POSTED: Monday, August 13, 2012 - 4:00am
UPDATED: Monday, August 13, 2012 - 4:04am
Riverview, FL (Bay News 9) — A Riverview man is facing charges after police say he left his horse to die in a Riverview park.
Eugene Beard was arrested on charges of animal cruelty and abandonment on Aug. 1. Deputies said he failed to feed the horse for an extended period of time, then walked the horse to the Stephen J. Wortham County Park and left her there.
Two days later, on the afternoon of July 17, a jogger found the 14-year-old horse, whose name is Cheri. Cheri was wasting away, her ribs visible. The jogger contacted RVR Horse Rescue in Riverview and volunteers stepped in.
The volunteers quickly noticed a tattoo under the horse's upper lip. Those four numbers gave them a glimpse into Cheri's past and what they learned was surprising.
Her birth name was "Cheri's Truth." She was a thoroughbred and a champion.
"She won four races in one year," said Margo Flynn with Tampa Bay Downs. "I think she earned over $39,000 during that season."
It's a fall from grace horse lovers say is all too common. When a horse is done making money, thoroughbreds usually go through several new owners. Eventually some are abandoned because it becomes too expensive for their owners to care for them.
"The hard economy, people are finding it difficult to keep the horses and they're not using the resources they have available," Flynn said.
One of those resources is RVR Rescue, where Cheri is slowly regaining her strength.
"She loves the horses, she loves being part of the herd," said volunteer Ruth Lukancich, who said what happened to Cheri is criminal.
"Heartless, you know, people are just heartless," she said.
But Cheri has plenty of heart left and now plenty of space to run and live the rest of her life with her new family.