JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Who would hurt – let alone kill – a defenseless animal?
That’s what Mandi Harris and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are trying to figure out after someone shot her 18-year-old horse “Turbo” at the farm Harris’ family has owned since 1943.
“I was at a loss for words,” Harris told First Coast News on Sunday, describing the moment her mother broke the news. “All she could say was 'Turbo,' and I knew that I had to get here. I knew that something bad had happened.”
The shooting happened, Harris believes, sometime between midnight and dawn Saturday morning, at the Higgs Horse Farm in Oceanway on Jacksonville’s north side.
“It’s really upsetting that someone would do something so senseless. It’s just an innocent animal,” Harris continued, mourning the loss of a companion that had been with her more than half her life. “We were always on the road, every weekend, my Mom taking me to local rodeos, the rodeos statewide. High school rodeo was kind of me and Turbo’s prime years,” she reminisced.
So far, Harris said the JSO thinks the gunman used a high-powered rifle and fired from long range. Asked whether she could think of anyone she specifically suspects, Harris said she couldn’t imagine someone having a grudge.
“I don’t think this was anyone that had it out for myself or my family, or anything like that. I just think this is a mentally disturbed person.”
Having inherited a family tradition of equestrian pursuits from birth, Harris said “Turbo” had a personality all his own.
“Because he was the first horse that you saw when you came to the barn, wanting to be petted or [for you to] give him a treat,” she recalled.
But “Turbo” had neighbors at the Higgs Farm, as the family owned other horses. The shooting now presents a worry not just for Harris and her loved ones, but also for other equine enthusiasts who boarded their horses there.
“This was somewhere that was convenient for them and they loved to have their horses here, close to their homes,” Harris said. “And now they to be in fear because there’s some mentally disturbed person out there that’s killing innocent animals.”
That’s why Harris and her family are offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
“Nothing can replace him at this point, but knowing I’m getting this person off the streets, and it’s not going to happen to anyone else, is going to bring me a lot of peace,” she said.
So far the wound is fresh and peace remains elusive. After Harris arrived and first saw her beloved “Turbo” with a gunshot wound between his eyes, she placed a halter and lead line on his lifeless body, a set she’d received as a birthday gift but never got to use with him. She also now plans to craft and braid her favorite horse’s mane and tail hair into mementos.
“Bracelets and lockets and things like that,” she explained. “I’ll never forget him ... he was a once-in-a-lifetime horse and we’re going to miss him a lot.”