You don’t expect to see a horse in a south Fayette pasture near Brooks with multiple arrows sticking out of the animal.
But that’s what Rachel Byrd, 17, saw Sunday morning as she passed a neighbor’s farm on Price Road: A horse, grazing in a pasture, shot with hunting arrows, one in the face, another near the spine and one passing through the neck and lodging there.
The horse will likely recover, sheriff’s investigators are working to solve the crime and rewards have been posted. And a devastated family attends to the horse they love while searching for a reason for the unconscionable attack on an animal that had done no wrong.
Byrd was driving by the farm owned by Ralph and Nancy Padovano. She saw Misty, an 8-year-old mare, standing three feet from the fence on the Price Road side of the pasture near Bankstown Road. And she noticed something.
What Rachel saw was a small bright green object extended just beyond the area of the left side of Misty’s neck. She decided to pull her vehicle over and check things out.
“I saw the neon green nock of the arrow and jumped the fence for a closer look. I saw the blood and almost panicked,” Rachel said Monday.
But it was what she found on Misty’s right side, the side she could not see from the road, that had her quickly running to Nancy Padovano, who was some distance away breaking ice for the horses’ water and preparing to get the morning hay.
What Rachel found was the arrow stuck completely through Misty’s neck and another one lodged in the upper portion of her back and above the shoulder blade in the area of the horse’s spine. There was also an entry wound, but no arrow, on the right side of Misty’s face and only inches from her eye.
“Her entire right side was covered in iced blood,” Rachel explained, noting the frigid temperatures Saturday night that quickly turned liquid to ice. “It was brutal. I’ve been riding since I was 8 years old and I never saw anything like this.”
Rachel quickly summoned Nancy Padovano.
“I saw Rachel running across the pasture. She said, ‘Someone shot your horse with arrows and they are sticking out of your horse,’” Nancy said Monday night as she sat at her kitchen table. The emotion in her voice and on her face was clear evidence of the love she has for Misty.
“I went and looked and I saw an arrow sticking through her neck, all the way through. There was another large arrow stuck in her withers on her right side.”
Nancy saw the injury near Misty’s right eye and, like Rachel, saw no arrow in her or on the ground. There was another wound on Misty’s left side around her shoulder. It was more superficial and smaller in size than the ones that dug into her flesh, but it left the telltale mark of a projectile that had struck like the others sometime during the night.
Nancy immediately called for her husband Ralph and the two, with Rachel close by, began attending to Misty and calling 911 and their veterinarian.
Two sheriff’s deputies and a county marshal arrived to investigate. The on-call vet with Southern Crescent Veterinary Clinic, Jason McLendon, left church in Coweta County and arrived in his Sunday clothes to care for his wounded patient.
“He assessed her and took her vitals,” Ralph said. “He removed the arrow from her neck and spent the next four hours getting out the arrow that was imbedded near her spine. He had to cut a large area several inches deep to do that.”
During the multi-hour procedure Misty kept rubbing her face against Rachel while the vet worked on her, daughter-in-law Teresa Padovano said Monday night.
A group of family members were gathered around Misty’s indoor stall Monday night, checking her, preparing to administer the medications she is being given for the injuries and walking her a bit.
Misty is on antibiotics in the mornings and evenings for the wounds and the sinus infection from where she was shot in the face, and she is on pain killers. McLendon also attached a drain on the shoulder wound.
“She is not out of the woods yet, barring a bone infection,” Nancy explained.
Commenting on the wounds that could have easily cost Misty her life and the arrows that caused them, family members noted several interesting factors relating to the attack.
The arrow lodged in Misty’s withers had a three-blade broadhead point. The arrow that hit her face showed the markings of a four-blade point, but that arrow was nowhere to be found. As for the arrow that struck her left side near the shoulder, it looked as if it might have held a bladeless point. Such an arrow was found in the pasture Sunday but it is not known if it was the one used to shoot Misty.
The family also commented on the arrow that shot through Misty’s neck. Their concern involves the neon green nock that first got Rachel’s attention. The nock is the tip of the arrow in which the bowstring is inserted. There was no point on that arrow that impaled Misty’s neck and no point could be located in the pasture. Yet the entry wound showed that the point had three or four blades.
Commenting on the injuries, McLendon said the most serious wound was the one where the arrow was lodged in Misty’s spine.
“I couldn’t believe how deeply it was imbedded. The broadhead was deeply lodged in her spine. I had to dissect a lot of nerve and muscle tissue to get to it,” McLendon said. “If it had been a few inches lower it would have been in her spinal cord.”
The shot through Misty’s neck was also a close call, with McLendon explaining that the spine was only 3 to 4 inches from the arrow’s course.
Sheriff’s investigators are working extremely hard to get the case solved, said spokesperson Brent Rowan, adding that the office is receiving numerous calls from people wanting to contribute to a reward fund. Anyone with information related to the attack is asked to contact the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office at 770-461-6353.
Organizations are also getting involved, posting rewards in hopes of having the felon or felons found out and brought to justice.
The Atlanta Humane Society has posted a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the shooting, according to organization spokesman Richard Rice. The Georgia Outdoor Network is offering a $1,000 reward. And there are reports of another $1,000 reward that could not be confirmed by press time.
At her home Monday night, neighbor Rachel Byrd expressed what some in the community are already saying.
“I don’t understand how any human in their right mind could do this,” she said.
And over at the Padovano farm, the family’s thoughts ran in the same vein. Ralph and Nancy have kept horses for three decades, with 20 of those years on their farm near Brooks. But what they encountered Sunday has left them mystified and heartbroken.
“I’m mad as hell. How dare anybody think to do this and carry it through,” Teresa said at the kitchen table. “I don’t know how somebody can be so cruel.”
Similar to the sentiments expressed by their daughter-in-law, Ralph and Nancy search for answers and for a resolution to the crime that could have cost Misty her life.
“She’s a big family pet, the kindest, best horse out there,” Nancy said of Misty. “I just want justice for my horse.”