Owners of slain Westerlo horse plan charity

WESTERLO — Robert Duncan waited through the last week of rain showers before grading the burial ground for his wife’s horse, Belle, killed with an arrow in May.

“Belle was the one who would always come up to you at the fence,” Duncan said on Friday. “…That may possibly have cost her her life.”

The retired Thoroughbred racing horse was found on Sunday morning, May 18, with a target arrow deep in its side, fallen on the electrical fence of its inconspicuous pasture. Its body was buried in front of an apple tree in the Duncans’ backyard in Westerlo. They compete in rodeos and have two other horses they consider their pets.

In the wake of the horse’s death, which Duncan called “barbaric” and “senseless,” he and his wife are venturing into rehabilitating horses from neglect or abuse and finding homes for them. Duncan plans to rent a barn in Westerlo where he could keep up to six horses, feed and water them, and give them veterinary care while finding another home for them.

Duncan, a ferrier, would pay the bills and solicit donations. He hopes to register an assumed name for his operation, tentatively called “Belle’s Shining Star.”

“They’re our pets. You know what I’m saying? And we use them all the time. And this is a terrible thing that happened, and we’ll make some good come out of it,” said Duncan, a retired truck driver.

The operation is inspired by stories of other slain horses told by people who called the Duncans after widespread news reports of Belle’s death. One woman from Arkansas said her daughter’s horse was killed by a neighbor to whom she denied a date to a prom, Duncan recounted.

He sees neglect in hoof health. With owners who lose interest and don’t properly feed ther horses, he has seen water tubs left for so long they grew mold and turned green.

“If I find something where I’m having problems and people don’t want to do what they don’t want to do, the first thing you do is you go to the animal control officer in whatever town it’s in,” said Duncan, who added he has been deep in the process of researching what he can do to help animals.

Police recorded the tire tracks and shoe marks at the scene of Belle’s death for lab analysis, but haven’t charged anyone for killing the horse.

Duncan’s son, Shawn Duncan, was arrested when police found weapons and marijuana in his home with a warrant stemming from the investigation into the horse’s death. They found a stun gun, bows and arrows, marijuana, and a marijuana pipe, according to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.

Shawn Duncan was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a Class D felony, and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation. He was released on bail.

His wife, Siobhan Duncan, said the arrows belonged to their children and that they didn’t realize that having the stun gun violated his probation.

“I can’t come up with even a logical explanation as to what happened,” said Robert Duncan. “I just don’t know.”

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