A Rancho Santa Fe ranch owner is offering a $10,000 reward to help solve a mysterious case of horse poisoning at his ranch.
Nearly 30 horses were sickened after eating oleander, three of them seriously enough to be taken away for treatment. One of them is said to be doing very poorly. Some of the sickened animals are owned by the ranch while others are boarded there.
Typically, the barn at Rockridge Ranch is a place where horses are pampered and where owners consider their horses family.
Ranch owner Bill Tomin has worked with American Saddlebred horses for decades. It has been a labor of love, so when he went out to deliver a breakfast of oats early Thursday morning, he was shocked by what he found:
"As we came in on these tail boards, all of the oleander leaves -- and bits of carrot and apple they didn't eat -- were all sitting here on every single stall in this barn," Tomin said.
As it is to people, oleander can be highly toxic to horses -- just 10 leaves can cause cardiac arrest.
"Some real sick person had to do that, because every single horse in this barn was affected," Tomin said. "I mean, they put it in every one of their stalls.... It's pretty darn brazen, and then they went up on the hill and fed it to the brood mares ... right underneath my home."
Eleven-year-old Allison Gann's new horse, Partytime, is nowhere in sight.
"I looked down and her stall was empty, so it was kind of like, 'I just hope she gets back soon,' and it was kind of sad," Allison said.
Partytime is one of the three horses taken to a clinic for treatment.
"She takes care of me, and she's just amazing, and I love her very much, and I'm sad that this happened," Allison said.
Tomin said he didn't suspect anybody in the case.
"I have no idea," Tomin said. "I have no idea."
Everybody at the ranch -- which is privately owned -- is worried it might happen again.
"There's no excuse for this," Tomin said. "This guy needs to get off the street."
The three sickest horses are being cared for at the San Luis Rey Clinic, hooked up to IV's. It will be a week before it's know whether they will recover. The other 26 animals were given oil and charcoal to flush any poison out of their systems,
Anybody with any information about the case is being urged to send an e-mail to email@example.com.