Horses abused, man says in lawsuit

A Paonia man is suing to have a herd of Arabian horses taken from the owner, whom the suit says is starving and mistreating the animals.

The owner of the herd, Dona Bellinger, also owns a prize stallion whose performance this week at the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show in Tulsa, Okla., could increase his value.

Allowing the stallion, Eden C, to be stabled at the Bellinger Arabian Horse Farm, 39079 Stucker Mesa Road, in Paonia, “would mean signing his death warrant,” the lawsuit says.

Bellinger’s phone went unanswered Tuesday.

Greg Szymanski, who filed the lawsuit, said he learned of problems with the Arabians from an acquaintance, and he took an interest as a former horse trainer and rider who grew up on a dairy farm. He shoveled out stables, bought hay for the horses and otherwise tended to Bellinger’s animals, Szymanski said.

He said he first visited Bellinger a day after Hotchkiss-based Spirit Wind Horse Rescue removed 14 horses from the ranch, leaving 46 there. Szymanski agreed to help Bellinger with the stipulation that she reduce the size of her herd, he said.

Bellinger, however, did nothing and eventually balked at his demands, so he decided to go to court, Szymanksi said.

Bellinger told him her plan was to bring Eden C to Paonia and breed him to her mares, Szymanski said.

“I was shocked” when she told him her plans, he said.

Not only is the market bad for breeding Arabians at the moment, but Bellinger is incapable of handling such a business, Szymanski said.

At one point, he found one horse dead on the property and the others in various states of malnutrition, Szymanksi said.

Eden C is now being cared for at Gallun Farms in California, and his stud fees range from $3,500 to $4,000.

“He’s probably the No. 1 horse in the industry,” Delta County veterinarian Susan Raymond said, and Eden C’s value could grow into millions of dollars.

No one wants to take away Eden C, Beth Keenan of Spirit Wind Horse Rescue said.

The organization, however, does have foster families that want some of the Arabians that Bellinger still has, Keenan said.

“Nobody is asking her to give up her valuable, prized horses,” Keenan said.

As of Monday, the horses had only a few days left of hay, and Szymanksi said in his court filing he believes “their well-being will be again put in great jeopardy. This appalling situation needs to be corrected and the horses removed from the Bellinger farm.”

The best thing that could happen is that Bellinger honor her agreement with him to show a real plan to reduce her herd “in a reasonable manner,” Szymanksi said.

He is asking that anyone with information about the farm or the horses contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Szymanski said.

Szymanksi, who has a legal background, filed the case himself. In addition to asking the court to remove the Arabian horses, he is asking for $10,000, or the amount of money Szymanski said he spent on hay, repairs and other costs.

A hearing will be Nov. 4 before Delta County District Judge Charles Greenacre.


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