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BREEDER’S POINT OF VIEW By Pat Payne Cut to the Quick

Virginia-based breeder Vicky Castegren speaks out about a disturbing incident and questions show security measures.


or Vicky Castegren of Hyperion Stud and her young Dutch stallion Campbell VDL, the seventeenth of June this year—a Sunday night—was certainly not a good night.

Until then, the two, along with the rest of Vicky’s Virginia-

based breeding operation, were riding high. Eight-year-old Campbell (Cassini I x Carpaccicio x Landlord) had competed over the weekend in the jumper division at the Country Heir II show at the Kentucky Horse Park with rider Candice King, finishing a very respectable seventh in the show’s $15,000 Welcome Prix. He was one of five horses that Vicky had brought to the show and all had performed well.

A Shocking Discovery But on Monday morning when the grooms arrived at the barn, they were shocked to find that the grey stallion’s tail had been hacked off sometime overnight. It had been cut in several random pieces, Vicky recounts, and the tail hair was left lying strewn around his stall. For a competition horse—and a horse that enjoys occasional

turnout during an often buggy Virginia summer—losing his tail felt like a disaster to those caring for him. To Vicky, it also felt like a violation, both of trust and of ethics. In addition, the reasons for this attack remain a mystery. “There was speculation that the hair was taken for some specific purpose,” Vicky explains. An online search for similar attacks reveals suggestions that horses’ tail hair is sold for use in replacement tails, for musical instruments, for jewelry and even for occult purposes.

In Campbell’s case, the cut tail was left behind in his stall,

however. “This feels like something malicious against one of us,” Vicky continues. “Whether it was against his rider Candice, his groom, Craig Yates (Hyperion Stud’s training manager) or me, I don’t know. I just don’t have any answers.” Vicky also expresses frustration that neither the USEF or the

Kentucky Horse Park, which hosted the show, have been willing to discuss the attack with her since her calls have not been returned. “They have night watch at the show. But I believe it ends after the last class on the last day, the same time the office closes,” she says. “I’m upset,” she continues. “If I’m forced to pay for night

watch as part of my show registration, I expect them to walk through the barns at night and to regulate who is in the barns at night.”

The Search for Answers The incident also points the way to a larger question, she says. “Whose responsibility is it,” she asks, “to keep our horses safe at night at a horse show?” That question, combined with the sense of violation stemming from the attack on Campbell, has her rethinking her barn’s security measures at future shows. “I know they can’t hire an army to watch over the horses,”

Campbell’s vandalized tail (left and center) just after the incident occurred, and Vicky’s attempt to normalize the look of the tail (right) weeks later.

76 September/October 2012

she continues. “But it certainly raises lots of questions. When we compete, we leave our valuable horses at those shows unattended. How stupid are we to do that? But how many of us can afford our own security?” “There are so many relatively easy ways to hurt a horse—with laced food, for example. I’ve certainly heard stories of things like that. It’s really scary to think of,” she says. “I’m just glad it wasn’t anything worse than it was with Campbell. As a precaution, though, I had all the horses we took to the show drug screened when we got home. If someone is brazen enough to walk into a stallion’s stall, who knows what else they would do?”

Photos courtesy Vicky Castegren

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