VIRGINIA

Eagle Hill Equine Rescue Farm falls victim to burglary

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CULPEPER, Va. (WJLA) - A Northern Virginia farm that rescues and rehabilitates horses has fallen victim to thieves.

Authorities say that someone broke into the Eagle Hill Equine Rescue Farm in Culpeper just after Christmas and stole thousands of dollars worth of riding equipment. Without that gear, farm employees are not able to help the horses.

In total, 13 saddles and several girths, haulers and bridles were lifted.

“Love at first sight," said Cassie Robison, 17, a Stafford High School student who trains horses at the Eagle Hill Equine Rescue Center. “It’s been a really long journey," Robison said.

Two years ago, Robison met the wild and untamed horse named Ranger.

“Before he wouldn’t let anyone touch him, but he let me come right up to him,” Robison said gleefully.

Ranger was known as the crazy horse at the farm. At one point, he was deemed so dangerous, he was going to be put to sleep.

“I definitely was not prepared for him, but it was a lot of research and a lot of practice with other horses before I was able to do it," Robison said.

Ranger came from a farm in North Dakota. He was abused most of his life, and like Ranger, there are many formerly abused horses at the rescue center.

Katie Ettinger helped train Robison.

“Her story is a fantastic example of why we’re here," Ettinger, 17, said of Robison.

Once a volunteer herself, Ettinger now trains young people how to handle and ride the horses. It's a big portion of the rescue center's mission. But that mission can't be accomplished after $5,000 worth of equipment was stolen from their barn.

“We woke up the day after Christmas and everything was gone," Robison said.

“Those all had saddles on them," said Annie Delp, executive director at the Eagle Hill Equine Rescue Center. 

“You can’t build a car without the right equipment. You can’t train a horse without the right equipment," Ettinger said.

“Pretty much the only reason people get horses is for riding and if we can’t teach them to ride, no one is going to adopt them," Robison added.

Because of the thefts, workers at the shelter are thinking about possibly buying a new storage shed and purchasing security cameras -- but it’s money they just don’t have.

“Our expenses basically go for hay and grain and vet care,” Delp said.

They hope whomever took the equipment realizes how much this is affecting the lives of people and horses.

“We try our best to help our community, and taking advantage of a rescue like that isn’t good," added Robison.

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