UPDATE 2/18/2012: The horses have been located, down the road from the owner’s stable. Police are investigating whether somebody deliberately let the horses out.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A nationwide hunt is on for horse thieves, who stole four prize show horses from a McHenry County stable.

Claudia Haugh, the owner of the Spring Grove stable, woke up Friday morning, went out to do her feeding and discovered the horses, all prized Friesian females between two and three years old, were missing.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody Reports

She said they must have been taken from the Royal Ebony Stable on Thursday night.

After noticing the missing horses, Haugh and her German shepherd set out and found the fence the thieves had broken.  She and the dog then followed hoof prints for a half mile to some tire tracks apparently left by the thieves’ horse trailer.  Then the trail went dead.

“They used to hang horse thieves, and I am all for bringing it back,” she said.

She called the thieves “pretty heartless.”

The stolen breeding mares are named Silk, Iris, Lady Liberty and Lady Bianca. All had been sired by the Fresian stud horse named Weyland.

Hough estimates the value of all four horses at about $100,000.  But she said it’s not just about money.

“You know if I at least knew that they were safe,” she said. “That somebody was loving them and taking care of them, then I wouldn’t feel so bad.”

She said she fears they could be sold for meat.

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