Seven horses are back in the hands of their Charlotte owner after being stolen and sold to someone else. They were found only after their story went viral thanks to Stolen Horse International. The local organization sends out email alerts with printable fliers of the animals and their owner's contact information.
Founder Debi Metcalfe said it's easy to steal a horse. She knows because her horse Idaho was stolen from her more than a decade ago. Because of Idaho, she started Stolen Horse International to help people find their stolen or missing horses.
Metcalfe said because they're so big and sometimes hard to maneuver, people assume whoever is handling the horse has permission. She said that's what happened when seven horses were stolen from Amanda Bechtel in Winston Salem while she was moving. Someone just picked them up in a trailer and took off.
"You know they get scared just like you would," Metcalfe said.
Alerts went out and tips about the horses started coming in. Investigators received the information they needed to track down the horses and return them to their owner in Charlotte.
"It's like putting together a puzzle, little piece here, little piece there," Metcalfe said.
She told Eyewitness News the horses had actually been sold and the thieves had gotten hundreds of dollars.
"They ended up in Walkertown, N.C. All seven of them," Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe said with horse auctions all over the state, thieves often see a handsome reward.
"They don't have to have ownership papers; all they have to have is a horse on a lead line and walk it through," Metcalfe said.
The horses suffer under the stress of new places and new faces.
"A horse can lose hundreds of pounds within a week just from stress," Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe told Eyewitness News three of Amanda Bechtel's horses have lost a lot of weight, but they're expected to be OK. Some are already here in Charlotte. The rest will be coming home in the next few weeks.