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SAN DIEGO –A year after a controversial death of a horse at a San Diego training facility, reining horse trainer Mark Arballo pleaded not guilty Oct. 2 to a felony charge of animal cruelty.

Arballo is facing charges from the Sept. 21, 2013 death of Bella Gunnabe Gifted (Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner] x Bay Brim Hat x Hollywood Return). The court has set a Nov. 12 readiness conference in San Diego, followed by a Dec. 2 preliminary hearing. If convicted, Arballo, a former San Diego County trainer who now lives in North Carolina, would face up to three years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.

According to published reports, the trainer allegedly left Bella “bitted up” in a curb bit, alone in a solid round pen while he “taught two lessons and rode another horse.” The mare was discovered unable to get up and still tacked up, with blood coming out of her ear before being humanely euthanized.

Arballo is being allowed to stay out of custody on his own recognizance and reportedly does not have to be in court for the readiness conference, where he can be represented by his attorney.

The National Reining Horse Association’s handbook addresses court of law convictions on page 47 and allows NRHA to discipline a member if there is a conviction of an individual felony, animal abuse or moral turpitude under municipal, county, state or federal law.

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