Richard, a sorrel Belgian with a strawberry-colored mane and tail, a blaze and four white socks, remains missing. He was stolen from his corral near Upsala, Dec. 7, 2022.
His owner, Katie Gerads, pleads with whoever took him to return him.
“We just want him back,” she said.
A $1,000 reward has been offered to whoever provides information that leads to his safe return, Katie said.
“Or bring him back, tie him up, put him inside the fence, whatever and no questions asked, nothing,” said her husband, Neil.
Richard measures about 18.1 hands and is estimated to be about 20 years old. He is extremely gentle, loads easily and is broke to drive and ride.
Richard came to Katie and Neil in September 2022. The couple, who already had three draft horses, was looking for a fourth as a friend to one of their other horses. They found Richard listed for sale on CraigsList.
However, when they arrived to look at him in the Clotho-Long Prairie area, they discovered the gelding was severely underweight and malnourished. He was also lame and his left back leg was infected. With the cost it would take to nurse Richard back to health, Katie said there was no way they were going to pay the seller’s asking price of $1,500 for the horse.
“It was clear the horse needed emergency medical care,” she said.
Katie said after she and Neil spoke with the seller, he eventually told them that if they could give Richard a good home and the treatment he needed, he’d give the horse to them at no cost.
“The day we picked him up, I called the vet and made an ER appointment. I was that worried about him and the condition he was in that we brought him to the vet right away,” Katie said.
Richard was immediately placed on antibiotics, prescribed a special spray for his leg, along with pain medication. In addition, he received medication for a possible equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), a neurologic disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, which horses can get from eating infected opossum feces, Katie said.
Since Richard was malnourished, he was placed on a special diet to gain weight. From the time the Gerads had Richard to when he was stolen, he had gained 100 pounds or more and, as a result, looked a whole lot better. The Gerads also kept the previous owner updated on Richard’s progress, they said.
While the Gerads don’t know a whole lot about Richard’s background, they were told the previous owner got him from the Amish in the Long Prairie area, Katie said.
As the previous owner had told them he was 12 years old, Katie said they were surprised to find out from the vet that Richard was actually a lot older than that.
“He was missing a lot of teeth, because he was so old. When he would chew, it sounded like he was chewing on a rubber, squeaky ball, like gum on gum basically,” she said.
Because he was missing so many teeth and was unable to chew properly, the Gerads mashed up his food with water to make it easier for him to eat it. He was also given a fat building powder.
“He was eating 16 pounds of senior feed a day that had to be mashed with water. He was constantly eating,” she said.
When Richard came to the Gerads family, they made sure to address the condition of his hooves with their farrier. While they weren’t terrible, Katie said they were told by the previous owner that it had been a year since Richard last had his hooves tended to.
According Mary Boyce, doctor of veterinary medicine with the University of Minnesota, a horse’s hooves should be trimmed at least every six to eight weeks in the summer and every six to 12 weeks during the winter months.
By the time Richard was taken, Katie estimates they spent about $2,500 in nursing him back to health. He still has a ways to go, she said.
Looking back to the night Richard was stolen, Katie said she woke up about 3 a.m. because she heard several noises outside. At first, she wasn’t sure whether she was dreaming or not, but when their dog started barking, Katie said she knew something was up.
She woke her husband. Since their bedroom is located near the driveway, they initially thought it sounded like someone was trying to steal their skidsteer that was parked outside.
Neil said he got up, dressed, grabbed his gun and went outside. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary and all four horses were in the corral.
“He came in, we went back to bed and got up for work a few hours later, about six in the morning, and here there were only three horses there,” she said.
Given the fact that a snow fall was predicted for around 4 a.m. that morning, Katie said she believes whoever took Richard had planned it in advance. By morning, any tracks were covered by a layer of fresh snow.
Katie said the gate to the corral was locked, and the fence was not down. The only logical explanation they have is whoever took him hid when Neil went outside and waited to take Richard until the lights went off in the house; then simply walked him down their driveway and loaded him up on the road below. It also coincides with a neighbor’s testimony that he had heard a truck or a semi type of vehicle start up at around the time the Gerads heard the noise outside.
“I don’t know if Richard was targeted specifically or if it was because he was the only one they could catch, because you can’t catch the other three,” she said.
Since Richard was stolen, life as the Gerads knew it has changed.
“I’ve dealt with all kinds of feelings. I’ve just been angry, upset, crying. I feel so violated. Somebody comes on your property and steals your pet. It’s one thing to steal property, because property can be replaced, but you can’t replace somebody’s pet. You just can’t,” Katie said.
The Gerads are not the only ones who felt the loss of Richard. The other horses, especially King, who bonded the most with him, is not the same.
“They were glued to each other’s hips. They’re lost without each other, that’s for sure,” Katie said.
The couple continues to worry about Richard and how he is doing healthwise, as whoever stole him does not know his diet and care regimen.
“Just bring him back,” Katie said.
The theft is being investigated by the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office. If anyone has information about the whereabouts of Richard, they are asked to contact the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office at (320) 632-9233 or the Gerads at (320) 828-0254.
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