Fri10242014

News

Los Altos Hills horses targets of paint balls, darts

Someone is using horses for target practice in Los Altos Hills.

Last week, Phil, a 38-year-old horse, was struck by two darts at Fremont Hills Country Club. In late June, three of the country club's horses were hit by paint balls, also during the night.

In both cases, the horses that were attacked were corralled in a 2-acre paddock next to Purissima Road. About 10 horses typically occupy the enclosure at night.

One 3-inch-long dart stuck in Phil's side next to his rib and required stitches. A smaller dart was found lying nearby on the ground. The longer dart was shot from a dart gun while the other could have been fired using a bow and arrow, said Alice El-Bizri, who manages the country club's riding program.

"We were very afraid it had punctured his lung," she said. "If it had been the long kind, we would have had to put him down."

Another horse that was spooked by the Aug. 10 night attack injured itself by running into something, she said.

Phil may look a bit ragged, but he's docile and sweet tempered. El-Bizri puts his age in people years at more than 100 and said he will be retired at the end of the year. Employees call Phil a staple of the country club's riding program and said that hundreds of children have learned how to ride on him.

"He's a defenseless little old honest horse," Richard Sereni, stable manager, said of Phil. "I guess he can't run very fast and that's probably why they picked on him."

Sereni is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. He can be reached at 691-6900.

"If that dart hit a human, it would kill him," said Sereni, who lives in a cottage next to the corral and didn't hear anything unusual that night. "(It) sounds like a lot of money, but you can't place a value on a horse like that. Anyone who comes in and abuses a horse like Phil is ruthless and these people should be convicted and punished. It's a felony."

Sereni said he plans to install a surveillance camera near the paddock.

For now, Phil has been removed from the paddock and given his own stall to make sure the wound doesn't reopen.

"He's really hating it in the stall," El-Bizri said. "He's lived in the pasture his whole life."

Judy Hill, acting manager for Westwind Barn, said no horses in the Altamont Road pasture showed signs that they had been ill treated. Westwind Barn is another large stabling facility in the town. She said that like the country club, Westwind has staff who live on the property.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the crime, fingerprinted the darts. No leads or suspects had been identified by the Town Crier's press deadline.

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