Men Face Charges in Pack Horse Cruelty Case

Four horses are recovering in the care of the Bitter Root Humane Association of Hamilton, Mont., after they were found alongside a trail and stabled at a storage facility along the Montana-Idaho border in August. Meanwhile, two men, each charged with four counts of animal cruelty associated with these horses, await their pretrial hearing set for Oct. 9.

Able when found on trail
Able six weeks later

Top, the horse named "Able," when he was found on the trail. Below, Able after six weeks of care.

Craig Heydon, 71, and his son Curtis Heydon, 37, both from the Atlanta, Ga., area had set out with four horses on a pack ride in the mountains on the border between Montana and Idaho for two months this summer. On Aug. 1, one of their horses was found collapsed alongside a trail by two other riders who had passed Curtis Heydon earlier. He had warned the pair he had left a horse on the trail because the gelding wouldn't continue, but said he planned to return the next day for the animal. The riders found the horse still saddled, in an emaciated condition, and with open saddle sores. They tended to the horse along the trail, and a sheriff's deputy later found three more horses owned by the men in a makeshift pen between two storage units at a mini storage facility in Stevensville, Mont.

Six weeks later, Vicki Dawson, operations manager at the Bitter Root shelter, is still concerned about the long-term health of two of the horses. "Able," the horse found collapsed on the trail, has just returned to her facility after spending a month in a veterinary hospital.

The abscesses in Able's feet were so painful he was unable to stand, according to Dawson. "He was only with us two days and then he was down and wouldn't get back up," she said.

An equine ophthalmologist has also been out to treat corneal ulcers in both Able and another horse, a 22-year-old gelding named Diamond.

The prosecutor in this case, John Bell, could not be reached for comment. The Heydons' lawyer, Matthew Stevenson, said that the defendants will not be present at their pretrial hearing.

"There's a hysteria surrounding this case," said Stevenson, citing an area veterinarian who said media representation of the case has been inaccurate.

If found guilty of the animal cruelty charges, the Heydons could face up to a year in jail for each count.

About the Author

Liz Brown

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More