California Reining Trainer Faces Felony Charges

bella-gunnabe-giftedBella Gunnabe GiftedThe San Diego County District Attorney’s Office in California has filed a felony animal cruelty charge against Mark Arballo relating to the death of Bella Gunnabe Gifted a year ago.

According to Steve Walker, communications director for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, Arballo is facing one felony count of animal cruelty. If convicted, Arabllo faces up to three years in state prison. Arballo is scheduled for arraignment Oct. 2 at 1:30 p.m. in San Diego County, where he will enter his plea and future court dates will be scheduled.

Bella Gunnabe Gifted (Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner] x Bay Brim Hat x Hollywood Return), a 5-year-old reining mare, died on Sept. 21, 2013, while she was in training with Arballo. According to a Fox5 San Diego article, witnesses say Bella Gunnabe Gifted was “tied up with a shank bit” and panicked.

The County of San Diego Department of Animal Services ordered a necropsy to determine if abuse was a factor in the mare’s death and turned over their findings to the district attorney’s office.

Arballo operated Arballo Reining Horses at River Valley Ranch in San Diego at the time of the horse’s death, and confirmed to Quarter Horse News last year that Bella Gunnabe Gifted had been in his training program. Arballo Reining Horses’ website is no longer operational and the Facebook page Arballo Reining Horses at The River Valley Ranch lists the business as being permanently closed although River Valley Ranch is still open.

In June 2013, American Quarter Horse Association records show “Bella” was purchased by Martha Torkington, who owns River Valley Ranch. The ranch currently lists no trainers on its website. 

The National Reining Horse Association’s handbook addresses court of law convictions on page 47 and allows NRHA to discipline a member if there is a conviction of an individual felony, animal abuse or moral turpitude under municipal, county, state or federal law.

With prior owner and breeder Roxanne Koepsell and former trainer Barbara Williams, Bella Gunnabe Gifted made the finals of several limited-age events. Bella had lifetime earnings of more than $8,185, according to Equi-Stat records.

Subscribe to Quarter Horse News to keep up with all the latest news from the Western performance horse industry.