AUSTIN (KXAN) — Around 20 minutes from Austin’s bustling downtown, there is a tranquil farm home to chickens, a barn cat, goats and horses. 

People go there to take horseback riding lessons, hang out with some animals or just escape from the everyday hustle and bustle. 

Kathy, who wished not to share her last name, has run the horse stables there for many years. She said this past week something happened to disrupt the tranquility of the space that she had never experienced before. 

“We had some horses go to a show. And afterward, the owners found cut pieces,” Kathy said. “And then we started basically searching the herd.” 

After their search, they realized that someone had vandalized over 20 of the 35 horses. Many of them had massive chunks of their long grown-out locks cut off. Others had just a couple of inches snipped off. 

She felt her privacy was violated. “It’s not nice. It makes me angry,” she said. 

If you’re wondering why someone would choose to break onto someone’s farm and steal a horse’s hair, you are not alone. Kathy and the other horse owners at the stables are racking their brains, trying to figure out the motive.

Some of the women posited that this person may have wanted to accumulate the hair to make jewelry out of it. Others disagreed with this theory. If that were the motive, they suggested, a person would have focused on cutting more from just a few horses rather than stealing so little from so many. 

“Various different crafts? Maybe weird voodoo? I don’t know. I can’t rule out maliciousness,” Kathy said. 

Another theory: a disgruntled employee who did it out of spite, she said. 

Melissa Lester owns a 1,500-pound horse named Perseus. A large chunk of his mane was chopped during the incident. For Lester, this means she could miss out on hundreds of dollars. 

Perseus does shows, models and sometimes is hired for events. 

Someone vandalized 20 horses at an Austin ranch by cutting their manes. Melissa Teller shows how much hair was cut off of her horse, Perseus. (KXAN Photos/Sam Stark)

“He got like an inch and a half here chopped off in the middle of his mane. And he’s supposed to have a really long mane. This kind of messes things up for when we go to shows,” Lester said. 

“I’m probably just gonna have a hard time covering it up for photos and things like that,” Lester said. “It’s just one more thing I have to worry about. And then this will take probably another five years at least to grow.”

Beyond the invasion of privacy, the women were concerned about the safety of the horses and the person. While many of the horses were extremely friendly, some were shy and skittish. A person not familiar with how to interact with the animals could spook them and injure themselves or the animal.  

Other horses can get severely sick from straying away from their diets. Kathy felt the person or people who defaced the property may have lured them with treats. 

“I think my biggest concern with it is, you know, a lot of people don’t know enough about horses to know what they can and can’t do. They could have gotten hurt, the horses could have gotten hurt and  they could have let them out.”

Kathy said she did not want of file a police report because she doesn’t know how they could help. She said she is considering installing cameras so that something like this won’t happen again. 

“I’m responsible for caring for these horses for people and ensuring their well-being. It feels like, you know, it’s making my job harder.”