Just a couple of days after two Florida bodybuilders were arrested for starving their horses, an even more gruesome equine crime has been reported in Manatee County. "Your new horse is missing" was the first piece of bad news Debbie Stephens got on Sunday, per the New York Times—and that news soon got worse. After scouring her 30-acre ranch, the champion equestrian's assistant made a terrible discovery in an out-of-the-way paddock: the body of Phedras de Blondel—a $200,000 show horse that arrived from Germany on Friday, per the Bradenton Herald—all carved up for meat. "He had been filleted," Stephens tells the Times. "The slices were so deliberate and so well done ... This was a professional." She tells WTSP that the perp(s) "dismembered him right there and just left his rib cage ... neck and head. All four legs were cut off ... from his shoulder."
An Animal Rights Foundation of Florida rep tells the AP that while horse meat is illegal in Florida, there's a big underground market for it, with people eager to pay big bucks for what's considered a common meal in some parts of Europe and the Caribbean. And Stephens and the authorities thinks that's why Phedras, who weighed between 1,300 and 1,500 pounds, was chosen. "We don't think they wanted this particular horse other than for its size," a Manatee County Sheriff's Office rep tells the Herald. In the meantime, Stephens and her husband, Steve, are ratcheting up security, advocating against illegal horse killings, and fundraising for the reward pot for information to solve the crime. "It's one of the cruelest things that could happen to any horse," Stephens tells the AP. "This just turned my life around." (Horse slaughter has been going on in Florida for some time.)