Civil Suit Filed in Reining Horse's Death

Mark Arballo Sentenced in Reining Horse’s Death


A North Carolina horse trainer was sentenced to three-years probation for felony animal cruelty on Wednesday in California. During that period Mark Arballo is not permitted to train horses.

Arballo pleaded guilty to the September 2013 training death of the reining horse, Bella Gunnabe Gifted. The six-year-old mare was owned by Arballo’s former client, Martha Torkington.

Torkington appeared in court. Slightly emotional she said she didn’t have the words to describe what happened to her horse.

Seventeen-year-old Isabella Kim was there the day Bella was found lifeless in September 2013. The mare was still tacked and blood was coming out of her ear. Arballo left her bitted up in a curb bit for an hour and a half in a solid round pen. She was euthanized soon after due to her injuries.

Kim told the court Arballo shouldn’t be allowed to own animals again and that Bella was an innocent victim.

Prior to being sentenced, a stoic Arballo apologized to Torkington. He said Bella’s death was an accident.

Superior Court Judge Garry Haehnle told Arballo he didn’t feel his sincerity. He added it was cruel for Arballo to leave the mare bitted up for such a long period of time.

The judge said he was not going to make a statement to the community with this case. He sentenced Arballo to probation and 180 days of house arrest with GPS monitoring that includes alcohol monitoring (SCRAM).

The court permitted Arballo to serve the in-custody portion at his home in North Carolina. He is only allowed to leave his home for work, church, and medical appointments for the duration.

The judge also imposed a Fourth Waiver, meaning Arballo has given up his right to refuse a search by law enforcement.

The prosecution asked for Arballo to serve a year behind bars.

“I don’t feel like right was done by Bella. I know we did everything we could, but it is disappointing,” says Kim.


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