Four horses from a defunct Moorpark College equine program that were to be sold at public auction have been transported to a private buyer without the college's permission, officials said Wednesday.
That means only 12 horses from an original 40 or more in the program will be available for sale when the closed-bid auction stops accepting bids at 5 p.m. Friday.
According to Moorpark College Vice President Darlene Pacheco, representatives from the Foxfield Riding Academy in Thousand Oaks took four horses from the college's Rancho Sierra Vista facility in Newbury Park without the college's permission over the weekend.
"I know where they are, but how they got there, I'm not sure yet," Pacheco said Wednesday.
Jo Ann Postel, owner of the private riding stable, would not discuss the case Wednesday.
Foxfield had made arrangements months ago with the equine program director to buy the horses. But college trustees last month nixed that and other sales negotiated by Don Anderson, saying the horses should instead be sold to the highest bidder.
At a trustees' meeting July 5, college President James Walker said most of the horses had been sold in the spring without appraisals or public bidding and transported to buyers, although about a dozen had not yet been paid for. At that time, only 17 horses remained at the Newbury Park facility. A 30-year-old stallion deemed worthless by Anderson has been given to a former student.
Anderson retired June 30 from the college and left the area, Pacheco said. Anderson's wife Dee, co-manager of the equine program, remains on the college payroll, but has called in sick all week, Pacheco said.
Trustee Karen Boone said she has asked the college district's lawyer to study the case and present the governing board a list of legal options.
Michelle Erich, a Port Hueneme woman interested in bidding on the horses, said she watered and fed the remaining horses at Rancho Sierra Vista on Monday because no one was there during her seven hours at the ranch. Pacheco said the college has retained a part-time caretaker to feed the animals until they are sold.
Pacheco said Wednesday that the college has sent out dozens of applications to buyers interested in bidding on the remaining horses. The sealed bids will be opened Monday or Tuesday, she said.