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After Therapeutic Horses Slashed, Nonprofit Looks For Answers

 
One of the Spirit Open horses that was slashed by an unknown attacker. Spirit Open uses horses as therapy for people with disabilities.
 
Elliot Francis
  One of the Spirit Open horses that was slashed by an unknown attacker. Spirit Open uses horses as therapy for people with disabilities.  

Veterinarians in Virginia are treating 3 horses who were slashed by an unknown attacker last week. The animals are recovering well, but the manager of the stable where the horses are kept is speaking out.

The Sprit Open Equestrian program is a nonprofit that provides therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults who suffer from a wide range of disabilities. It was in this bucolic setting, just off Centerville Road in Herndon, where someone for some unknown reason entered and attacked three of the horses here -- slashing them with a knife or box cutter. 

Program founder Davorka Suvak learned of the attacks early one morning last week. 

"Our volunteer care giver gives me a call and I couldn't believe what he was saying," she says. "So he had to send me a photo to prove what was going on here. Then everything was a nightmare after that." 

Three horses -- Sprit, a white pony mare; Lucinda, a golden 13-year-old Haflinger pony; and Tessa, a chestnut brown large thoroughbred -- were found slashed. Some of the wounds were as long as six inches. 

The ponies are sweet and trusting, but Suvak says, based on the location of the wounds, she thinks Tessa, the big thoroughbred, fought back.

"When she felt that fear, she acted like an alpha mare in the wild," Suvak says. "She must have turned her back and started kicking at whoever it was."

Suvak, who emigrated to the U.S. from Croatia 7 years ago, says she has no idea who would do this, and investigators have found no suspects. 

For now, the veterinarian who treated the trio says the horses are doing well thanks to an unidentified good Samaritan who paid for the initial medical care. Suvak hopes others will step forward to help the horses -- the way they have helped so many disabled people over the past few years.

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