Tributes continue to pour in this week for Charm, a 25-year-old pony at the Equestrian Center, known for teaching many of Cayman’s smallest children how to ride.
Charm had to be euthanized late last week. She developed a severe infection after being sexually assaulted with a large foreign object. Police say they are investigating the matter, but that is little consolation to the Equestrian Center staff, students and parents who knew Charm as the gentle mainstay at the horse farm on Linford Pierson Highway.
“She didn’t bite, she didn’t kick, she didn’t spook,” said the Equestrian Center’s Regina Nowak, who led riding classes for the youngest students. “She gave the kids confidence.”
A second horse, Jelly Bean, was similarly assaulted the same night, Aug. 10. The 30-year-old Jelly, as she’s known, survived the attack.
“Charm and Jelly are the backbone of those beginner lessons,” Ms. Nowak said. Charm, she said, “taught all the beginners how to ride.”
Equestrian Center owner Mary Alberga said she and her staff are still in shock over the nature of the attack on the farm’s two most gentle horses. “I wake up, I can’t sleep,” she said.
Standing by Charm’s empty stable Tuesday, with an IV bag still hanging from the ceiling, Ms. Alberga said Charm had been part of the Equestrian Center for 19 years. “She’s grown the business with us,” she said.
Ms. Alberga said she has heard from people around the world, directly and through social media, expressing shock and condolences over the killing.
Joanna Humphries, who helps the Equestrian Center with media relations, said, “The public outpouring of support has been amazing.”
She called the killing “a senseless act of violence.”
“Universally, everyone is appalled by this,” she added.
Charm and Jelly both worked every Saturday at the Equestrian Center’s petting zoo, where young children could get used to being around horses and riding.
Mirabelle Dcunha said she would take her 4-year-old daughter on Saturdays to ride the docile horses. “The horses were so gentle,” she said.
Sharon Galloway, whose three daughters and her son all rode Charm at different points, told the Cayman Compass she is “horrified by what has happened, and hopes someone will now come forward with some information.”
She said her youngest daughter, 9, still rode Charm during some of her lessons. And her 17-year-old daughter worked at the summer camp, teaching children to ride with Charm and Jelly. She said she talked to her older children about what happened, but kept the details from the younger ones.
Talking of Charm’s death, she said, “you’re dealing with a lot of children of a very young age.”
Ms. Galloway also keeps her own horse at the stable and said she would support the Equestrian Center and Ms. Alberga in any new security measures they want to add. “It’s so sad that this is what it’s come to, that this would be necessary,” she said.
Ms. Nowak, who teaches the youngest kids at the George Town farm, said she is still in shock. She keeps looking to Charm’s stall, and the tree the pony is normally tied to during the camp. “She’s not there,” she said, and she can’t get used to that.
The hardest part, she said, will be when students are back in school and the Equestrian Center starts its school-year classes. She’s still not sure how to tell the young students what happened.
Ms. Alberga criticized the police’s initial response, characterizing it as “a lack of concern.”
Police spokeswoman Jacqueline Carpenter said Tuesday, “This is being taken very seriously.”
She said uniformed officers are investigating the killing. “We understand the resonance this incident has in the community and we are treating it accordingly,” Ms. Carpenter said.
No arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon, she said.
She added that reports to police of sexual abuse on animals are rare. “Whether the community thinks it’s more, these sorts of reports are very rare,” she said, noting that she can only speak to what is in the police database.
In a later email, Ms. Carpenter wrote, “In speaking with detectives anecdotally today, I have learned that the last reports of this kind they can recall were ten years ago, when there were about three reports in one year. It is very rare to receive a report of this kind with this degree of gravity.”