November 9, 2016 12:26 am
Updated: November 9, 2016 2:14 am

Owner heartbroken after therapy miniature horse mauled by cougar in Maple Ridge

A terrifying encounter is prompting a warning from a family in Maple Ridge. A cougar attacked their special therapy horse, leaving it in serious condition. John Hua reports.


WARNING: Graphic images

A miniature horse is clinging to life after a vicious cougar attack in Maple Ridge.

Crystal Ireland said she heard the bone-chilling scream come from the tiny horse at around 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“I flew over the fence running and then realized, ‘Oh my god, there’s an animal on him,'” Ireland said.

Under the large dark cat was six-year-old Rio. The therapy animal’s frame is barely two feet tall.

“To have this happen to such a giving little horse, it’s horrible,” said Barb Tunshell, Rio’s owner, who boards her horses at the stable.

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The horse suffered more than 150 puncture wounds to its body. The deep gouges barely missed a major artery.

“You can stick a half-finger right through it, the puncture wounds are so deep,” said Tunshell.

Rio is one of two miniature horses rescued by the Tunshell family to act as therapy animals for their blind daughter Brittany. The horses worked out so well the family recently started bringing them to nursing homes.

B.C. Conservation officers attended the scene and are warning owners to keep animals indoors once the sun starts to go down.

“We never suggest people leave their livestock out in the open, especially closer to the evening or early morning,” said Conservation Officer Clayton Debruin.

Traps have been set up but prevention is the key as cougars are difficult to track. Reports of cougar sighting aren’t uncommon for the rural area of Maple Ridge.

Rio is being treated at a nearby animal hospital where the next major hurdle is warding off infection.

The Tunshells say they will do whatever they can to save the horse, but know the veterinarian bill will be costly.

A fundraising page has been set up for those who want to help with Rio’s recovery.

“This little guy put his chin in my hands and the blood was dripping down and they were working on him,” said Tunshell, on the verge of tears.

“That’s who he is, and he has so much more to give to a lot of people.”

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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