Four pleasure horses — including a 4-month-old colt — were shot in the head execution-style last week, leaving their owner questioning why anyone would do such a thing.

“It’s quite a shock,” Harvey Johnson said. “It’s cleaned me out.”

Johnson, 58, of Johnson Road, said he started looking for his horses — the colt, its mother Little Bit, and two fillies, Mocha and Fancy — after they didn’t show up to be fed Friday morning. Johnson figured the horses had gotten out of his 30-acre property.

“They got out a lot,” he admitted. “The property line fence, I’d fix it and the deer hunters or whatever would jump across it and break it. My son-in-law and I must have fixed it about a dozen times this summer.”

But Johnson said he was careful to round up his horses when they escaped.

“Anytime they got out, all anybody had to do was call,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, Johnson and his son-in-law, Mark Chadwell, eventually spotted the horses in the adjacent property, a flat patch of land that had been strip-mined.

“We went up and found two of them, Fancy and the colt,” he said. “They were lying in the field shot.”

Johnson saw Fancy first.

“I went around the bend and I saw her laying there,” he described. “There was a big hole in the side of her head.”

Unable to find the other horses, Johnson returned home, hoping they had run off. But on Saturday morning, Chadwell found Mocha and Little Bit lying in a patch of high weeds about 100 yards away from Fancy and the colt.

They had also been shot in the side of the head.

Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy John Inman responded to Johnson’s call to the London-Laurel County 9-1-1 Communications Center.

Inman suspects the horses were shot with either a deer slug or a “high-powered rifle.” He believes the horses were shot at nighttime, likely within 72 hours of when they were found by their owner.

Johnson and Inman were both disgusted by the act.

“He couldn’t say, and I couldn’t either, what the point was to kill horses, especially a little baby colt,” Inman said.

Inman’s investigation is ongoing. If found, the suspect will likely be charged with criminal mischief and, if possible, animal cruelty.

For his part, Johnson remains shocked, angered and saddened by the slaughter.

“I’ve had horses for the past 10 years,” he said. “I raised those 2-year-old fillies from colts. My daughter was the first to ride Fancy, the little Appaloosa. Someone has got to be cold-blooded to shoot horses like that.”

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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