A bitter feud between two families over a £50,000 horse turned violent when three women were whipped by a man in their own stables, a court heard.
Dorothy Rugg-EasEy, 71, and her former stablehand Gemma Beavis, 36, had been arguing over valuable pure bread mare Stella for over a year.
Yard owner Dorothy loaned breeding horse Stella to Gemma but agreed the valuable horse would be kept on her property and Gemma would visit to ride her.
But in August last year Stella, a Morgan breed, disappeared from Dorothy’s farm and turned up at another local stables.
Gemma claimed Dorothy had agreed to let the horse be moved elsewhere but Dorothy accused her of taking the animal without permission.
Dorothy’s family called police asking for help and begged Gemma to return her, but to no avail.
Eventually fed-up Dorothy and her family hatched a late-night plan to get her prized horse back by lifting the gate at the stables of its hinges and walked the horse home.
But the feud came to a head when Gemma’s close family friend John Thompson, 58, broke into Dorothy’s stables in Blean, Kent, in the early hours of August 11 this year.
Canterbury Magistrates’ Court heard Thompson beat Dorothy, her daughter Liz, 43, and granddaughter Jess, 17, with a three foot horse whip he grabbed from Dorothy.
The drunken attack only came to an end when Jess’s fiance Josh Mapp, 20, ran into the farce shouting ‘you don’t hit women’ and tied Thompson up with a rope.
Thompson avoided jail on Monday when he was handed a suspended sentence at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court after admitting three counts of assault.
But incredibly, both families now claim they have had the steed stolen from their stables by the other family.
They are due to have another showdown in the courts after Gemma lodged a private claim for the animal against Dorothy.
But great-grandmother-of-three Dorothy insists she is the victim and has not slept properly since being beaten with the horse whip she confronted Thompson with for her own protection.
Speaking after the hearing Dororthy said: “I have CCTV on my stables and when I was woken by the dogs barking I was up in a flash.
“I grabbed a three-foot schooling whip and went to see what was going on.
“This big brute of a man was leaning on the stable door and when I asked him what he was doing he snatched the whip and starting hitting me with it.
“I was lying on the ground in my nightie with my legs kicking.
“I think he should have gone to prison and for a long time. I truly believe he came to get me and take the horse.”
Liz, a fitness instructor, came to her mother’s aid during the incident.
After the court hearing she said: “It must have been just after 1am. I could hear mum screaming and crying and thought ‘the old girl has finally lost it.’
“When I saw him [Thompson] with the whip I thought I could calm the situation down but as soon as I went outside – and I was only wearing a long T-shirt and pair of knickers – he just punched me in the face.”
The feud started last year when natural health scientist Dorothy, who owns the small livery yard and Morgan stud farm, was forced to give up Stella when she was diagnosed with vertigo and doctors banned her from riding.
She says she entrusted Stella with former employee Gemma under the agreement that she would be able to monitor her care at her stables.
But on the night of August 14, 2011, Stella, who Dorothy had owned for seven years and schooled for five, was taken from the farm.
The horse was kept away from the farm at another stables for almost a year before Dorothy snatched her back on August 7, 2012.
Dorothy claims Stella was worth around #50,000 when she loaned her, but when she got her back she was lame and now only worth around #2,000.
Then just four days after winning back her horse Dorothy and her daughter and grandaughter were attacked by drunk Thompson when he appeared in their stables – an act Gemma denies having any link to, or knowledge of.
Dorothy and Liz, who was left with a black eye and whip marks after the attack, have now installed infra-red CCTV cameras at their home.
She said: “Gemma would not speak to me so I had no way or getting her to give me the horse back. Instead she wrote horrible things about me on Facebook.
“I was told it would cost me 15 to 30 grand in legal expenses to prosecute her for stealing my horse – so I had no choice but to get her back myself.
“I put thousands of hours into schooling her and looking after her properly. That woman rode her when she was lame.”
She added: “She was worth #50, 000 when I loaned her. Now she is probably worth less than 2, 000 – or just butcher meat.
“It’s unbelievable that I have to keep going to court to prove I own a horse which I clearly do and have all the paper work for.”
Thompson pleaded guilty to three counts of assault at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court on Monday following the attack on August 11.
He was jailed for 160 days, but the sentence was suspended for two years.
He was also ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work and must pay #250 compensation and #85 costs.
But despite the conviction Gemma yesterday (Thurs) said she still plans to fight for her legal right to Stella.
The mother-of-four, who works as a cleaner, said: “I kept Stella at Dorothy’s stables for a while before asking if I could move her to another stables half a mile down the road. Dorothy said yes.
“Then I started getting solicitors’ letters saying I had to bring Stella back. She claimed the horse was on a life-time loan agreement.
“I refused to give the horse back as I believed I rightfully owned her.
“We were good friends, I did some mucking out for her. She knew I could not afford a horse and I was extremely grateful that she gave me Stella.
“I do not know what made Dorothy change her mind.
“I do not want to fight with the woman. It is sad that it has got like this. It has hit my family hard too, my children are very upset and I am suffering from stress.
“She is making me out to be a horse thief and saying I do not look after horses properly.
“Stella was not lame when she was in my care. I looked after her and had her checked over by a vet who came to see my friend’s horse.
“Why would her daughter offer me another horse in exchange for Stella if I didn’t care for horses properly? I said no as I had fallen in love with Stella.”
She added: “John’s crimes had nothing to do with us.”