MAGNA — The bodies of 10 horses that died in a large field in Magna have been sent for examinations as the investigation into their death continues.
Members of the Salt Lake County Mounted Horse Posse returned to the field near the Pleasant Green Cemetery, 9200 W. 3500 South, Saturday morning to make certain they found all of the deceased animals. Deputy Robert Burton, the posse's coordinator, said the group fought daylight as they searched at day's end Friday.
"We didn't feel comfortable enough that we were able to search the fields as well as we wanted to," Burton said. "The sheriff requested the mounted posse team come back out here and conduct another search in daylight so we could feel comfortable enough that the fields that the horses had access to, that we searched them."
No additional horses were found Saturday. In total, 10 horses were found dead Friday after an area resident reported finding the animals' bodies in the field.
It is believed the horses may have died from dehydration, but Mike Reberg, division director at Salt Lake County Animal Services, said it is really too soon to say. The horses have been transported to Logan for a necropsy, which should provide more information.
The horses' trough located in the field was empty.
"(Dehydration) seems like the obvious situation and the case, but we don't know that for sure," Reberg said. "Really, we want to ascertain time of death and cause of death. It looks like (dehydration), but it could be a whole range of things. It could be a disease that struck the herd. We just don't know yet."
Detectives from Salt Lake County Animal Services and the Unified Police Department interviewed both the horses' owner and the person hired to care for the animals, he said.
"I think anytime 10 animals die, people are concerned and it's a serious matter," Reberg said, noting that he is happy that both Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder and Mayor Ben McAdams are taking the situation seriously. "This could be a felony, it could be a misdemeanor, (or) it could be something else entirely."
In addition to the 10 deceased horses, one horse was found alive and is eating, drinking and interacting with other the animals, he said.
"So far so good on that horse," Reberg said.
He said the incident serves as a reminder to the public to call and report concerns when they have them.
"I think anytime the public sees a case or a situation where they think animals — be they dogs, cats, horses, livestock — are in some sort of distress and they're concerned, they should call because we will respond," Reberg said. "We take these things very seriously. We'll go out and check it out. People should feel comfortable and OK to give us a call."
Burton said the posse's members share a passion for horses and serving the community.
"On this situation involving the death of horses, it hits really close to home for them because they care very deeply for their animals," he said.
Larry Milburn said he and those in his family grew up with animals and often go riding Saturday mornings. But the circumstances made this ride different.
"This is sad," Milburn said. "There's no need for it. I made the comment last night that it takes a lot to kill a horse. I hate to make it sound that cruel, but it truly does, and for something like this to happen, it's horrible."