When Jon and Mindy Peters sold El Capitan Ranch to British private equity tycoon Lyndon Lea last month, they may have unintentionally (or intentionally) left two aging mares behind. According to Jill Anderson, director of development for Return to Freedom, a wild horse sanctuary in Lompoc that caught wind of the abandoned horses, the two mares were not on an inventory list provided to Lea upon his purchase of the property.
What remains unclear, according to Anderson, who has been conducting her own research on the matter, is whether the mares were even on the original inventory list (which takes into account all buildings, animals, tools, etc. on the ranch) when the Peterses bought the 200-acre property. Attempts to contact the Peterses, as well as efforts to contact Lea, have been unsuccessful.
According to inside sources, a concerned citizen has been taking care of the mares under the radar with the hope that someone in the community will eventually adopt the elderly horses. Bianca, 16 years old, was a former jumper in the show circuit before being either given or sold to El Capitan Ranch. Black Beauty, 18 to 20 years old, was a former racehorse. Both, according to Anderson, were used by ranch visitors for leisurely rides but are now in their senior years and unridable.
“We hope someone in the community will come forward and adopt these horses, as many Santa Barbarans have ridden them on visits to the ranch,” said Anderson. “We want nothing more than for the two to be able to peacefully retire somewhere together.”
Anderson lamented that the situation is far from rare since, as she put it, “The equine industry is in a state of crisis,” referring to the increasing number of horses statewide that have been found abandoned recently. While Return to Freedom is primarily a sanctuary for wild horses, Anderson said the organization decided to take on the cause of Bianca and Black Beauty because many domestic horse sanctuaries are either full or have gone under.
Anderson is also concerned about the fate of the other elderly horses on the ranch, as Lea is reportedly planning to turn the property into a private ranch for his polo team. Lea is also supposedly not yet on-site, and has been relying on contractors and managers to run El Capitan’s facilities until he arrives.