SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A South Bay horse owner is still in shock following the sudden death Saturday of her prized animal. She says a trainer took unnecessary risks that left the horse with life-ending injuries.
The horse was injured to the point where it had to be euthanized. Its owner says that injury never should have happened, and is sharing her story with the hope that this never happens again.
"She was my dream come true horse. I'm heartbroken," owner Martha Torkington said.
Torkington still can't believe what she came home to Saturday at her Imperial Beach area ranch.
"I'm hysterical, of course, because I look at this horse and I see blood in her ear and coming out the nose and she's kind of scraped up," she said.
Her prized mare, Bella GunnaBe Gifted, was in bad shape, and to make matters worse Martha says the whole thing never should have happened.
"A technique was used irresponsibly," she said.
That technique, called bitting up, is not universally used by trainers because many feel it's too aggressive. Martha doesn't have a problem with it, when it's done correctly. But in the case of Bella GunnaBe Gifted, the horse was left unattended.
"That's a major no-no," she said.
It's believed Bella GunnaBe Gifted lost her balance, which every trainer knows can happen to a horse that's bitted up.
"I mean there's all kind of things that could have happened that day. My horse hit her head, broke her skull and died," Martha said.
The trainer in charge of the horse was an independent contractor working for Martha for about a year and a half. Martha says she did an extensive background check on him, and he came highly recommended.
"I interviewed hundreds of people, hundreds -- guys from Europe, Canada -- I took six months to do this," she said.
We saw the trainer's belongings being moved out Tuesday, and confirmed he is no longer employed here.
We also contacted the County Department of Animal Services, which confirmed an investigation into Bella GunnaBe Gifted's death is underway.
County investigators say they are currently running blood tests and a necropsy is scheduled to take place this week. The results should give them a better idea if the horse died from abuse, which could lead to criminal charges.