California officials continue their investigation into the death of two horses in the care of trainer Aryn Jacques.
A total of five horses have been confiscated. “The horses are in various forms of emaciation,” says Derek Brown, Deputy Director of Shelter Operations for Los Angeles Animal Care and Control. Days after the first horse died Brown says a second horse was euthanized.
Jacques managed and ran her Equine Avenue hunter/jumper business out of a Leona Valley farm until recently. “What I witnessed,” says boarder Nicole Alvarado, “has been very traumatic.” Alvarado moved her pony mare into the stable in October 2013. By 2014, she started boarding two more horses at the farm.
Problems became evident in January 2014. That’s when Alvarado moved onto the property for a few weeks, which she says gave her insight into the day-to-day operations. “There wasn’t enough food for all of the horses. I began feeding because she [Jacques] wouldn’t get out of bed until noon.” Even with Alvarado’s intervention, she says without enough food, the horses were getting skinnier.
Alvarado left town for a couple of days in late January. She received a text from Jacques asking if she could buy her pony for sale on payments. Alvarado told her no, and that she would be back in two days. When Alvarado returned her horse was gone. Jacques allegedly gave the pony to her uncle to settle a debt — without Alvarado’s knowledge or permission. The police were called, but deemed it a civil matter. The uncle paid Alvarado a fraction of her asking price after learning about the situation.
According to Brittany Tavalaro, the dead gelding was one of four horses the trainer and self-proclaimed horse rescuer adopted from LA Animal Care and Control. She says she spoke with Sgt. Rachel Montez-Kemp, who is now investigating Jacques, in late November after seeing an online fundraising campaign orchestrated by Jacques for “bailing out pound horses.”
“I warned them. I said please don’t let her take these horses,” says Tavalaro. “Rachel told me I was too late. They were picked up two hours before. I told her they should check on them, because I know they don’t do home checks anymore.”
Tavalaro called after her own bad experience. She says she picked up a pony in November after leaving it with Jacques only three weeks prior, because the mare dropped so much weight. “She’s been doing this awhile.”
Two of the adopted horses have landed back at animal control as part of the five confiscated by officials.
Brown says animal control does adopt out horses, but he could not confirm if Jacques adopted from his organization.
Adoption to racehorse rejects, Jacques is also known for getting horses from movie sets, including the cancelled HBO series LUCK. She and another hunter/jumper trainer took seven between the two of them, according to a 2012 news report.
Since leaving the farm in Leona Valley, Jacques is reportedly keeping her horses at Foxcroft Farm in Chino and is posting horses for sale online. Jacques did not return our call.
“You don’t let them starve,” says Tavalaro, “and I hope justice is served.”