The owner of a filly who was doused in engine oil in her stable in a bizarre attack has called incident “beyond understanding”.

Tristan Cluett arrived at the West Sussex stables he rents with his business partner Tony Clements on Monday afternoon (2 July) to discover three of their horses had been let out of their boxes.

His normally quiet rising three-year-old coloured cob Gypsy was found too frightened to be caught, and was was covered in oil.

“Tony’s seven-year-old daughter Lola went into the yard first and shouted that her riding pony Pixie was out,” said Tristan, “Then we found an oil can in the stable.

“We looked in the other stables and there was oil all over the floor, so we walked out to the fields to check the horses. Gypsy was pure black, she was saturated in it. Normally they come running up to us but they wouldn’t come anywhere near.”

Gypsy had to be washed “eight or nine times” with washing up liquid to remove the oil, which still is not completely cleared from her mane.

“Our main concern was to get it off her in case it burnt her as we didn’t know if the oil was dirty or there was something else in it. She’d been stood all morning in the heat with oil all over her,” said Tristan.

“Tony’s sister is a vet so she came down to look at her and said she seemed OK but to keep her out and check her for rashes and marks. This weather really doesn’t help if their skin is irritated.”

While Pixie and Tony’s driving horse seemed unharmed, Tristan believes Gypsy had been mistreated in the attack.

“She’s only just coming back to herself now,” said 29-year-old Tristan, who runs a used car dealership alongside Tony. “Lola has a sit on her back and would spend hours plaiting her tail and she wouldn’t move. I could have walked down a high street with her.

“I think they took liberties with her because she was the calmest one, and that’s what hurts the most.

“We’re giving her a bit of time now just to chill in the field and find herself again.”

The rising three-year-old filly has been owned by Tony since she was a foal and was then bought by Tristan who has lightly broken her to drive.

“She’s just a little driving filly and it’s beyond me how someone could do this — you read about it you never think it would happen to you,” he said. “In a way I am grateful it was my horse and not Lola’s; even though she loves Gypsy, as it’s hard enough for an adult to deal with let alone a seven-year-old girl.”

Tristan added that he is struggling to find a motive for the attack, which is thought to have happened between 8pm on Sunday night and 3pm on Monday.

“The oil can was taken there to do it, it wasn’t something that was found on site, so it’s not as of some kids just found it and thought they’d have a play around,” he said.

“I get on with everyone so I can’t think of a reason for it, though there were some incidents reported at the yard with the previous tenants.”

Tristan and Tony have been at the five-box, six-acre yard for three months and are wondering if someone harmed the horses to try and force them off the land.

“There were a lot of people interested in it — places like this are hard to find,” he added.

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CCTV is now being installed at the premises near Chichester, and the incident has been reported to West Sussex police.

“They’ve upped their patrols in the area and we’re hoping people will be vigilant,” Tristan said.

A West Sussex Police spokesman said: “Officers have engaged with the informant, who has been provided with crime prevention advice, and the incident has been reported to the RSPCA.

“There are no further lines of enquiry at this stage, however anyone with any information is urged to report it online or call 101, quoting serial 1291 of 02/07.”

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