When Carrie Aenk realized thieves had stolen almost $10,000 in equipment from her Springdale, Wash., horse rescue operation, she was angry.
When she realized they had also beaten one of her horses, she was livid.
“That horse didn’t do anything to anybody,” Aenk said Tuesday as she tended to the 30 horses she houses at Shepherds Way Animal Rescue.
Pilgrim, a Fallon mustang born on Thanksgiving less than two years ago, suffered lash wounds to his hind end when someone broke through a locked fence, stole equipment and came after him, most likely with a whip.
The horse that previously loved everyone now doesn’t trust anyone, she said.
With 15 saddles missing, Aenk and her husband weren’t sure they were going to be able to operate their other charity: Free riding lessons for veterans, children with disabilities or illnesses, or abused children.
But in the two weeks since the break-in, the horse and local communities have made sure Aenk’s nonprofit program continues.
Rick Miles Construction donated cash and about $600 worth of brushes, saddle blankets and helmets. People from all over the state have called Aenk to say they emptied their barns to send her equipment. They are still accepting donations, especially hay.
“They’ve been so awesome,” said Aenk, a former paramedic who also retrains dogs that have been deployed to war zones. Her own dog is a former bomb-sniffing dog named Major that served a tour in Iraq.
The riding program, which was on hiatus for the winter, will begin again in May. During the summer months, Aenk and nine volunteers teach up to 35 students a day.
“Their parents bring them out here just hoping a spark or something will come back to their child,” she said.
The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the March 28 burglary. Aenk said she and her husband left the 30 or so horses in the pasture for a few hours and came back to find their hay pile strewn across the ground, saddles and other equipment missing, their shed and gate locks broken and Pilgrim with gashes on his back.
“When he wouldn’t come to me, I knew something was wrong,” Aenk said.
Their grain supply was also ripped open and urinated on, she said.
Law enforcement has not made any arrests, but they found eight of the saddles in some woods in Ford, Wash.
The nonprofit is a court-approved community service option for first-time offenders, Aenk said, but many people only required to do 20 hours of work for her end up staying a whole summer. Aenk and her husband also work cleaning up foreclosed houses.
As for Pilgrim, his gashes have nearly healed, but his psychological wounds are deeper. “I’ve had to start all over from square one with him,” Aenk said.
She said there is no way the less-than-full-grown horse acted aggressively toward the burglar; he just happened to be in the pasture right next to the equipment shed.
“There is nothing aggressive in his body,” Aenk said. “All he wants to be is petted and loved.”
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