For the second time, a San Diego reining trainer is being accused of causing the death of a horse he had in training at the River Valley Ranch near the San Diego-Mexico border. Both times the horse's head was tied down tight to the saddle and the horse flipped.
According to reports, the first horse died instantly with a broken neck. The second one broke her neck but a veterinarian had to put her down. According to news sources, the Humane Society has a file on the trainer, Mark Arballo, and has been involved since the first incident.
According to Dan DeSousa, deputy director of the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, a necropsy on Bella Gunnabe Gifted has been ordered and charges could be filed if abuse is determined to be a factor in the mare’s death. The investigation also could determine abuse was not a factor, or it could prove inconclusive.
“We did take possession of the horse Saturday [Sept. 21, the day she died] and we have scheduled it for a necropsy. That’s where things stand at this time,” DeSousa said. It will take at least a week for his department to receive the necropsy results, which DeSousa hopes will help determine the probable cause of the horse’s death.
Bella Gunnabe Gifted was purchased in June by Martha Torkington, according to American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) registration records.
Mark Arballo, of Arballo Reining Horses, one of two resident trainers at River Valley Ranch, confirmed to Quarter Horse News that Bella Gunnabe Gifted had been in his training program.
Arballo Reining Horses’ website lists the trainers as Arballo and his girlfriend, Patricia Hohl, a “new up-coming trainer in the Reining industry with numerous successes in the past couple of years.” The website has since been removed from the internet.
Another horse death investigation took place at the same location last June regarding an approximately 7-year-old horse owned by Patrice Hohl, the girl friend of Mark Arballo.
According to the official San Diego County Department of Animal Services records, an anonymous caller “witnessed horse dying after an accident where it was being lunged with its’ head tied and it reared over and cracked its’ skull.” The allegations were denied by Hohl, who stated the horse “just collapsed and died” while she was lunging him before riding.
Part of the problem with the 2012 case, DeSousa said, was that the horse had been buried at the ranch and the body was not recovered by investigators until more than a week after the death.
Extensive decomposition following a death can limit a necropsy’s effectiveness. The written report indicates the witnesses all wished to remain anonymous, which prevented that case from being pursued further.
A Facebook page has been dedicated to the dead horse Bella Gunnabe Gifted.