Owners plead for return of stolen horses

Deputies are searching three horses that were stolen from a property in Hillsborough County. Two were stolen on one occasion. About a week later, the third was taken.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, at least one suspect entered private property in the 8000 block of Meadowview Circle North in the Citrus Park area at some point between 4:30 p.m. on August 20 at 4:30 p.m. and 10:30 a.m. on August 21.

Once on the property, the suspect attached a horse trailer to an unknown vehicle, loaded the two horses onto the trailer, and drove off.

Investigators are searching for a 1994 Jac Horse trailer that is blue with white stripes along the sides.

The first horse, "Diablo Donna," is a thoroughbred mare that is light brown in color with black stockings and white markings on the muzzle and between the eyes. The horse is described as 15 hands high, which means it is about 5 feet tall at the shoulder and has an unknown tattoo number on the upper lip.

The second horse, named "Storm by me," is a thoroughbred gelding that is dark brown in color with black stockings and a white sock on the left rear leg. The horse is 15.2 hands high, and also has an unknown tattoo on the upper lip.

The thieves weren't done yet. Sometime between the night of August 30th and the morning of August 31st, a third horse was stolen. The horse named "DJ" is a "light bay" with a white star between his eyes. He is 15.5 hands high and nine years old.

The 5-acre farm has been in Cathy Cole's family for four decades.

"We are here every day with these animals," Cole said. "We just feel so violated. They're like our kids."

The stalls now sit empty, aside from "Blanca," a therapy goat who helped calm "Storm's" nervousness.

"This was her companion, this stall, so she hasn't come out of that stall since he's been gone," Cole said. "She's very depressed now."

Cole doesn't know who would target her family. She says "DJ" is blind in one eye and not rideable. "Donna" is older and unable to breed.

"Heartless people, I guess," Cole said. "Years ago, they were taking horses from this area for horse meat. So, I'm praying that is not what it is."

She's also praying that all three make it back home, safe and sound.

"They're not only our horses, they're our family. So, just to come out and know that they're not here, it's just heartbreaking," Cole said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).