Typically I like to keep My Stable Life light, educational and occasionally, humorous. However, an incident occurring in the wee hours of August 25 hit a little too close to home for me and a good friend in particular. With very little information to go on and a frustrating investigation ensuing, I have chosen to spread the word about the disappearance of Rooster Kicker, a 2004 AQHA gelding, from his stall at Westerner Park during the Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals. With any luck, perhaps WHR readers might be able to help his owner shed some light on the crime. Here’s the story…
On Sunday, August 24, Nancy Pratch finished contending in the amateur reining class at the Canadian National Quarter Horse Show held at Westerner Park in Red Deer, AB. It was a great show for Nancy as she and her boyfriend Cory had each won their respective reining classes. Following their classes, the duo proceeded to put their horses away for the night. Although the show was technically done, given the late finish Cory and Nancy decided to stay one more night and leave first thing in the morning.
At approximately 12:30am, Rooster Kicker was in his stall, in Barn A, and fed two flakes of hay. When Nancy closed Rooster Kicker’s stall door, not only did she securely latch the stall door with its pin system, she also latched “Kicker’s” halter around the stall door and buckled it up for extra measures. The lead rope was clipped to the halter and left hanging. Cory and Nancy then went to sleep in the living quarters of their trailer, which was parked on the North East side of Barn B.
At 7:00 am on August 25, Cory left the trailer to feed their horses breakfast. Cory found Rooster Kicker’s stall empty, the door pushed inwards, halter lying in the middle of the stall – horse and lead rope missing. Cory started looking around. A few minutes later Nancy arrived to find the stall empty and Cory looking around the barn. The couple began to search the grounds and asked anyone they encountered if they had seen the missing bay horse as they went along.
Cory spoke to an employee of Westerner Park and learned that all gates other than the main entrance were closed. (Westerner staff also confirmed that all the gates except for the main entrance were closed at 12:30am and opened at 6:00am.)
After searching the entire property, it was apparent the horse was no longer at the Westerner Park facility. Brand inspector, Bruce Etherington was notified of the disappearance, Bruce then made the appropriate calls to get a hold of RCMP Livestock Investigator Dave Heaslip. Heaslip contacted Cory and advised him to call the Red Deer police. The 911 call was made at 7:47am by Cory and he and Nancy continued their search in and around the Westerner Park.
At 8:39 am, Cory received a call from the RCMP stating that a horse had been found behind the south Red Deer Best Buy. Behind the store, the search party found Rooster Kicker in the care of Dan Metzger. According to Metzger, two homeless men had discovered Rooster Kicker on Highway 2 (north bound) with the lead rope tied snugly around his neck. They found him wandering around a very busy intersection, where he was left in harms way. The men caught Rooster Kicker and lead him down behind Best Buy, tied him to a tree and went to find someone who could contact authorities. The two men made contact with Dan, who contacted authorities and the two homeless men continued with their day. RCMP Investigator Hugo Painchaud arrived at the scene found the horse had been retrieved to the proper owners and left shortly thereafter. Rooster Kicker was found unharmed, loaded into a trailer and returned to his stall.
There are several theories about “Kicker’s” disappearance, however, few solid answers have yet to surface. During the Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals, the Quarter Horse Association of Alberta had hired a security company to patrol the grounds to ensure the safety of all competitors. However, this security contract was over as of the evening of August 24 – as soon as the show concluded. Since Nancy and Cory had decided to stay over one extra night to prevent themselves from experiencing fatigue on the highway home, there was no security in effect during the time of Kicker’s disappearance.
RCMP have confirmed that since there was no evidence to verify whether this incident was a crime, or that the horse got away on its own, they have concluded the file. Additionally, as the horse was found safe, there are no investigational avenues to pursue from a RCMP standpoint.
RCMP advice to future competitors at Westerner Park is to ensure that “everything is locked up.”
With “no evidence” to base the incident upon, Rooster Kicker’s disappearance – which left the horse in harm’s way – has left his owners to question whether or not the incident was a random act of theft or a malicious crime. However, the facts conclude that there is nothing “random” about the horse that missing from Westerner Park that day. Rooster Kicker is actually a gold medal winner from the North American Junior & Young Rider’s Championships held in Kentucky in 2010. He has earned numerous championships with his owner. Whomever decided to undo the halter that secured his stall shut, open the pin system of the stall door itself, tie the lead rope around Kicker’s neck (because we all know horses can’t do this themselves) and remove him from his stall – had no good intentions on their mind. And being the lovely animal Kicker is, he followed the requests of the human who handled him without complaint – even if that human was about to place him in harm’s way.
For now, it might also be wise for competitors to consider taking extra precautions to protect their horse’s safety while on show grounds. All competitors have the option to lock their tack stalls and horses into stalls at night – however, there are serious considerations for animal safety in the event of a fire if locks were to be used. Video cameras might be another good option but by law, you must place a sign in front that makes people aware they are being watched. Associations also may employ extra precautions, just as the QHAA tried to do with their extra security guard contracted to walk the grounds. For now, all we really know is that it is up to us as competitors to watch for each other and take matters into our own hands. All of us deserve to go to sleep at night and not have to worry about the safety of our animals on show grounds at events. Ever. Or at least, that’s just my opinion…
Anyone with information with regard to this criminal act can contact the Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575 and all tips will be kept confidential.