Two Horses Shot in Oregon; One Dies

"It's just the biggest heartbreak you can imagine," said Doris Mataya, owner of Laddie, a 14-month-old registered Paint colt and his pregnant dam, Lady. The two horses were shot multiple times in Mataya's pasture between midnight and 7 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, according to Sgt. David Marshall of the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. Both horses were taken to Oregon State University's (OSU) Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Corvallis, Ore. Only Lady survived.

Early that morning, Joe Mataya, Doris' husband, went to feed and check on their two horses before heading off to give his Sunday sermon at their church. He could see Lady by the barn, but Laddie was nowhere in sight.

"They are always so anxious for grain," Doris Mataya said. "They would come running up as soon as they heard you." But Laddie never came. He saw Lady lying down by the barn, which was unusual, but he was able to get her to her feet. It wasn't until Joe went behind the barn that he saw Laddie in the trees.

"We struggled to get him up," she added. "When we did, that's when Joe noticed the puncture wounds in his sides. Joe--and he's not one to jump to conclusions--immediately suspected a 0.22 gunshot wound. Somebody had used them (Laddie and Lady) for malicious target practice."

Laddie was shot once in the ear and had two holes on either side of his abdominal areas indicating that he turned during the episode. Lady was shot three or four time underneath her tail. "She must have been running away from them," she offered as an explanation.

The Matayas brought the horses to the barn, called the sheriff's department to investigate the incident, and called out their veterinarian. The officers took pictures of the two horses' wounds and a set of tire tracks.

According to Doris Mataya, a neighbor's dogs had been barking early that morning and when the neighbor went outside to check on them, she saw a truck with two or three men in the back and two or three in the front, all with rifles. "When she yelled at the dogs to be quiet, they skidded out of there," Doris Mataya explained. "I'm not saying that they are connected, I'm just telling what she (the neighbor) saw."

Friends of the Matayas stayed with the horses while Joe preached and Doris Mataya taught at church that morning. "Our heart wasn't in church," Doris Mataya said. "After church, we raced home to meet the attending veterinarian."

The vet told the Matayas the only chance for the horses' survival was referral to the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital at OSU.

 Their veterinarian stabilized the two horses, bandaged their wounds, and administered pain medications at the farm to prepare for the three-hour trip to OSU.

"One of the (responding) officers was also a friend of ours, and with our pulling vehicle not being very reliable, he went home to get his pickup and horse trailer and hauled them up to the college," Doris Mataya said.

At the college, two teams of veterinarians worked to stabilize the horses. Laddie already seemed to be in shock. Shannon Reed, DVM, and Jamie Textor, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, were the lead surgeons on the cases. Using an ultrasound machine, they diligently scanned the horses for the bullets. In Lady's abdomen, they could see an unborn foal's rib cage, and they could see it had a strong normal heartbeat (as of Oct. 5).

"I was so thankful she was in foal," Doris Mataya said. "Not that you can replace Laddie, but just to have another one from Lady running around would be wonderful."

The next day the Matayas received a call from Reed--Laddie’s wounds proved to be fatal. He was euthanatized because the bullets had punctured his bowel in multiple locations causing severe infection of the abdomen. 

"He was our baby," she added. "My husband had watched him being born. I used to go out all the time and hug on him and our friends would come over and we would put their kids on him. He was just so sweet."

"Laddie and Lady were in stalls next to each other at the hospital," she added. "When Laddie died, Lady quit eating and drinking. They had to place a (nasogastric) tube in her stomach and tried enticing her with feed covered in molasses." Lady's condition has since stabilized.

University policy requires at least half the expenses to be covered before discharge of the patient. Mataya worried that the medical expenses will be too much for them to afford on their retirement checks, and that they will have to bring Lady home before she has fully recovered. A fund has been set up to help offset some of the costs, which are well over $4,000.

"We wouldn't even let such a fund be set up if it were just to take care of our horses being sick, but we are crime victims," Doris Mataya said. If the fund were to exceed the medical bills for the two horses, Mataya said she will offer the remaining money to an organization that rescues abused horses near her, or she even thought about setting up a perpetual fund to help people with horses in situations like this.
 
"We would love it if people would pray for Lady," she added. "It's too late for Laddie, but maybe we can save Lady and her foal. My husband says, 'God is still in control. Why he allows things to happen is up to him.'"

An anonymous source has offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the attackers.

As of Oct. 7, there had been no arrests made in the case, but the Douglas County Sheriff's Department hopes the reward will prompt someone to come forward. Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call the sheriff's office at 541/440-4463. Tips will remain anonymous. Anyone wanting to donate to the medical expense fund should contact Umpqua Bank (Kandi Smoot) at  541/784-1581.

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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