Police suspect horse rustlers stole a pair of horses last month near 108 Mile Ranch.
100 Mile RCMP Staff Sgt. Svend Nielsen said the lack of hoofprints in the snow, as well as the month-long disappearance, led them to the conclusion they were stolen. The horses – nine-year-old Fjord crosses bred to pull sleighs – were reported missing on Dec. 18 from the Flying Rooster Ranch at Spruce Hills.
“Something is definitely suspicious about it, it leads us to believe they were stolen,” Nielsen said. “It’s kind of a mystery, the fact that two horses, that are built for a specific purpose, were stolen at the time they are generally used for (sleigh rides).
“At this point, there’s no information where they’ve gone to. It’s troubling.”
Police questioned a potential person of interest but they were cleared of any involvement, Nielsen said. He noted while police have dealt with the odd cow rustler in the past five years, horse theft is unusual.
The horses, named Jack and Jill, are highly identifiable by their breed, distinctive colouring and their brand – a diamond on top of an upside-down E – on their front left shoulders.
Owner Valaurie Wettstein described Jill as caramel-coloured with a black and blond mane, while Jack is roan with a shorter and “messy” black and grey mane.
She has been out almost every day searching for the pair, who were temporarily relocated to Spruce Hills from their home at the Wettstone Guest Ranch in Bridge Lake to provide sleigh rides this winter. She and other searchers have spent the past month scouring the area on horseback, ATVs and on foot, while drones and a plane were used in the early days to see if the pair could be spotted.
Wettstein had hoped the horses may have tried to return home to Bridge Lake, about 60 kilometres from Spruce Hills with a lot of fences in between. Despite the snow, however, she has found no signs of horse tracks.
“I’m kind of going with my gut right now. If there are areas where they could go be, I go out,” Wettstein said. “My gut feeling is they might still be in the area, in someone’s backyard.”
Wettstein has been consulting animal communicators, who try to connect with the horses’ spirit or energy. Most of them have said the horses are together, which Wettstein said gives her “hope and motivation that they’re OK.
“I just can’t relax or feel good until I actually see them and they’re back. It’s tiring not knowing what else I can do,” she said. “Every night I dream about them, their whereabouts and what they’re doing. Sometimes it’s like a nightmare.”
Wettstein has also reached out to the BC SPCA and the B.C. brand inspector, who will give the information to the B.C. and Alberta auction grounds. She said she is grateful for the support she has received, both locally and across Canada and the U.S. She is offering a reward for the horses’ return.
“That makes me feel a little better that people are actually helping and continuing to help and not giving up,” she said. “I won’t give up until I find them.”
Anyone with information on the horses’ whereabouts is asked to call 250-706-9369.