A grand prix showjumper imported just days ago from Europe has been stolen and butchered in Florida, becoming the latest horse to fall victim to the state’s illegal horse-meat trade.
Phedras de Blondel, a 12-year-old chestnut selle français gelding by Fetiche du Pas who had competed up to international four-star level, had only last Friday passed through quarantine and into the hands of Tampa-based international grand prix rider Debbie Stephens.
Phedras de Blondel was removed from his stall at Stephens’ Centennial Farm, near Tampa, on Saturday and led to a pen toward the back of the 27-acre Palmetto property, where he was butchered.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
A spokesman for the office, Dave Bristow, told local media: “At this time what we have to go on is the fact that someone came onto the property and slaughtered the horse and took the meat.”
He continued: “This is a very expensive horse.”
Bristow said he was not aware of a large black-market for horse meat in the area.
Phedras de Blondel, who competed with France’s Christian Hermon, was removed from the barn which was attached to the house. He was found to be missing around 7am on Sunday, at feeding time.
A Gofundme.com page is well on its way to raising a $US30,000 reward for information that leads to the perpetrator. At the time of writing, 132 people had given $US18,775 in the 20 hours since it was launched.
The page, headed the Centennial Equestrian Reward Fund, said: “It is with very heavy hearts that we confirm today’s tragic events.
“Last night someone trespassed onto the farm and stole a valuable grand prix horse that Debbie just purchased from France. They took the horse to the farthest edge of the property and brutally murdered him and butchered the body for meat.
“We are shocked and horrified by this gruesome act and are working around the clock to find any information connected that could lead us to the monsters responsible.
“We are reaching out to the horse community for your help. This could happen to anyone. We have very strong security, camera surveillance as well as 10-plus people living on the property and this still happened.
“This should be a wake-up call to everyone involved with horses; we need to band together and eliminate the slaughter and sale of horses for meat. Your horse could be next.
“These individuals premeditated this act by casing our farm, along with others in the area, to kill and profit from the sale of horse meat on the black market. They were professionals in their processes and we feel it very important for the community to come together to catch them.”
All funds raised will form a reward through the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Crime Stoppers. Should a tip come in that leads to an arrest and conviction, the individual will be rewarded through the Crime Stoppers program.
An update just hours ago said: “Thank you everyone for your amazing support so far. It amazes us how quickly the horse world has banded together in light of this recent atrocity, and has reminded us the real reason we are all involved in the sport of show jumping.
“It all comes down to the love of horses and it is refreshing to see that so many people in the world feel the same way.”
The offender is likely to face charges of burglary, grand theft and cruelty to animals.
The southern part of Florida has been plagued by an illicit trade in horse meat for years. Southern parts are notorious for their illegal slaughterhouses.
At least two dozen horses have been stolen and butchered in recent years in a trade mostly centered on the wider Miami-Dade area. State legislators toughened the law in a bid to thwart the trade, but horses continue to be lost.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 866-634-TIPS or the sheriff’s office at 941-747-3011.