MAGNOLIA, AR (KSLA) - Four of the five horses stolen from the Mulerider Stables at Southern Arkansas University nearly four weeks ago are back home with their families, and a stablemate of one of those horses is credited with their return.
The remains of "Credit Card," a 15-year-old sorrel gelding, were found by the McCurtain County, Okla., Sheriff's Department on Friday morning, Nov. 25. KSLA News 12 has learned that Credit Card was buried Tuesday morning on the family property of student and owner Shaun Smith.
Now, "the grieving and healing can start," says SAU rodeo coach Rusty Hayes. And that includes coming to terms with what happened, and why.
"With Credit Card, it's hard to believe that somebody would do that," says fellow student Ashley Mills, whose a 14-year-old black gelding, Badger was also stolen.
Credit Card and Badger, along with Grey, a 7-year-old gray mare; Lena, a 14-year-old buckskin mare and a 10-year-old black mare simply called, "Black Mare"were taken from the stables sometime overnight on November 2nd. They were recovered, malnourished and dehydrated, in a wooded area near Hayworth, Oklahoma on November 15th.
Hayes credits another horse and stablemate, "Cotton Candy," with helping to bringing them home. "Her nickering is what located the stolen horses, so we consider her the hero of this deal."
Hayes and Mills took Cotton Candy out to the area sheriff's deputies believed the horses might be found, along with another horse. They say they separated the horses, hoping they would nicker to one another and prompt a response from the stolen horses. It worked. "In just a few minutes, she nickered and about her second nicker, one of the stolen horses, her stablemate, nickered at that point. We knew we had them."
Rodeo team members at SAU use their own horses for competition, and Credit Card's death leaves Shaun Smith without his. But SAU President Dr. David Rankin says they are going to try to provide some financial help to provide another horse. "I know you can't really replace him, but try and provide another horse for him," Dr. Rankin explains. University officials were set to meet late Tuesday afternoon to discuss how they might go about raising the money.
The rest of the horses are said to be doing fine now.
Police have confirmed that they do have suspects, but few details have been released as the investigation continues.