One horse was fatally wounded and at least seven others brutalized in a series of bizarre attacks during full moons at several Huntington Beach stables in recent months, according to stable operators.
The latest incident occurred Wednesday night when a $3,000 chestnut quarter horse was stabbed in the abdomen while in its stall at Green Stables on Golden West Street near Garfield Avenue, stable manager Cathy Clarke said.
Police are investigating, but no arrests have been made.
The quarter horse was found wounded about 11 a.m. Thursday by its owner on arriving for the horse's morning feeding, Clarke said.
The horse was barely alive when found, and had to be destroyed after veterinarians determined that the stabbing had punctured its bowel. The horse had been acquired just six weeks ago.
It was the eighth attack on horses at a pair of stables in a semirural area on the city's west side, according to stable operators. The animals have been slashed and beaten. In one case a pony's tail was cut off and tied to the railing of its stall, Clarke said.
"I felt so safe here. Now I don't know who is lurking out there," a tearful Clarke said as she stood next to the empty stall where the quarter horse was kept. Tacked to the stall's roof was a homemade sign with the horse's name: Honest Jet.
"Why do kooks do this? Why? They are so defenseless. I'm just sick."
The attacks, dating back to last October, have occurred during full moons, leading some horse owners to speculate they are cult-related. But Clarke and others interviewed at the stables Friday said they have not found any physical evidence, such as graffiti, that might link the attackers to a cult.
"It's just a gut feeling, but it seems awfully strange that trouble comes knocking only on a full moon," said Joel Weir, owner of Green Stables, where 16 horses are kept. "We haven't had any other problems, except when the moon gets full."
Weir's stable and the one next to it have been the focus of the attacks, Clarke said. But she said horses at other area stables have been roughed up and abused by outsiders at night.
"But those stable owners aren't talking because they are scared," said Clarke, who moved to Huntington Beach from Oklahoma in January to manage the stable. "In a way, I don't blame them. But we can't hide in fear. . . . We've got to fight back."
Clarke, who along with her brother keeps six horses at Green Stables, plans to circulate a flyer among horse owners in the area seeking donations to offer as a reward for information leading to the attackers.
Unlike some surrounding stables, no one lives full time at Green Stables. But Weir said Friday night that that will change, at least for the next few nights.
"I suspect that Cathy and myself and my good friends Smith and Wesson," said Weir, referring to a handgun, "will be here for the next few nights. And you can bet, come the next full moon we'll be waiting. . . ."