‘Concentration Camp’ for Horses Alleged In Lockwood Valley

  • This emaciated mare (top), showing numerous injuries, may be pregnant or bloated with malnutrition. A stack of complaints have been filed with Humane officers about alleged abuse at the Bor family?s Cochema Ranch. At bottom right, Ventura County Sheriff?s Deputies arrive at the Bor residence on Tuesday, Sept. 23 to investigate alleged inhumane treatment of horses. Bottom left, Lockwood Valley resident Patty Wallace shows deputies a stack of written statements from neighbors, animal feed vendors and professionals saying treatment of horses at Cochema Ranch is inhumane. [photos by Gary Meyer]

    This emaciated mare (top), showing numerous injuries, may be pregnant or bloated with malnutrition. A stack of complaints have been filed with Humane officers about alleged abuse at the Bor family?s Cochema Ranch. At bottom right, Ventura County Sheriff?s Deputies arrive at the Bor residence on Tuesday, Sept. 23 to investigate alleged inhumane treatment of horses. Bottom left, Lockwood Valley resident Patty Wallace shows deputies a stack of written statements from neighbors, animal feed vendors and professionals saying treatment of horses at Cochema Ranch is inhumane. [photos by Gary Meyer]

Starving and Abused Horses Allegedly Held at Lockwood Valley Ranch Among Herd of About 100 Head

By Gary Meyer and Patric Hedlund

Thirteen horses were removed from a Lockwood Valley property on Wednesday night, Sept. 24 after Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputies responded Tuesday to a request to check on the welfare of about 100 horses at Cochema Ranch on Curtis Trail, operated by the Bor family.

Lockwood Valley resident Patty Wallace collected and sent a stack of complaints to Ventura County Humane Society officers alleging that horses were dying from starvation and neglect on the property. She was told that Humane Society investigators would come from Camarillo to look over the property on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

When they did not arrive, Wallace called the Sheriff’s station in Lockwood Valley and said, “You’ve got two or three horses that are down and will probably die in a day or two.”

Senior Deputy Ryan Clark and Deputy William Hollowell examined the stack of written complaints from Mountain Community residents who wrote that they have seen neglected, dead and dying horses on the property. At about 6 p.m., the deputies conducted a first search of the ranch.

Among the written statements submitted to Officer Vale of the Ventura County Humane Society is an allegation by a neighbor that the animals were often fed only “every three days or longer, eating their own feces, no water….” Christopher J. Doyle who lives along the same fence line adjacent to the national forest observed that horses “were so hungry they were eating the trees and fence posts.”

A former worker at the ranch said the Humane Society had been called in 2006 and that the owners barred entry to the full property to hide a stallion “that was emaciated, with feet that had filled with pus from neglect and malnutrition.” The Humane Officers did not file charges at that time. Victoria Rose who volunteered at the ranch for a short time also wrote that the stallion’s 12’x12’ windowless and uncleaned pen “was disgusting, no ventilation and it was hard to breathe…the stallion was thin and weaving back and forth.”

The stallion, known as Giant, later died when evacuated during the Day fire to Tejon Ranch, according to Cuddy Valley resident Dawn Beban who worked at Tejon Ranch adjacent to where the Bor’s horses were kept during the evacuation.

Back in Lockwood Valley, the worker alleged that a pile of dead horses was on the back of the property, and that they found a foal trampled “into the muck” and left to decay.

In an interview on Wednesday, Sept. 24, Christopher Doyle said he had seen a pile of about eight horse bodies that had been pushed onto national forest land behind the ranch and left to decay. He also wrote that “as horses die from lack of food or water or adequate care they are left to rot, creating an unhealthy environment for horses, humans, domestic and wild animals.”

Danny and Brenda Miles of American Hay & Mercantile wrote they had seen “90 to 100 animals in an area that would be suitable for 15 at most.” Darren Hager of Stage Stop Hay and Mercantile provided a statement regarding the malnutrition of foaling mares and of foals being born with malnutrition. He said the Bors had become delinquent in their payments for hay and feed deliveries [to other vendors] and that “Joan and Ernie [Bor] had been ‘cut off’ from buying hay…due to their unwillingness to pay past due accounts, so I continued to deliver hay to the Bors for the health of their horses.” But he too had to stop eventually when bad checks were written.

A phone call to the Bor residence Tuesday evening was answered by a woman who identified herself as Ernie Bor’s wife, Cecelia.

When informed of the charges, she said, “I love these horses and they are our children. Ernie is away a lot driving a truck to earn the money to buy the feed for these horses. We spent over two thousand dollars just last week for feed.” She added that two trucks on the property for hauling hay were out of order and that she was often left to tend the horses alone. Joan Bor, who is an owner of the horses, was away when a reporter called Tuesday evening.

“There are some horses that have bad teeth and need hay pellets, but when I don’t have money to buy pellets we have to feed them hay, and they can’t chew it very well so they get skinny,” Cecelia Bor said.

Dawn Beban, who submitted a statement, alleged in an interview that the ranch, “…is like a puppy mill, for horses…he [Ernie Bor, also known as Ernie Ruiz] buys broken-down thoroughbred horses with good papers at auction and breeds them, leaving horses to starve….”

Cecelia Bor said selling horses has become difficult and prices have fallen, leading them to “hold on to horses we would have sold” if they could find good homes. “We won’t sell them to bad people.”

Bor said they came to Lockwood Valley in 2004 from north Orange County with 20 horses and that the herd has grown to over a hundred through breeding and buying. She said she didn’t know how many horses are now on the property, but that there are “ten babies on my foal list.” Two of their foals had been trained in the San Francisco area for the racetrack but did poorly and came home with injuries, she said.

“I don’t want to have people saying mean things about us, and talking about us in the grocery store in town. There are just some people who are making up horrible stories,” Cecelia Bor said, crying.

When asked about past visits from humane officers, she said: “They came out and nothing is ever wrong. We have the same accusations. It has happened over and over again. Nothing ever comes of it. Nothing ever happens to us because the animals are always taken care of.”

When deputies returned with the Humane Officers on Wednesday, they removed 13 horses. They said Humane Officers will work with the owners to improve the situation and that Cecilia Bor had cooperated with investigators. Deputy Clark told reporters there is an ongoing criminal investigation. There have not been any arrests at this time.

This is part of the September 26, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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