AUSTIN (KXAN) — Around 20 minutes from Austin’s bustling downtown, there is a tranquil farm home to chickens, a barn cat, goats and horses. People go there to take horseback riding lessons, hang out with some animals or just escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.

But the tranquility of the space was disrupted last week, according to Kathy, who has run the horse stables for years and wanted to keep her last name private.

“We had some horses go to a show, and afterward, the owners found cut pieces,” Kathy said. “And then we started basically searching the herd.” 

After their search, they realized that someone had vandalized at least 20 of the 35 horses. Many of them had massive chunks of their long grown-out locks cut off. Others had just a couple of inches snipped off. 


Story continues below:


“It’s not nice. It makes me angry,” Kathy said. 

Kathy and horse owners at the stables are racking their brains, trying to figure out the motive. They’re not sure why someone would break onto a farm and steal horses’ hair.

Some theorized the culprit might want the hair to make jewelry. Others said if that were the motive, a person would have focused on cutting more from just a few horses rather than stealing so little from so many. 

“Various different crafts? Maybe weird voodoo? I don’t know. I can’t rule out maliciousness,” Kathy said. 

Another theory: a disgruntled employee who did it out of spite, she said. 

Melissa Lester owns a 1,500-pound horse named Perseus who had a large chunk of his mane chopped during the incident. Perseus does shows, models and sometimes is hired for events, so the vandalism could mean Lester missing out on hundreds of dollars.

Someone vandalized 20 horses at an Austin ranch by cutting their manes. Melissa Teller shows how much hair was cut off of her horse, Perseus. (KXAN Photos/Sam Stark)

“He got like an inch and a half here chopped off in the middle of his mane. And he’s supposed to have a really long mane. This kind of messes things up for when we go to shows,” Lester said. 

“I’m probably just gonna have a hard time covering it up for photos and things like that,” Lester said. “It’s just one more thing I have to worry about. And then this will take probably another five years at least to grow.”

Beyond the invasion of privacy, Kathy and the horse owners are concerned about the safety of the animals and even the vandal. While many of the horses are extremely friendly, some are shy and skittish. A person not familiar with how to interact with the animals could spook a horse, and end up injuring themselves or the animal.  

Other horses can get sick from straying away from their diets. Kathy thought the person or people who defaced the property may have lured them with treats. 

“I think my biggest concern with it is, you know, a lot of people don’t know enough about horses to know what they can and can’t do. They could have gotten hurt, the horses could have gotten hurt and  they could have let them out.”

Kathy said she did not want to file a police report because she doesn’t know how they could help. She said she is considering installing cameras to prevent something similar from happening again.