Reports that someone brutally killed a rescued wild horse near American Falls this week spurred outrage, anguish and an outpouring of donations, but investigators have now determined the pregnant mare’s death was accidental.
“We had a veterinarian look at the horse, and he determined that the horse was impaled by a ... low-hanging branch,” Power County Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Oster said Friday. “He figured something spooked the horse and it ran into the tree.”
That suspicion was verified, he said, when the vet examined a large wound in the mare’s side and found a section of branch — Oster estimates it was an inch and a half in diameter and 10 inches long — inside the horse. That piece of wood “matched up to the branch broken from a tree,” he said. A wound on her head likely also was caused by a branch, he said.
Lauri Armstrong, who rescued the horse from slaughter, believed the bloody scene at the horse refuge “A Little Piece of Heaven” was a cruel attack by humans and launched a Gofundme page, Bring Dee’s Killer to Justice, to raise money for a reward. Around 100 people contributed more than $3,000.
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When Armstrong called the Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday night, she learned what the vet and investigators had found. She immediately canceled the campaign, she said, “and all of the donations were returned within 10 minutes of the phone call.”
“It’s just really mind-boggling,” she said of investigators’ findings. “They feel very confident it was self-inflicted.
“They put a lot of care and time into the investigation. I have no reason to doubt it, but my head doesn’t wrap around it so well. But it also doesn’t wrap so well about the fact that she’s dead.”
The mare, named Dee, was scheduled to be adopted the day she died. It is unknown what caused her to panic and slam into the tree, Oster said. It could have been a coyote or dogs, he said.
There was some kind of commotion on the property early Sunday morning that sparked a barking jag by a resident dog, Armstrong said.
Although the determination that Dee’s wounds were accidental is hard to accept, she said it helps her to believe that the trust for humans she worked to instill in the mare was not betrayed by cruelty.
In a Thursday night post on the Gofundme page, Armstrong wrote, “It is still horrific, but thank God it was not caused by hate.”