An Aiken County hunter has been charged with animal cruelty for shooting a $50,000 show horse while he was trying to shoot a deer Saturday.
Samuel Stewart, of Aiken, was issued a ticket by Aiken County Animal Control and will be fined $1,092 and could get up to 60 days in jail if found guilty in court, said Bobby Arthurs, an animal control chief enforcement officer.
The horse, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood named Oree, was brought to the University of Georgia for treatment but had to be euthanized because of the injury, owner Lisa Doker said.
“I feel like my heart has been ripped out,” Doker said. “I had him as a yearling, I practically raised him. I’m not able to have children, and this was the only next best thing I could have. It’s been very emotional.”
Doker said she was walking to her barn to feed her horses about 6:40 a.m. when she heard a gun shot near her stable.
As she approached the barn, she saw her 16-year-old Quarter Horse named Ike running frantically around his pasture. In the back of the pasture, she found Oree lying on his side, breathing “extremely hard” with blood on the right side of his body.
After several frantic phone calls, Aiken County Sheriff’s Office and animal control arrived at the scene and found Stewart in his deer stand in a tree on a neighbor’s property.
When questioned by authorities, Stewart said he did not admit to shooting the horse but said he was shooting at a buck, a male deer, that was in the direction of the horse, Arthurs said.
Arthurs said a neighbor had given Stewart permission to hunt on the property and that he was shooting during hunting season, which runs August through January.
A woman who answered the phone at Stewart’s residence said he would not comment on the issue.
Doker said she has a hard time understanding how Stewart could have accidently shot her horse or mistaken the animal for a deer.
“My horse is (6-feet tall), weighs 2,000 pounds, and he’s black and white,” Doker said. “He doesn’t have antlers growing out of his head, and he doesn’t resemble a deer at all.”
Veterinarians at UGA told Doker that because Oree had lost so much blood, he would not be able to wake up after an operation on the wound.
Doker said making the decision to euthanize her horse was one of the hardest of her life. She had been training Oree in a riding discipline known as dressage, which is a sport that trains horses to perform movements based on balance and collection.
She had been riding at training and first levels of the sport, but said she had pegged him as an athlete that could have progressed through the FEI level, which is the highest and international level of dressage.
Although her horse is gone, Doker said she wants closure and compensation for extensive vet bills.
“What scares me the most is (Stewart) could have shot me,” Doker said. “I’m devastated and I’m shocked. Nobody can say I’m sorry to fix this. I want justice for Oree.”