BILLINGS — About two weeks ago, a rescue horse nearly died after a mountain lion attacked her in her stable at the Over The Hill Equine Rescue in the Blue Creek area south of Billings.
The horse survived, but owner Sarah Shipman said that the incident left her rattled: "I was shocked. I was like, 'What happened to you?'"
Shipman said she was on the phone in a meeting when the attack happened. She recalls hearing her dogs barking loudly, but not really thinking anything of it.
"I never even thought that it had to do with the horses," Shipman said. "I just figured I'd check it out after the call."
But when she hung up and walked outside, she discovered the horrible scene.
"One of the horses was frantic and pacing and sweating, so I put him away," Shipman said. "Then I found my other mare down here at the bottom of the driveway, just completely cut up and injured."
One of her horses, 27-year-old Char, had been attacked by a mountain lion. Shipman said she's never seen anything like it before.
"She just had claw marks all the way down and some bite marks and then a two-inch puncture on her spine," Shipman said. "It was shocking. I kind of went into panic mode. There was blood all over her."
To make matters worse, Char means more to Shipman than her other horses. She's the second oldest on the 14-acre property and was rescued by Shipman years ago. Rather than find a stable home for her like she typically does, Shipman chose to keep her.
"She's one that we rescued 10 years ago, brought her back to health, and we've decided to keep her," Shipman said. "So to find her injured, it was heartbreaking."
Shipman said that is part of what makes this incident so devastating. Horses are usually brought to her property to find a safer home, and now their security is in jeopardy.
"We don't want to bring them here for safety and then have them getting traumatized with having an injury," Shipman said. "We're going to get trail cams on our perimeter fence, just so we can monitor what wildlife is around."
Shipman said they plan to make some changes to make the grounds more secure. They've already been doing nightly checks over the past few weeks and also hope to add better lighting and cameras.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks scouted the property and surrounding area in the days that followed, but so far the mountain lion has not been found and hasn't returned. Shipman said that they informed her that probably means he won't.
Still, she's concerned but grateful that this incident didn't end up worse.
"She probably could've been easily killed," Shipman said. "It could have been much, much worse so we're thankful for sure."