hardesty says much of what has happened is due to the rescue’s founder, Traci Hutmier, taking in too many horses without the necessary resources. In January, Hutmier lost her job and reportedly left her husband.
“I became sick about it at first view,” Hardesty says. She says she discovered the horses’ “true” condition the first time their blankets were taken off not that long ago.
“We called animal control for help, but they didn’t see anything bad enough,” Hardesty says. She tells us the investigators did not put their hands on the horses or remove their blankets during their multiple visits.
Rate My Horse PRO tried reaching Fallen Horse founder Hutmier, but her voicemail is full. We also contacted San Bernardino Animal Care and Control but did not receive information before the end of Friday.