The Gunner horse named Bella Gonnabe Gifted came from exceptional bloodlines, but that made no difference this past weekend as the horse lay prostrate on the ground bleeding from her nose and suffering in pain at the River Valley Ranch in San Diego.
According to Fox5 SanDiego.com, the horse was left tied with a shank bit in a controversial training method known as "biting up." The purpose of the training is to restrain the horse's head to teach them not to go through the bridle - meaning as soon as she hits the bit, the horse will back off and find a comfortable position and relax.
Trainer Mark Arballo was training Bella allegedly using the "biting up" method, but something went tragically wrong. Another trainer at the River Ranch, Bethany Wallace saw the horse panic while Arballo:
“ started wailing on it, beating on something. He was trying to pull and hit something with a long strap.”
"“I saw Bella lying prostrate on the ground, tacked up and bloody faced. Her nose was mutilated and bleeding out of her nostrils and one ear. She was unable to move – just groaning.”
In HorseForum.com, a discussion group for horse owners about training, and all that is related to responsible and compassionate horse ownership, a discussion about Bella brought out the following observation from a person posting identified as "OldHorseLady."
"I witnessed this horse at a ranch near ours the other day....as I walked by....with it's(sp) head tied around by a rein to the side of the saddle in a round pen....nobody was around. It is a reining barn, with big time trainers. I actually looked at it to board when I moved here. However, I was out of place and couldn't even use their arena for my horses, because their(sp) weren't 'reiners'. Thankfully, I found the ranch I am now at.
Back to the subject.....wondering if this is a normal practice in training for these horses? My horses get quite nervous whenever they would pass this ranch. It makes me feel like they sensed something wrong there.
Critics of "biting up" call the practice animal cruelty. One previous horse trainer stated that every horse at the River Valley Ranch bears the scars from the cruel training.
Bella was owned by the owner of the ranch, Martha Tokington who was not at the ranch when her horse collapsed.
San Diego County Services is now investigation to determine if Arballo will be charged with animal cruelty.
Rest in peace Bella Gonnabe Gifted. What a cruel tragedy you had to endure.
The Arballo Reining Horses website has been removed as well as their Facebook page.
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