Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stolen Florida Horse Recovered Alive!

Stolen Florida Horse Recovered Alive!

Seen through the eyes of a victim

by Debi Metcalfe and Judy Aregano

On September 11, 2009, Stolen Horse International, aka, received a disturbing report from Judy Aregano, stating that five horses had been stolen from Florida, one of which was her horse Shilo.

Aregano reported that allegedly two men along with a heavy-set blond woman stopped at a Seffner, FL, property on Williams Road and loaded the horses into a green combo stock trailer pulled by a maroon newer model Dodge dully truck. The thieves pulled up a fence post, cut the fence, drove into the pasture, loaded the horses, came back through, and re-tied the fence to make it look like it was still up.

How do we know so many details? Because someone was watching it all happen. Which raises an obvious question: How could this could happen in full view of “unsuspecting” witnesses? This scenario is hard for anyone to conceive.

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, (actually I do) as the signs are impossible to ignore: Complacency is one reason this happens. Many horse owners really don’t care, don’t think it will happen to them or will turn and look the other way rather than get involved.

Then there is bewilderment as to why would anyone would want to steal a horse? No one steals a horse in the 21st century with the price of horses at rock bottom, right? Wrong. The recession has spurred cutbacks, layoffs and, now, increased theft. With the economy tanking, security pros see a spike in old-time thievery. And what do people steal in recessionary times? Cash, clothes, cigarettes, copper - pretty much everything including horses and equipment. The few dollars one may obtain from selling stolen property may buy groceries or pay the electric bill for a family. Let’s face it, there is always a market for a good cheap horse.

And we all have heard about the horses that are being dropped off because owners cannot afford them anymore. All of those roaming horses are dumped, right? Wrong, often they are lost and in need of being found by their owners. Again, it is just easy to assume that they have been dumped because it is the more complacent act.

In the defense of horse an owner being complacent, it is not totally our fault is it? What do we hear about every day in the news? For the most part, if it is the horrific crimes like shootings, stabbings, fires, wrecks or drug-related stories that make the news. Stories about theft are more often than not at the end of the newscast or flashed quickly – if they make it at all. Stories about horse theft usually make it in a broadcast on slow news days. I can’t tell you how many stories have been bumped for “better” news items. If we don’t hear about it in the news then it “ain’t” happening is it?

On the other hand there has been a great deal of news coverage about the horses that have been butchered in recent months in Florida, and I am grateful for the public awareness. However, how many of those articles mentioned that the horses were stolen first and then offered tips to help you protect your horses from succumbing to the same fate? Very few did, as the theft of the horse is not as important as the gruesome outcome of these poor animals.

This supports the facts that not only are horse owners complacent but we have help in being that way. We have an excuse for not knowing, not helping, looking the other way and not protecting our own. The news media gives it to us. Well, not anymore if you are reading this article.

Keep in mind that the five horses taken in full view of a witness that September day in Florida included:

1. A 1,300-pound stout palomino gelding
2. A chocolate brown Shetland pony stallion with flaxen mane and tail
3. A dark bay mare with an injured hip and a limp
4. A blue roan paint mare with large dark spots
5. and Aregano’s Paintaloosa mare, brown and white in the front half with small brown spots on the white rear end area and four white stockings

This brings me to the reason I have written this article about this horse and her owner. What if no one cared enough to help Aregano? What if we all assumed the worst and assumed that Shilo had fallen into the butcher’s hands. What if we all looked the other way when it came time to help the victim? Well, that didn’t happen. Stolen Horse International is happy to report that Shilo, horse number five above, is home!

Sometimes it is best to hear it from the horse’s mouth, which in this case is Judy Aregano. Her touching story follows.

An Unexpected Happy Ending

During Labor Day weekend 2009, my Paintaloosa mare was stolen from a pasture with four other horses.

I was there when she was born and raised her. I broke her to ride myself. Though I loved my other horses, Shilo and I shared a bond. When the theft occurred, we were in the middle of a move to a farm with 35 acres, finally a home for all of my horses.
I had put off moving the last horses due to my work schedule, and then we got the phone call. Shilo and four others had been stolen from the pasture where they were kept. I was in shock. What do we do?

Terry, my boyfriend, left to meet the police at the pasture. I stayed behind, calling everyone to watch for her. My daughter Brittany emailed her friends and someone quickly emailed us back insisting that we register with

I had never heard of but was willing to try anything. Brittany filed the report on Shilo. Before I knew it we were getting emails from all over the country … NOT just Florida but all over the USA! People had seen the flyer on! They were expressing their heartfelt feelings and support and telling me they were posting the flyer of Shilo in barns and feed stores, everywhere! I was so overwhelmed.

A few days later, we had sightings of her being moved to south Florida, possibly because some one had seen the flyer. I had eyes all over the country looking for her. My friend Marylou put me in contact with a special lady in Miami. She is active in ending the slaughter of horses in south Florida. I can't divulge too much info about her. To protect her identity, I’ll call her “Jane.”

I emailed her the flyer. Jane began the search, constantly keeping Marylou (who forwarded it to me) informed of any leads. Then one day, Marylou received an email and in it was a picture of a Paintaloosa mare that had been moved to a barn in Homestead, Florida (over 250 miles away from home). She forwarded it to me.

Could it be Shilo? It looked like her ... but different. She had been body clipped very close and her mane had been roached. The black in her two-tone colored tail had been pulled out and her tail had been cut short. Then I recognized a shield on her side even though the picture was taken at an angle. It was her!

I was frantic! Crying, I called Marylou. “It’s her!” I shouted into the phone.

Phone calls were quickly made, but we had to continue to be so careful. We were to travel to Homestead quietly. They might move her if they know were coming.

We met at the barn, still trying to remain calm. I had come so far. Was this really her? Brittany and I walked around the corner of the barn and there stood Shilo. I cried. Jane cried. Brittany cried.

It had been a long journey. Jane informed us that Shilo would not approach anyone. Yet when Brittany and I approached the fence and called her name, Shilo walked over to us and laid her head on Brittany’s shoulder.

We called the Agriculture deputies and they were on the site in just moments. Deputy Debra carried a notebook of stolen horses with her. She opened it and there was Shilo’s poster from and many more that she has saved from’s IDAHO Alert network.

Within hours, Shilo was loaded on Marylou's trailer going home.

I cannot express enough my gratitude to NetPosse, Jane, and the Deputies in Dade County. You will always be in my heart.

For those of you have lost your friend don't give up hope. Shilo’s story was posted in many horse magazines and newspapers because of NetPosse. She was a needle in a haystack. Good luck to those who are still searching. You are in my prayers. ~ Judy Aregano

The Nonprofit is Here to Help Horse Owners

At Stolen Horse International/, we love happy endings like the one above, but we must continue to caution you to keep in mind that the happy new year of 2010 has begun but that doesn’t mean all is well with many people trying to survive the recession, or the common horse industry, thief. Because of the ‘risk vs. reward’ nature of horse and tack theft and the potential for greater monetary gain at the end of the day - it is easy for someone to be drawn to stealing when they are down on their luck.

Take steps now so that you don’t become the next victim.

And on a personal note to all of the news media who have reported stories about horse theft and its many victims … THANK YOU! You are one of the very important stepping stones in the recovery of horses, public awareness and the preventative process. Never underestimate the power you have to make a difference, in a positive manner, through your stories.

© 2010 Debi Metcalfe -  All rights reserved. This article is available for publication but you must have permission to publish in any format or medium. Please contact Debi Metcalfe at for additional information.