A Rapid City horse owner has no idea if the theft of his horses' mane and tail hair is related to a rash of recent horsehair thefts in Wyoming, but he's offering $2,000 to find out.
T.J. Aisenbrey, 59, reported to law enforcement authorities Friday that his 10-year-old palomino mare, Sundance, had her flaxen mane and tail hair cut for the second time in a month and a half.
"When they came back and took more, that took the cake for me. That's why I'm giving a $2,000 reward," Aisenbrey said Friday.
The horse and its 4-month-old colt, which also appeared to have its tail bobbed, are housed in a paddock and barn on the western edge of Rapid City, just up the road from Aisenbrey's Cleghorn Canyon home. Aisenbrey will pay for information that leads to the arrest of the person or persons responsible.
The Pennington County Sheriff's Office has no suspects in the case to date but is forwarding the information on to investigators. Capt. Corey Brubakken said reports of horsehair theft are uncommon in Pennington County.
"This is the first time I've dealt with anything like this. It's pretty rare in my experience," he said.
But Aisenbrey has his suspicions about motive.
"There's a market for this stuff," he said, referring to artisans who buy horsehair for use in the creation of Native American-themed art, jewelry and other crafts.
Sioux Trading Post sells a variety of natural animal byproducts used in Native American artwork, including horsehair, but it is bought from legitimate commercial sources, not individuals, to ensure that is free from bugs, germs or pests, Prairie Edge manager Lynn Thomas said Friday.
"With products like that, we're very cautious about the source and about bringing it into our store," she said. Small packages of natural and dyed horsehair sell for between $1.50 and $4.50 at Sioux Trading Post.
Wyoming officials currently are investigating an estimated 100 cases of horsehair thefts in various Wyoming counties. Aisenbrey said this is not the first time he has dealt with the issue, either.
About five years ago, Sundance had her mane chopped off when she was kept in a different location. Since it can take five or six years for a mane and tail to grow out completely, Aisenbrey is disgusted by this latest act of vandalism.
"I'm totally upset. ... If you saw it, you'd be disgusted," he said. "It's awful."