Crime

Butchered horse could be deadly, Palmetto horse owners warn

MANATEE -- Eating horse meat could be deadly, concerned members of the rural Palmetto horse community warned Monday after a prize show jumper was killed and butchered in Palmetto over the weekend.

Phedras de Blondel, a 12-year-old show jumper from Germany that was purchased just a few days ago by Palmetto's Debbie Stephens, was led out of his stall at Imperial Farms in rural Palmetto late Saturday or early Sunday, walked to a remote area on the 27-acre farm, killed and thoroughly butchered, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

If someone is trying to sell the horse's meat, local horse people and law enforcement caution that horses are filled with drugs to keep them healthy and those drugs are not fit for human consumption.

"Eating horse meat can be deadly," said Jurg Regaz, a rural Palmetto horse owner.

Besides getting the word out that horse meat is unhealthy for humans, Manatee horse owners are taking precautions to protect their animals, including adding security and moving them to more remote pastures to standing guard if they have to, the families said.

"People are adding more cameras," said Petra Hublot, who with her husband Claude owns horses in Palmetto. "We are moving our horses to a more remote pasture."

Dave Bristow, a sheriff's office spokesman, had many calls Monday from horse magazines from all over the country, Canada and Germany, all about Phedras.

"We don't have much new to report," Bristow said. "We've gotten some leads but no arrest yet. We are working the leads. We are still hoping for help from the public. We are still going on the premise the motive is horse meat. That is what the evidence points to. We are hoping to get some information to break the case open."

If people see or hear of someone selling meat out of the back of their car or at a flea market they should contact the sheriff's office immediately, Bristow said.

"Call 941-747-3011 and report it immediately if someone is selling meat," Bristow said. "It could be a health risk. Our community should be cautious. We are also asking horse owners to report any suspicious activity, anything that seems out of place."

Although Regaz and the Hublots were outraged over the killing of show jumper Phedras de Blondel, they were equally as concerned that innocent people could eat the horse meat, which they say is tainted by drugs to fight worms, equine infectious anemia, rabies and poisonous plants, like creeping indigo.

"Every horse in Florida is required to have injections every year," Regaz said. "They get medication that kills worms every three months, and that stays in the horse as well.

"All those chemicals go into the meat and that meat becomes unfit for human consumption," Regaz said. "You don't want those in your body."

Regaz showed on a box of dewormer the clear statement: "Do not use in horses intended for human consumption."

Also, creeping indigo, a Florida plant that horses find delectable, can be toxic to horses if eaten in large quantities, Regaz said.

"In Australia, they have used horse meat for dog food and dozens of dogs have died after consuming the meat of horses because the dog food contained traces of creeping indigo," Regaz said.

"If we take all this into consideration, it is in the best interest of the public to get the word out that you should not eat domestic horses," Regaz said.

The Hublots, who live off Experimental Farm Road in Palmetto, also want people to know that eating horses is dangerous. But more than that, eating a horse is like eating someone's family member, Petra Hublot said.

"We have a relationship with our horses," Hublot said. "They are part of our families. We were shocked like everyone else... It's a horrible thing to happen to anyone who has animals. We hope they catch them."

Phedras had just arrived in Palmetto after his owner, Debbie Stephens of Imperial Farms, had purchased him from an owner in Germany for use in jumping competitions.

Debbie Stephens got to ride her new horse only 15 minutes before the horse was killed.

The perpetrators of the crime, who are still at large, face charges of occupied burglary, grand theft and cruelty to animals, Bristow said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.

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