This makes us sick.

Gwen Stockebrand is by all accounts a talented and accomplished rider and trainer.

Judging by this horse, Gwen does know how to feed...This photo of her was taken at the 1980 Olympics.

Some of her accomplishments include

  • 1978 USET Dressage team
  • 1979 placed 16th in the World Championships and 3rd in the Musical Kur
  • 1979 Pan Am Games silver medal winner
  • 1980 USET Dressage team, ranked 15th in the world

She has brought numerous horses to the Grand Prix level and continues to train horses and riders in Northern California and Arizona.  She coaches out of Sanbar Dressage (Edited: Apparently that page is out of date and she hasnt coached out of the facility in years.  Sorry Sanbar!)  and currently owns and lives at Flying Changes Farm in Santa Rosa.  Just last year she was named to the Sonoma County Horse Council’s Equus Hall of Fame.  From that article: “She owns and houses several retired horses, but her current focus is a six year old Hanoverian named Drambuie.”

Understatement of the year…  apparently she’s been so focused on the youngster, she forgot to feed the oldies at home!

These are pictures of the retired horses taken this past weekend. 

The two horses are now in the care of Lost Hearts and Souls Horse Rescue.  We spoke with the rescue’s founder, Betsy Bueno, about the horses she rescued, how they’re doing and the story behind it all.

Apparently, Animal Control first contacted Gwen about the condition of her horses back in October 2010.  Betsy tells us that a source who wishes to remain anonymous witnessed three horses on Gwen’s property.  One horse disappeared over the winter, its fate is uncertain.  (Though it’s probably safe to assume it didn’t suffer from complications related to obesity!)  According to the complaint, at this point both Valerie (the bay) and Sister (the black) had Henneke body scores around three.

What happened in the following year isn’t clear.  What we do know is that very recently Gwen arranged to move these two horses off her property to a home in Willits, CA where they were to be companion animals.  Upon seeing the condition of their new companion animals, this home got animal control involved and signed the two mares over to LHASHR.  Kudos to them!

Sister still has a body score of about three and will likely make a full recovery.  Valerie, on the other hand, has dropped to about a one and has a heart murmur.  She’s very much touch and go.  Betsy had an independant vet come out to give them a full examination.  It was determined that all their health issues were caused solely by starvation/malnutrition.  Had these horses received even the most basic of care, they most likely would be happy and healthy retirees.

“Just because I’m old, doesn’t mean I need to be skinny a walking skeleton!”

This sort of crap makes us sick.  Betsy confirmed that at least one of these horses was one of Gwen’s retired show mounts.  All horses deserve to be treated well in their old age, but it’s especially disturbing when one has helped its owner achieve so much, only to be neglected to this degree.   We know it can be a challenge to keep older animals at an ideal weight, but letting them slowly starve to death is never an acceptable option!

For the time being, the case has been handed over to the DA to file charges where, under California law, what Gwen is being accused of is a felony and she could face jail time.

Lost Hearts and Souls Horse Rescue has been around for awhile, but only recently applied for (and received!) its 501.C3 Non-Profit status.  If you live in Sonoma County, on October 30th they will be holding their first annual fundraiser Hooves, Hearts and Heroes, with a BBQ, wine tastings, silent auction and more.  Let’s help them make the rest of these two mares’ lives as happy and healthful as possible!


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Posted on September 20, 2011, in Bad Riders, Featured Rescues, horse and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. Yeah, stories like that make me sick, too. This one’s particularly disquieting, considering Stockebrand’s accomplishments. It’ll be interesting to see what her defense is going to be…

  2. shame, shame on her! I can (kindof) understand financial difficulty, especially in this economy. But she has NO excuse.

  3. There is no defense for this travesty.

  4. She’s quoted in the news article as saying “the horses aren’t that skinny”. Perhaps that’s because one is so skinny it’s not even a horse anymore? it’s just a rack of bones! We sincerely hope the DA goes for jail time on this one.

    • The clear depraved indifference that Gwen has shown to these two horses by her own lack of care and inaction to feed them is deplorable. Everyone needs to write to Jill Vatich, D.A. at and step up to support the DA’s efforts.

      We are the voice for these horses. Don’t let Gwen Stockebrand get away with this! She made her monies by being a so-called ‘professional’ trainer. She is held to a higher standard as an Olympic Team Member. Hall of Fame winner? More like Hall of Shame winner.

  5. Clearly she does not care about her animals and ALL of her animals should be removed at once and give her the same treatment as her horses STARVATION!

  6. I could kill that heartless bitch with my bare hands! I hope she suffers the same fate when she gets old, except I don’t want anyone to save her from starving to death. No wait, I don’t want her to live that long, because she will end up doing the same thing to other horses. She should rot in jail until she’s old and then starved!

    I’m gonna stop now before I start sounding like a religious extremist…

  7. I hope that someone can email the article to dressage daily and eurodressage, get the info out on this sick and heartless person.

  8. Good idea. Thanks! I’ve just contacted them. Any other suggestions?

  9. The law needs to step up and lock up all these people who abuse animals any animal..I hope she rots in jail and when because she will get out she should be on a list just like pedophiles are and this should haunt her for the rest of her life.

  10. I actually sent this link to pretty much every dressage page I can think of and I would suggest other people send it as well so maybe they don’t let her show anymore

  11. As I said on Twitter, the horses aren’t that skinny compared to what? Angelina Jolie? Give me a break. The medium bay horse is damn near dead and Gwen dumps her in a “companion horse” home (aka how much do you want to bet she gave her away free on Craigslist?) and heads off to a show?

    Sweetheart, the LAW APPLIES TO YOU. No matter WHO you are in the horse world!

    I sincerely hope ALL of her clients are shopping for a new trainer as I type this.

  12. This is a horrible story and if true, Ms. Stockebrand deserves to get hit with the full force of the law.

    Just a point of clarification: Gwen Stockebrand is not of the the trainers that “coaches out of Sanbar Dressage”. I have been boarding there almost a year and have never seen her or heard anyone talking about her. The only trainers teaching at Sanbar Dressage are Jane Weatherwax and Kristen Aggers.

    • They should really update their website then. She’s still listed as the main coach on their training info page. Says she’s there Tues, Thurs and Sat. Unless there’s another Sanbar Dressage?

      • If you go to and click on the link that says “Dressage Training / Instruction”, you will see that Ms. Stockebrand is not listed on the Sanbar web site. Apparently Ms. Stockebrand hasn’t coached there for five years and she NEVER boarded any horses there.

        Not sure how you found the webpage that you posted on your blog. However, Sanbar’s webmaster is looking into the source of the page you posted so that file can be eliminated from the Internet permanently.

        Scary that information one thinks gets deleted from the Internet really floats around indefinitely.

        • Fair enough. It must be a cached page – it`s the first thing that shows up in Google if you search for her. We`ll edit the post shortly! We tried to verify as much as we could before publishing, I guess we missed that.

  13. I have seen articals like this pop up before, and unfortuantely it is so one sided it is almost impossiable to tell if this is really NEGLIGENCE. It does not mention the age of the horses other then ‘aged’, or the current feeding regiment, or the last time a vet saw the horse or a farrier, or they had there teeth floated.

    I have a 37 year old mare who is a 2-3 on the ‘skinny’ scale. She is left ‘free roam’ in our plush hay barn and free to wonder out to our yard to graze or lay in the hay as she chooses. Her grain is ground down to a mash and fed 3 X daily. she gets her teeth checked every 6 months, and sees a vet routinely. Or farrier comes to see her every 6 weeks as I keep her feet short due to her toe in. Every evening my eldest daughter grates a carrot/apple mix and brings it to her where they sit and chat “togeather”. The mare is not suffering and she is happy as evidenced to the fact that she will trot up to my door if Im just 30 mins past feeding time. I will not hesitate to put her down WHEN SHE TELLS ME ITS TIME.

    Last year an uniformed passerby called animal control on us for “abuse” when they showed up to investigate the comment was that they could only hope to have someone take as good of care to them when they “got old”. We have fancy A circ hunters that are well taken care of, but it is our aged mare who is treated as though she is made of Gold and will be till she passes. Also a fancy show horse back in her day for my husband, but then taught a number of special needs kids as well as our daughter to ride she will live her life being weighted on hand and foot.

    Sometimes the clear answere between negligance, abuse, and misunderstanding/misinformed is not as clearly indicated in just a photo. Dont jump to conclusions.

  14. Caspen, just curious if you’ve ever tried free feeding alfalfa pellet mush on your mare, no grain? I ask merely because I’ve just seen so many 30+ rescues (that haven’t been taken care of, unlike like your horse) regain full weight on it. I am not a nutritionist or a vet and cannot explain why it always works – I just know I’ve never seen it fail. Stuff it to them, 5 or 6 times a day, and voila, fat horse in 2 or 3 months tops. The only horse I saw it not work on had cancer, and even he gained on it and looked much better before he had to be PTS.

  15. Contact Ron Malone, President of the Sonoma County Horse Council, which named her to the Equus Hall of Fame. Or contact any of the other officers here:

    And here’s a link to the award they bestowed on her before knowing she neglected and starved those two poor mares:

  16. Cathy, we do have her on Alfalfa Cubes warmed into a mash twice daily, but more then that will give her horribable runs, she just does not tolerate large amounts of Alfalfa. She also get TONS of rice bran added into her ‘mixes’.

    I would just like to see more details before I call this lady a horriable person and accuse her of negligence based solely on a picture.

    • It’s not just about the picture, although it’s definitely a consideration.

      We’ve got a 30+ horse at my barn that’s also hard to keep weight on. And yes, he’s on a mash of alfalfa cubes and senior feed. But that’s just it, we have ONE skinny horse (and he’s not as bad as Valerie!). The vast majority are a little on the chubby side, and many of them are also old. I’m guessing it’s the same at your barn. This is two skinny horses and the original complaint was about three. That’s a big red flag.

      But the biggest red flag is Gwen’s behaviour. We seem to have a consensus that while there may be different reasons for a horse’s weight to be low, it always requires special care. She brought these mares to a new home home without so much as a mention of their condition, much less any care instructions! In our opinion, that’s damn negligent unto itself and gives us pretty good idea as to the importance she placed on them receiving proper care.

  17. Apparently this story may have holes. It was pulled from Chronicle of the Horse Forum after some major inconsistencies were found:

    And Gwen was teaching at Sandbar a few years back, maybe 2 years?

    • We’re sure there is more information out there, but what we wrote about was the information we got first hand from Betsy Bueno of Lost Hearts and Souls Horse Rescue. We did also contact the local animal control but they were unable to comment as this is an ongoing investigation.

      There’s always more than one side to a story and we would certainly like to believe that a former Olympian is incapable of starving her horses.

  18. Note that I was told by someone affiliated with the rescue that there was going to be an expose in the local Press Democrat – over a week ago. That has not happened. The more I have looked into the rescue the more shady it looks. Stories about unethical behavior during rescue horse sales, about having a rescued horse died with 24 hours of arrival of impaction colic because of not following the vet’s very specific instruction then turning around and fund raising 5K to sue the horse’s owner, which never happened. Stories of being law suit happy and intimidating people, of vets and farriers refusing to go there. It also appears that some of the images have been used in the past when fund raising efforts are on. The day of the annoucement, the horse was already listed on a local second hand store tack website with no mention of GS but something to the effect that Valerie had been left in a pasture for a year. Rumors are that both horses were 2 hours away in Willits,CA and had been given to a new home at least a year ago. My point is that this is very far from a clean situation and what you printed about GS if proven untrue is incredibly damaging to her livelihood and self. Without a confirmation from Sonoma Animal Control that there is an active case and an arrest was made as the rescue folks have been saying on multiple sites you are doing GS a great disservice. I am not a fan, friend or affiliated with GS but I have been really troubled by what I am hearing including a first hand account about a horse I worked with who was purchased from this rescue for 2K (lame horse) with an additional several Ks of vet bills that turned out to not be for that particular horse. That alone makes that rescue very suspicious in my eyes. Someone on COTH claimed to have called Animal Control and have been told that there was NO CASE. Can you confirm at least that? Is there an open case against her?

    • When we contacted animal control recently to try and do a followup, they told us it was still an ongoing investigation. According to our sources, the horses had just been moved to the new home in Willits. The new home was not expecting the horses to be in this condition, was not prepared to rehabilitate and tried to give them back, GS wouldn’t take them back and they then contacted Animal Control and surrendered the horses. The horses did not come directly from GS and had been in the care of the rescue for at least a week before the info was spread.

  19. This article is pure bullshit. Gwen is a true horse lover and expert. In my 57 years of experience with horses I have NEVER seen anyone with her sensitivity, care and expertise with horses. This sort of internet sensationalism is cruel and destructive, not towards Gwen but towards the endless horses she could serve in the future. What a pathetic source of “truthe” this website is.

  20. Who ARE YOU PEOPLE!! I just read through your site and you are creepy. DO NOT DESTROY someone’s credibility who is SO FANTASTIC WITH HORSES!! I have NEVER met someone like GS before – EVER – and have had this same experience shared over and over again by numerous folks during the past 30 years. These pictures are suspect (I’ve seen them on other sites) as is this website. GWEN is the BEST THING to have EVER happened to ANY HORSE! You people are sckankey Jankey, and super creepy. STAY AWAY from me and horses! Gwen is 100% authenitic horse. NO ONE does it better training horses than Gwen. I am so sorry to read these lies. You’re pathetic.

  21. Who ARE YOU PEOPLE!! Snarkey What the…F..!!!! I just read through your site and you are creepy. DO NOT DESTROY someone’s credibility who is SO FANTASTIC WITH HORSES!! I have NEVER met someone like GS before – EVER – and have had this same experience shared over and over again by numerous folks during the past 30 years. These pictures are suspect (I’ve seen them on other sites) as is this website. GWEN is the BEST THING to have EVER happened to ANY HORSE! You people are sckankey Jankey, and super creepy. STAY AWAY from me and horses! Gwen is 100% authenitic horse. NO ONE does it better training horses than Gwen. I am so sorry to read these lies. You’re pathetic.

  22. I don’t care if rainbows shoot out of this ladies ass… there’s no excuse for a horse to EVER be that skinny. EVER. I’ve seen horses with bad teeth, liver issues and etc and yes they were skinny but NEVER like this. Yes older horses require more maintenance. but you’d think these 2 had earned some love and tenderness. not a drop off to a 3rd party in the middle of the night so they couldn’t see the terrible condition of these poor animals. If I were a big name trainer. HELL I’m not a big name trainer and I still wouldn’t send a horse off to someone else in this condition PERIOD. She’s got the dough she should have never passed them off to someone else. They should have been receiving top notch care at her facility until their passing. It says a lot about a trainer that would dump horses like this.

    Despite what the person in the comments might think. GS was definitely not the best thing to ever happen to THESE horses!

  23. Mary/ Keith- if you’re going to troll a blog and post as multiple people, it’s advantageous to change the text of your post.

    This isn’t the first I’ve heard of this, but I have yet to hear Gwen step up to explain what’s happening here.

  24. You’re absolutely right about who you are – sarcastic nonprofessionals whose care about horses is questionable at best. Your self-rightious sensationalism does not protect these 30 year old horses who in fact are receiving exceptional care from an authentic horsewoman with demonstrated skills. Why take down someone without giving her a chance to defend herself? Why take down an old horse without giving that a horse a chance to tell how happy that horse is? It’s 11/3/11 and looks like nothing has been charged against Gwen. A shame, you who need attention vs those who actually check the facts because they REALLY
    do care about the horse.

    • I’d be happy to hear a defense other than “they’re not skinny.” Bring it.

    • Actually we did try to contact Gwen before posting this article. Unfortunately the only contact info we could find was an old email address.

      I’m not sure how the horses are going to tell us they’re happy – maybe you can fly us out there so we can meet them? Discuss the situation over high tea? Ask for their thoughts and reflections? Maybe the horses can tell us what happened to the reported third horse that mysteriously disappeared over the winter of 2010. Also, not sure how we “took down” the horses – neither of which are 30, by the way.

    • Tell you what, Mary Poppins: you go without food until we can see ALL of your ribs and then come back and tell us how happy you are! deal?

  25. Because horses are ALWAYS so happy when they are emaciated and neglected. Gosh, if I was a horse, that’s just how I would like to be!

    Guess what, lots of guilty people don’t get charged. Not being charged with a criminal offense does not equal being innocent of any wrongdoing.

  26. The fact that there is no case at the DA’s office (which I just verified myself with a phone call) does not necessarily mean Gwen is innocent, but it sure casts doubt on the reliability of the information in this article.

  27. It’s OFFICIAL! Gwen Stockebrand, Olympic rider and Hall of Fame award winner has won her newest award. She’s been charged with felony animal cruelty and abuse by the Sonoma County District Attorney. She has now formally entered the ‘Hall of Shame’!

  28. this woman, Gwen, has been in the horse business for many many years…this news about her is heart-wrenching…..she knows better!!! there is absolutely NO EXCUSE! I know, when I was very young, (she and I are about the same age) I remember her being in demand as a trainer….obviously, it all went to her head….she must be mad!! these poor animals did not deserve to suffer like this…this woman has More $$$$ than most…..maybe, Gwen should starve a little herself, and then tell us all how it feels to be so neglected….i have no sympathy for her, OBVIOUSLY!! sorry…..

  29. Here’s the link to the article in the Press Democrat, the Sonoma County newspaper:

    I almost fell out of my chair reading the paper this morning – not because of the charges, but because finally, finally, someone got ACC involved. Having lived here my whole life, I’ve always admired Gwen’s beautiful riding, despite her endless problems with addictions (common knowledge, believe me) and unreliability.

    But if you read what the locals are saying, you won’t hear a lot of real surprise.This has been a long time coming. Her place is an eyesore, not to mention simply dangerous (loose wires, nails and boards lying around, miserable horses stuck any old place, broken fencing), she’s often a no-show at her own clinics, and if she ever truly loved horses it was a long time ago.

    I only met her three or four times, and every time she was under the influence. She said she rode better that way, and maybe she did … but she had absolutely no interest in the care and feeding of any horse. Her attitude toward them was quite chilling and I’ll be glad to see her go to jail for this, at last.

    You know one of the horses had to be put down because she was literally starved to death. Yes, the coroner’s COD was an aneurysm -but come on. Think if she’d been fed and watered it might have made a difference? Neither horse had food or even water. Why? Not because Gwen wanted to torture them to death, but because she probably just forgot about them. I mean that seriously. She was warned back in September when ACC came out, but obviously the warning didn’t bother her. Or she forgot about it, just like she forgot to give horses even WATER. Gah.

    This is beyond sickening, and I hope they charge her with a felony, not a misdemeanor. I know of at least one other horse that went down like this under her “care” and that was back in the early nineties. This is nothing new to her, it’s the way she lives. And the way her horses suffer and die.

    Stand up, Sonoma County and all horse-lovers, and write to Jill Ravitch, the local DA. If we can’t hold Gwen, a proud Olympian (yes, you detect sarcasm) up to even a life-sustaining, let alone compassionate, level of care, who can we? She’s been doing this for decades, and it’s time to send a message that we will not let our horses, any horses, be treated like this.

    The horror. The horror.

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