Stolen Arab Mares Recovered in Ontario, Canada

Congratulations to the Otabachian family on the recent recovery of their stolen mares. Their persistence and unrelenting efforts have been rewarded.


Dear Editor,

An AP Wire release from New York reads of our 13-year-old daughter Silvia

Otabachian and her Half-Arabian mare, DA Rihkha, a pair together for four years; they were separated when the mare was stolen from a horse show in Ontario, Canada.

The family now resides in Aurora Colorado. Silvia is a student at Smokey Hill High School and her mother works for Denver Public Schools. The show, approved by the International Arabian Horse Association located on E. Bethany Road, Aurora, Colorado, was a championship event leading to national qualification. After four years of work, Silvia and Rihkha won their event. It would be their last ride together, for her mare was taken hours later. Also taken was another Arabian mare owned by an amateur rider that was awarded a championship the day before as well. Private investigators believe the mares went to the western US (southwest US). Urgency to return the mares has prompted a $5000 reward. Rihkha is pregnant and prone to an illness common to horses called colic. The NY AP reporter is Anthony Cardinale,


Please contact me for more info and/or a web page flyer:

Dr. Donna Otabachian

Aurora, Colorado

(W) 303-458-6847, extn. 2304

(H) 303-368-7901

Flyer is a link under "announcements" on the web page

For complete detail of the theft:

FINAL DRAFT      9/14/99


Dear Editor:

 I wish to update your readers on the status of the recovery for DA Rihkha+ and Sarah, two mares winning Champion and Reserve Championship Titles at Region 18 Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show, only to be stolen on the eve of their return home. Although both mares were American owned, they were taken with some tack from the Ontario horse show and may now be back in the United States.

According to Reid Folsom, a horse theft expert quoted in the September issue of Equus, professional horse thieves steal exactly as they did at Region 18 on July 24,1999 in North Caledon Equestrian Park in Palgrave, Ontario. They hit a site close to a major highway, usually on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday night, between the hours of 2 to 4:00am, and they are stealing by two's! In an earlier theft of two horses from Atlanta,GA NBRA Barrel Racing Championships, the horses were recovered in 3 months and 6 days, thanks to information printed in their association's periodical. This theft makes two championship horse show thefts (totaling 3 mares and one gelding in all) reported within a year! In addition, our stolen tack follows similar occurrences happening coast to coast; while the Mid-Atlantic states have had about half a million dollars worth of tack stolen since 1996, Oregon reported 159 tack thefts in 1997 alone, valued at $226,988, of which only $15,106 worth was recovered (1).

Still, I ask myself why were our mares taken? First, we thought they were taken for a quick buck at slaughterhouses and we alerted as many as possible. Fortunately, we now believe that the thieves value our animals and took them to resale for their genetics. According to Mr. Folsom, this is a simple process; thieves will sell the mares usually from trailers in the parking lots of large breed sales under false registration papers and/or simply keeping them to produce Half-Arab foals.

Why didn't we pick up on the signs there was going to be a theft?

Three mornings prior to our mares theft, 12 to 14 horses were found roaming loose, without halters, some placed in obscure stalls around the show grounds. After the first instance, most, including ourselves, reluctantly tied the horses' stall doors with lead ropes. We even opted for a groom to stay over in a tack stall. Still, the second morning saw horses loose on the grounds. Even though complaints were filed to the grounds manager, security was not increased nor was there an announcement over the public address system to alert exhibitors about the occurrences. Consequently, the third morning, at 5:30 am, there was a full search for the two mares, presumed to be with the other 13 loose horses in nearby fields, pine trees, or in unassigned stalls. A helicopter search and many riders on horseback did not reveal the mares whereabouts. Upon discovering missing tack owned by Linda Peet, the owner of Sarah, the Caledon police urged us to file a horse theft report on DA Rihkha+ . Without hesitation, we believe the thieves had a half-day jump on us.

How can so many be so unprepared upon the event of horse show theft?

With or without the assistance from the show officials attending that day, recovery efforts had to begin immediately. When I look back, ours was a clear case of having officials unfamiliar with current security issues in charge of our horse show. At those critical moments, I was not getting assistance to locate my horse; instead, I found myself answering queries to show officials by the grounds management about the possibility of a family dispute, particularly of that of Sarah's owner, Linda Peet, that would result in the theft of my daughter's horse! Not qualified to answer such questions, I left with my children for my New York home, in order to begin what has become a constructive recovery process.

Hence, the rumors made a grounds investigation impossible (the rumors even stopped one Arabian Horse publication from placing our mares pictures in their issue), much to the disapproval of the show grounds management, Canadian National News television, did hear of the report and investigated our mares' disappearance. The television report explained how the grounds did not have adequate lighting, a working public address system, nor was there security at the gateless entrances. At no time was an official announcement over the public address system given to inform exhibitors of the theft. Many trainers opted to spend the Saturday night of Region 18 in their barns rather than their hotels. By consensus, the trainers told me that thieves could have walked away with many barns of horses.

Notwithstanding is the lack of horse show theft protocol by our own International Arabian Horse Association. The anonymity of IAHA large shows enables thieves of trailers, tack, and our irreplaceable horses to go unchallenged. Silvia, my 13-year-old daughter, raised a telling question when she asked, "Certainly there are more of us, the rightful horse owners, than there are of thieves, aren't we going to fight back these crimes?"

There are three important steps IAHA can take to help eliminate theft at horse shows, or at least help in stolen horse recovery. First, IAHA must form a horse show security commission. Without such structure, it is impossible to acquire the assistance from larger groups like the American Horse Show Association and the U.S. Horse Council. This commission must serve as one to accept complaints and reports, and to insist on horse show committee training in an event of horse show theft. Second, recognize the importance having horses markings drawn on of Half-Arabian registration papers. Lastly, The only successful deterrent of equine theft to date is permanent identification like freeze branding. Although microchip implant can help with correctly identifying owners, professional thieves know that only branding with individual numbers, registered with the US crime bank, is a force much bigger than them. The problem faced by many members is the accessibility to branding services.

As for recovery of Rihkha+ and Sarah, authorities insist that the best action for stolen horse recovery is to get information out to the public. Since July 24,1999, Rihkha+ and Sarah have been featured on the Canadian National Television evening news, three western New York television evening news stations, The Toronto Sun newspaper, The Buffalo News, Niagara Gazette, Rochester Times and the Lockport News.

Thousands of flyers were printed by a copy developed and donated by Julie Rinard, owner of a stable-mate of DA Rihkha+. Of late, web pages have been sought as well.

Members of the Arabian Horse Association of New York have helped to get these flyers out much in the same way. Edwin and Corky Sutton, owners/trainers of Hy-Wynn Farm and IAHA delegates, have led an effort to form a reward for information leading to the return of the mares. The reward now stands at $5000!

Our story has been faxed, e-mailed and mailed through postal service to all equine magazines in the US and Canada. This effort was to alert every horse owner to be aware of the escalation of horse show theft so they too can take the necessary precautions. We, can be especially grateful to those periodicals that printed the events and the following descriptions:


About the Half-Arab mare DA Rihkha+ - she is 9 years old, 15.1 hands, bay, with a star strip and an upper-lip snip. She has one hind left foot and pastern. She has a partial black wall on the outside of her left hind foot. On the same side, Rihkha+'s front left hoof, is a hairless scar on the outside bulb of her heel. She rides western and hunter. She was primarily the horse for my daughter Silvia, 13 years old and an occasional walk-trot mount for my 7-year-old daughter Maral. The girls have worked weekly with this mare for four years.

In July 1999, Rihkha+ is Region 16 Reserve Champion Fitting and Showing and Region 18 Champion Half Arab Western Pleasure 17 & under, Silvia's last ride on her mare. Also to Rihkha+'s credit, she is 1999 Top Eight HA Hunter Champion at the Ohio Buckeye. In total, Rihkha+ holds 10 Regional titles, 6 of which are Regional championships.

Perhaps most dear to our heart is the fact that Rihkha+ was to bear a foal for us in March of 2000. A maiden mare and prone to some colic, Rihkha+ is in foal to the beautiful CA Hermoso+++/; her welfare is paramount.

Sarah is owned by Linda Peet, a single woman, a vet assistant, and a guardian of Sarah since she was a foal. She raised and trained her and showed amateur owner and won. Linda's western tack, all made by Victor Custom Tack, was also stolen. Sarah is chestnut with a blaze and three high socks and a white right hind coronet band around the top of the hoof.

She is timid in nature, 8 years old and stands at 14. 2 hands. Should anyone need more detail on the theft, I would be happy to respond I understand that 9 out of 10 times, it is not a horse person who finds stolen horses, instead, it maybe a truck driver, agriculture brand inspector, neighbor, etc. Thanks to all the readers for you are now cautioned not to become a horse show theft victim and you may be helpful to the recovery of our mares. If you feel strongly that our IAHA should develop a security commission, please contact you regional director before the November IAHA Convention. Also, please feel free to e-mail me for a copy of a reward flyer at


Donna Otabachian, Aurora, Colorado


Reference 1.) Iliff, E. (Sept. 1999). Equus. Issue 263, page 90.

UPDATE 11/16/99


The 2 stolen Arabian mares, D.A. Rihkha+ 9 year old bay half-arab (part Quarter Horse) and Sarajah Sun, 8 year old purebred Arabian chestnut mare, stolen from the North Caledon Equestrian Centre, Palgrave, Ontario, Canada on July 24, 1999 during the Region 18 Arabian Championship Show were recovered in Owen Sound, Ontairo, Canada on November 15, 1999.

Both mares are safe in Canada at an undisclosed location and are awaiting the results of their Coggins Tests so they can be returned to New York State. The mares were located at a farm within 10 miles of Barton Feeders, a horse slaughterhouse in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada.

The search for the mares had been ongoing for almost four months. An investigation into their theft is ongoing.

For more information contact:

Detective R. Abdu, Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122 or Pat Glover at Northridge Farm, Buffalo, New York at 716-433-1005  or