SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Local horse owners have a warning Friday after they discovered their 14-year-old gelding missing part of its tail.
The owners are calling it an act of animal cruelty and want to know if it was a practical joke, or if someone is trying to profit from the hair of the horses.
Jeanne Benowitz says her good-natured horse Harley once had a long, lush and beautiful tail.
"It was dragging on the ground, real thick, thick and blond," Jeanne said.
But someone chopped off almost all of the length of Harley's tail.
"It was very violating when it happens, because it's really important. It's important to him, it's important to all of us," Jeanne said. "He'll be defenseless this summer because he won't have any tail to swish flies off with, which is really a sad thing."
Harley spends his days in a hillside pasture that borders Los Vientos Serenos Road in Elfin Forest southwest of Escondido.
"They like to hang out by the water so they're very close to the fence. Anybody could have walked by, driven by," Jeanne said.
Jeanne and her husband Marty call it an act of animal cruelty. Was it a practical joke by some kids, or was it done by an adult trying to make a profit?
"They use horse hair for belts and hats and bands. There is the thought that maybe someone cut it off to use it," Jeanne said.
News 8 found belts and bands made of horse tail hair on eBay, some selling for nearly $200. And what's peculiar is Jeanne and Marty say not one strand of hair was left behind in the corral.
"It's kind of odd to me that the hair's gone, which is reasonable to me to be suspicious of an adult rather than a child. If it was just a kid being malicious, wouldn't he have just left the hair?" Marty said.
The incident has neighbors on alert. Jeanne and Marty are hoping that sharing Harley's story will lead to answers.
"Maybe if there's somebody else that knows something, they'll say something and it'll come to light," Marty said.
The couple says the sheriff's department won't get involved since there were no witnesses, and the horses cartiledge and bone were not harmed. But the family wants to know who did this.