Bella, as she was found, prior to her death.
A felony animal abuse charge has been filed in California against Mark Arballo stemming from the September 2013 death of the reining horse, Bella Gunnabe Gifted, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Arballo is scheduled for arraignment on October 2nd in San Diego County. If he doesn’t show-up, Steve Walker, communications director for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, says a warrant will be issued for his arrest.
Bella was a six-year-old mare owned by Martha Torkington. The quarter horse was being trained by Mark Arballo and his girlfriend, Patrice Hohl, of Arballo Reining Horses. The pair worked out of The River Valley Ranch, which is now called San Diego Equestrian Center. Despite the name change, the boarding and training facility is still owned by Torkington and her husband, George Kiss.
In September 2013, Arballo allegedly left Bella “bitted up” in a curb bit, alone in a solid round pen while he reportedly “taught two lessons and rode another horse.” Bella was discovered on the ground, still tacked, her nose mutilated, bleeding, and blood was coming out of her ear, according to an eyewitness. About two hours after she was found, she was humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. A necropsy was performed, but the results have not been released due to the pending investigation.
If convicted, Arballo faces up to three years in prison.
Walker says there is always a possibility that additional defendants may be prosecuted. “Each case is unique and we want to make sure we do it right and take our time.”
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