Search continues for Palmetto show horse killers

Show horse industry offers $10,000 in reward money

PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s a crime that’s described as vicious and senseless. The 11-year-old chestnut was found missing from its stable on Sunday morning.

“Phedras de Blondel” was an 11-year-old show horse that had just been brought to this country from Germany days ago.

Now, “Star Trek” actor William Shatner has donated $5,000 to help catch the horse’s killer. The total reward for information leading to a suspect or suspects arrest is $30,000.

Debbie Stephens bought the horse and said, “He was just an unbelievable athlete. He is like what can I do for you, always the horse of your dreams.”

Stephens paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the jumper. She planned to train the horse at a Manatee County facility she owns with her husband.

Someone came onto the property at the Imperial Farms Equestrian center late Saturday night, removed the prized horse from its stall, killed it and cut it up, leaving only a portion of the carcass.

Steve Stephens is the owner of the ranch where the horse was stolen.
Steve Stephens is the owner of the ranch where the horse was stolen.

Steve Stephens owns the equestrian center with his wife. “This horse was not cut up by a beginner. It was professional butcher that did this. He knew exactly where to go to dismember the animal which is the sad part.”

Investigators believe the huge horse may have been targeted for its meat, which is illegal to buy or sell in Florida.

The horse’s owner heard that’s been done before but never believed it would happen to any of her horses.

“They are going to keep doing this until we can make the charges strong enough and we can eradicate horse meat from being sold on the black market or any market,” Debbie Stephens said.

When asked if he is fearful this could happen again, Steve Stephens said, “For sure, we are and we will not rest until we feel there is no way to get a horse out of the barn.”

The owners of Imperial Farms say they have been in business for decades and have never had any problems here in the past. Now they just want the criminals caught so it doesn’t happen again.

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