The pleas of a family southwest of Edmonton have been answered, as their stolen horses have been safely returned home.
The Cameron family lives at Thunder Valley Ranches in Wetaskiwin County, between Buck Lake and Winfield along Highway 13, where six of the family’s horses went missing last week.
Tire tracks and oats were spotted on the ground, suggesting the feed was used to draw the animals in. RCMP confirmed they were investigating the unusual theft.
Cornelia Cameron, who was the one who discovered the horses were missing, said she got a call Tuesday afternoon from a man working at an area gas plant who said he had seen what looked like the family’s horses.
“He said he saw six horses — two grey — and I asked him to describe them to me.” The horses were roaming on a lease off a back road between Rocky Mountain House and Buck Lake, the man told Cameron.
The 17-year-old asked for photos but the man wasn’t able to send any, so she went to to have a look for herself.
“I was hoping they were our horses, but I wasn’t expecting them to be, because it had been so long and we hadn’t heard anything from any RCMP or anything on the horses’ whereabouts so I wasn’t too sure what to expect.
“As soon as I pulled in I knew it was them and I was just crying and shaking at the same time. I was overwhelmed with joy. It was so nice to see them.”
The land wasn’t fenced, but the horses were all together when they were found. “I’m not surprised because they spend so much time together — and I’m also glad because it made them easy to catch!”
One of the animals is Cameron’s show-jumping Hanoverian horse, which she described as “one-of-a-kind.” Another is her sister’s childhood pony and some of the others have been with the family for over 10 years.
The horses are worth close to $100,000, and for the family, the value goes beyond monetary.
“It was so nice to see them. When I stepped outside they came running up and it was a big relief for sure.”
After the horses were taken, the family filed a report with Breton RCMP and notified a brand inspector, in hopes they would forward the information to other auction markets. They also offered $2,500 for information leading to the return of six horses.
“I don’t think it was particularly the reward. I think it was the fact, all of the social media coverage,” she said when asked what might have led to the horses being found.
Cameron posted about the theft on Facebook, and the post had been shared nearly 12,000 times by time the horses were found. Major news outlets also shared the family’s story, in hopes of spreading the word.
“It was a lot of pressure for the people who took the horses and I don’t think they expected this kind of reaction from taking them.
“They must have panicked and tried to get rid of them as fast and as easily as they could without getting caught.”
It was dark when the family arrived to pick up the horses so they couldn’t do a full assessment, but Cameron said there weren’t any obvious signs the horses were mistreated or not fed.
“They were eating the grass in the area where they were found. They were fat before too — fat and happy — and I think they still are,” the teen said while laughing.
The family said the horses will get a full examination in the daylight on Wednesday, but in the meantime, “I think we’re just happy to have them home.”
The thieves trespassed onto the ranch and went through locked gates to get at the horses, which Cameron said felt like a “very personal violation.”
“Subconsciously, I’ll be more aware.”
Cameron is grateful for all the people who shared their story.
“I appreciate it; I don’t think we could have done this without everybody. And it’s amazing to see how, not just our rural community, as a province everybody came together.”
RCMP continue to investigate the initial theft.
“This is the type of news story that feels good to put out” said Breton RCMP Corp. Will Hiscock. “We can only imagine the happiness that the owners feel to have their loved horses returned.”
Anyone with information about who may have taken these horses is asked to contact the RCMP livestock inspector at 403-701-1462, or Crime Stoppers.
WATCH: A brazen theft left a central Alberta family shaken, after six of their horses were stolen right off their property. Fletcher Kent filed this report last week.
— With files from Nicole de Champlain, Global News