Many people have been greatly saddened by the apparent theft of two horses from a rural La Valle property.
Not only are the owners of the two missing horses grieving their loss, so is anyone involved with Veterans Equine Trail Service (VETS), a program that combines horse rescue with physical and mental therapy for veterans and for disabled kids.
The many people affected by the horse rustling include the property owners, the people who oversee the VETS program, the many volunteers, and the even larger number of veterans and disabled kids who benefit from interaction with the total of 48 horses (counting the missing two).
VETS program head Barb Knopf does not disguise the anger she feels over the apparent horse rustling. “These horses help disabled veterans and troubled kids,” she says. “Someone is disrespecting veterans and depriving needy children by taking Jimmy and Vicki. I birthed both of these horses and helped them stand for the first time. I take this very personally.”
When Knopf and volunteers did a head count on March 14 they realized two were missing and quickly realized they were Jimmy and Vicki. Knopf says these were an unlikely duo to take, in that they are different types and sizes and normally did not “hang around” together. She says Jimmy and Vicki aren’t trained yet and aren’t worth much money.
In any case, all the horses are used to having a lot of different people around and she surmises that, when the perpetrators got a halter around the neck of one, the other probably thought nothing of following along.
As the ground was frozen, no tracks were evident – either of the horses or the trailer used to remove them. And, whoever took them shut the gate. The apparent rustling took place at night, when residents were sleeping.
Knopf says that she and many others did an exhaustive search of the immediate environs. They traversed about three miles along the river, seeing no sign of distress there. They checked the fences around the entire property perimeter and they were not down anywhere. There were no tracks outside the fences and there were no bloody marks to indicate an attack by wild animals.
The Sauk County Sheriff’s Department tried to help Knopf and others brainstorm about possible perpetrators, including volunteers and workmen who’d been to the property, but so far no likely suspects have come to light.
Knopf says it’s as though an extraterrestrial spaceship beamed up the horses and flew off with them.
But Knopf, the horses’ owners and everyone else concerned are not going to give up the search. A reward has been offered for the safe return of the two horses – no questions asked. Knopf suggests that the horses either be dropped back off from where they were taken, at September Farms on McKinney Road; or even tied to a tree in a nearby field.
Knopf says her entire group, including the horses’ owners, is not concerned about punishment for the thieves. “All we want is the horses returned,” she says.
Alternatively, if someone knows where these horses are they can contact their local Sheriff’s Department or Crimestoppers (www.tipsubmit.com). Or, call Barb Knopf at 608-985-8886 or 608-393-6315; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or send anonymous mail to 320 West St., La Valle, Wis. 53941.
Knopf asks for people to think about whether there has been any unusual or suspicious activity in their area. She says, “If you see two horses new somewhere and it’s suspicious, report it. But it could just be one of them; maybe they were separated. Think about whether someone borrowed lead lines or a trailer, or farmland. Check your acreage. If the owner of a cow trailer sees horse ‘poop’ in it, report that. Think about whether someone is all of a sudden buying hay who wasn’t before.”
Another troubling aspect to the rustling, Knopf says, is that it has put fear into other horse owners. “These people came here at night,” she says. “That tells you they were up to no good. If they’d steal our horses they’d steal anyone else’s. You need to watch out.”
Speaking for all 48 horses, the horses’ owners, herself and the entire VETS organization, Knopf says, “We’re family. These are my friends. We need closure by getting these horses back.”
But, in the meantime, the remaining 46 horses need to be cared for. Volunteers are still coming by to help and the public can assist the VETS program by donating tax-deductible hay (the organization’s biggest expense), or donating cash to help defray the cost of vet and farrier bills. One thing the VETS organization does not need is more horses.
While providing care for the 46 horses remaining at September Farms the thought of the missing two weighs heavily on everyone’s minds.
Knopf says, “We only need one clue, one phone call or one name, which could help solve this mystery. Please tell your friends and share the report on Facebook. Someone is going to see or hear something.
“Someone did the wrong thing. We need someone to do the right thing and step up.”