GREENFIELD — A horse in training to become a therapy animal for people with disabilities was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident over the weekend, leaving leaders of a local nonprofit devastated by the loss while police search for the driver.
A passing motorist found a horse lying dead in the roadway around 3:30 a.m. Sunday near Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Therapy Center, 531 W. County Road 100S, police said.
It appears the horse became entangled while trying to jump a fence that lines the perimeter of the Edelweiss property, causing the horse to fall into the road, unable to free itself, police said.
A car then likely ran over the horse before driving away from the area, police said.
The animal — a male standardbred named Malachi — was dead when officers arrived.
The driver did not stop at the scene of the crash and has not made any attempt to contact local police to report the accident, a criminal act that could result in charges or a fine, Hancock County sheriff’s Capt. Robert Campbell said.
Leaving the scene of an accident that damages a person’s property — even if that property is an animal — is illegal, Campbell said.
Indiana law requires any driver involved in an accident to stop as close to the scene as possible and call 911. If they do not, the driver could face at least a Class B misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.
Edelweiss officials said they aren’t sure what might have spooked Malachi and another horse that also jumped the fence early Sunday. The second horse was found and returned, unharmed, to the center’s pasture by officers from Greenfield-Hancock Animal Management.
Investigators believe the horse likely died instantly — a notion comforting for those who helped care for him, said Bethann Kropacek, a program director at Edelweiss.
Edelweiss offers equine-assisted therapy for children and adults with special needs, including therapeutic horseback riding.
Malachi joined its ranks in May, adding another friendly ride to the center’s roster of a dozen horses.
Kropacek, who had helped train Malachi since he arrived at the facility, said she was devastated by the loss of the horse and disappointed no one took responsibility for the accident.
The possible criminal charge could be more severe if the driver was behind the wheel and impaired, Eaton said.
For now, police have no leads to continue their investigation, Campbell said. Nothing was left at the scene besides some unidentifiable debris from a damaged car.
Malachi, 11, was a retired racehorse.
Diane Grimes, the horse’s previous owner, said she and a few friends rescued Malachi last year after hearing word he was headed for a slaughterhouse in Canada. He then spent several months at an animal sanctuary in Tennessee, where he recovered from injuries sustained while he was being transported to the slaughter facility, Grimes said.
Despite the ordeal Malachi had gone through, he was a gentle, sweet horse that was nearly ready to begin holding riders again, Kropacek said.
He had been isolated from other horses at the center in recent weeks because of an illness but had put on enough weight to start a class schedule, she said.
“We were excited to see him have a new mission,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking to have him gone.”