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Second Trial For Heydons ends in a Second Guilty Verdict

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer


To read the short version of this article, please click here. 


      After a 5-day court battle, the two-man, four-woman jury in Montana Judicial District Court returned a verdict in just three hours. The five-day appeal trial was held February 22-26, 2010, in Mont ana Judicial District Court in Hamilton , Montana , Judge Jeffrey Langston presiding.

      Curtis Heydon, 39, was convicted of ten out of eleven counts of animal abuse. His father, Craig Heydon, 72, was convicted of nine out of ten counts of animal abuse. Two charges related to the youngest horse were decided as not-guilty.

      The verdict was almost the same as the January 30, 2009, verdict of guilty on all 21 counts in Ravalli County Justice Court .

        The Heydons, who live in Georgia , were charged with animal cruelty after being on a back country camping trip with four horses during the summer of 2008 in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Montana and Idaho .



      Prosecutor John Bell, of the Ravalli County A ttorney’s office, called 18 witnesses, including veterinarians, livestock inspectors, Wilderness rangers, sheriff’s deputies and the three people who rescued one of the Heydons’ horses.

      Bell focused much of this trial on what back country riders should know about horses, packing and equipment, what food they should provide horses, how they could learn that information, and what measures should be taken if horses develop problems.

      Bell also provided expert testimony on the condition of the horses when they were confiscated, and what simple measures were needed to bring them back to normal health.


      Defense attorney Mat Stevenson based much of his defense on attempting to prove pre-existing health conditions of the horses and the fact that one of the horses was in better condition that the other three. He explained that by the time the Heydons recognized the horses’ health problems, they were in the Wilderness area, without cell phone reception or a vehicle.

      Stevenson said that the state could not prove the Heydons did not do everything within reason to care for the horses.

      Stevenson called five witnesses, including two back country outfitters that testified as expert witnesses, the Heydons, and the veterinarian who treated Able, the abandoned horse, on the day he was rescued.


Prosecution Witnesses

      When Dawn Merrill began her testimony, she related how she had learned to go into the back country by being mentored by more experienced people. She took saddle-fitting and hoof trimming classes, and volunteered to pack other people’s equipment into the Wilderness for the experience.

      Merrill told about riding up Big Creek Trail late Friday morning, August 1, 2008, with her friend Q Dehart, and encountering Curtis Heydon riding out on a thin horse with missing shoes and bags slung over the pommel.

      Heydon told them his pack horse had gone down for no apparent reason up the trail and told them that he had hit it and kicked it to try to get it up, finally leaving it lying there.

      When Merrill and Dehart found the downed horse in the middle of the trail six miles up, they thought he was dead, until he raised his head and nickered.

      They found a note attached to his saddle saying, “Horse down for no apparent reason. Will be back in 24 hours.” There was no date, name or phone number.

      Merrill and Dehart spent hours unsuccessfully trying to get the scraped and sore, terribly thin horse to stand, bringing him quarts of water, taking off his saddle and untying him from the log next to his head. They wet his saddle blanket and placed it on him to give relief from biting flies and hot sun.

      “I didn’t want the horse to suffer so. I thought a mountain lion or other animal might get him that night. I thought it would be better to shoot him than leave him there, said Merrill, who didn’t have a pistol.”

      Back at the trailhead the women called the sheriff’s department and the Forest Service to tell them about the horse and to ask for help. They emailed photos they had taken of the horse to law enforcement to let them know the seriousness of the situation.

      Dehart’s husband, Jay, walked in six miles that night in the next attempt to rescue the horse, but failed to find him in the dark.

      By Saturday evening phone calls confirmed that the horse had not been brought out and Merrill prepared to go back in Sunday morning with her neighbor Mike Svaboda. She was packing Bute (an equine painkiller and anti-inflammatory), molasses to mix with water, and alfalfa cubes.

      She said that Svaboda also brought his pistol.

      “We found the horse standing by the trail near the creek. We gave him the food, and the first of three double doses of Bute , explained Merrill, often pausing in her story to compose herself.

      “Mike’s horse Ruby was hurt and he was walking. They were both limping. He was straining to push the bay from behind with his shoulder in the horse’s rump and I was pulling him from my horse, Pete. Every time he tried to lie down we urged him on. I began to get worried about Mike; he was working so hard.

      “It took twelve hours and two more double doses of Bute to get the horse out. I was concerned about overdosing him, but didn’t see an option.

      “When we finally loaded him in my trailer, we gave him a leaf of good hay and water. He ate it all on the way to the vet’s.”


      Mike Svaboda told of his ten to fifteen years’ experience riding in the back country; two years of Ag college, running a farm, and 18 years as a general manager at Cenex, an agricultural business. He said that he owned four horses, including one that was 24 years old.

      He said that, on the trail that day, “My horse, Ruby, took a stick into the hairline area (coronet band) not too far up the trail and so I got off and led her after that.”

      After they had found, doctored and fed the bay horse, and gotten him slowly moving, “about two and a half hours – about two miles down the trail – five miles from the trailhead – he was wantin’ to go down again, and after an argument, I sent Dawn down the trail.”

      Svaboda thought he might need to shoot the horse and didn’t want Merrill to be there. Merrill took off two cushiony over boots from her horse and they were put on the bay’s bare front feet.

      “I led Ruby and she dragged the bay about 40 feet, until he decided that he could walk again, and we very slowly got down to the trailhead. He tried to lie down again just before we got him in the trailer, but we made it.

      “I’d never seen an animal in that kind of condition. He was just raw thin. He was as close as you could get to being dead without being dead,” Svaboda testified.


      Cheryl Flanagan runs a large horse rescue organization in Georgia . She testified that the Heydons had come to her in May 2008 and asked to take four of her horses for a summer trip into the Wilderness in Mont ana . Craig told her that they would bring the horses back to her in “better condition when we’re done.” She said that she refused.


      Sean Schaitel worked on a trail crew for the Forest Service in 2008 and had been certified as a back country packer. He emailed his boss after encountering the Heydons a couple of times in mid- to late-June, “Their stock is in poor condition. A lot of their feed has been spilled for miles on the trail.”

      Schaitel said that the horses were hobbled and feeding on alpine fescue, which is poor horse feed.


      Wilderness Ranger Matthew Ward sent an email to his superior after seeing the Heydons and their horses June 17 and 18, up Big Creek Trail: “One of their horses was in poor shape, rope burns, saddle sores, missing back shoe.”

      He testified that there was no ointment on the horses’ sores and that flies were buzzing around the wounds.


      Wilderness Ranger Bill Goslin often rides a horse and packs a mule when he does trial maintenance, public education and clean up. He also reports trips by email.

      He wrote that he had seen the Heydons June 25 to June 27 with “four horses in poor shape, lathered up, no shoes and the packs were long bags hung by strings to saddles with dowels drilled into them.”

      Goslin explained that the Heydons packing method would cause the packs to swing, causing saddle sores. He said that he had demonstrated to the Heydons with his own mule how to pack using a rope and basket hitch. He also told the Heydons they would have limited graz ing in the Bitterroot Mountains and suggested that they go to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, or go into Idaho where the graz ing was better.

      Goslin saw the horses again on July 7 and wrote that Diamond’s sore at that point was “about three inches wide and in a healing process.” He emailed the Clearwater Forest Range r in Idaho to warn that “a father and son are coming your way with four skinny horses. They pack funny using modified riding saddles.”

      Goslin thought the horses were not abused but were neglected. He said that he was taken by surprise at the condition of Able when he “saw his photo (collapsed on the trail) in the Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine about a mont h later.”


      Ravalli County Deputy Sheriff Travis McEldery found the Heydons and their horses the evening of August 4 at a Stevensville mini-storage facility. He had just been assigned to the case after his office had gotten reports of the horse abandoned on the trail and he knew that the horse had been rescued. He had spoken to the veterinarian caring for the horse, who told him the horse was “very, very, very thin.” He called in Sheriff’s Deputy John Moles, considered a horse expert in the department.

      Everyone in the courtroom listened intently to an often-emotional audio tape made by McEldery of himself, Mo les and the Heydons. What those in the courtroom heard, in part, was:

      Craig Heydon: “They (the horses) did just fine, perfectly, the first mont h.” (In response to being asked about the abandoned horse that was at the vet’s): “I’m furious about it.”

      McEldery: “Several, many people, every person who went up Big Creek Trail and saw the horse called us.”

      Craig Heydon: “The horses were in four feet of grass (at Elk Summit).”

      Moles: “How old are these horses?”

      Craig Heydon: “I don’t know. I called that clinic. When can I get that horse? I’m not going to pay $50 a day for care of that horse. That horse was stubborn. Basically he gets something in his head he wants to do. That was the fifth time he went down. He was stubborn like a mule.”

      Curtis Heydon: “It was resisting me. I did not purposefully drive that horse into the ground.”

      McEldery: “How did that saddle sore (on Diamond) get so bad?

      Craig Heydon: “I’d like to know that. We had to distribute more weight onto Bay Baby after Morgan got sore.”

      Moles: “It really pisses me off what you guys have done to these horses. Is this normal to you? And did you not see this coming? You can’t see this condition?”

      Craig Heydon: “What condition? He hasn’t changed since I bought him.”

      Moles: “These horses are going to be taken. Your knowledge to care for them is lacking. This doesn’t look good.”

      Craig Heydon: “There’s nothing wrong with these horses.”


      Deputy John Moles grew up with horses, outfitted in the back country for two years, worked on a big ranch in the Big Hole Valley of Montana for seven years, and owns horses that he rides and packs in the back country.

      He testified that when he saw the three horses that night in Stevensville, “None of the horses wanted to take a step. The palomino was what I call starved down. They had open sores and pretty good-sized cuts, with feet too sore to walk. I’ve seen some horses in pretty tough shape but I’ve not seen any as bad as these.

      “These horses should have been brought out (of the back country) and not used at all. They needed medical attention.”

      Under cross-examination, Moles was asked what he would do if he had a horse with a problem at the Kooskooskia Meadows trailhead (near Elk Summit). Moles replied “The area is popular. I would hitch a ride out with the horse. I would have walked out 30 miles, if needed.”


      John Lewing had met the Heydons on August 3 while hiking with his wife near the Colt Creek trailhead. He told the jury that he saw the palomino “with his hips sucked in, ribs and bones sticking out” and recommended the Heydons take the horse to his friend Dr. Cross for treatment. He said that the Heydons had taken the saddles off two of the horses, but had left a saddle and pack on the palomino.


      Dr. Andy Cross DVM treated the palomino’s (Diamond) saddle sores on August 4 when the Heydons brought the horse to him.

      Cross wrote in his notes that the horse had: “Very poor body condition, literally skin and bones, very painful pressure sores at many bony prominences. Very good teeth, no reason to not be able to eat.”

      Cross said that he had never treated a saddle sore as large as the one on Diamond and that the horse was so happy to have green grass to eat at the clinic that he wasn’t paying attention to Cross treating the wound. When he asked, the Heydons told him they had not saddled the horse in two to four weeks.


      Dr. Shawn Gleason treated the horses after they were in the custody of the Bitter Root Humane Association. He scored them using the Henneke body scoring method of one to nine; with the score of one being as thin as a horse could get and still be alive; five being just right; and nine being obese. Able was given the score of one plus; Diamond a score of one to two; Casino a two; and Magic a four.

      Dr. Gleason also treated the horses’ sores, abrasions and abscessed feet, and prescribed feed to bring them back to health. He called in an equine ophthalmologist specialist to treat ulcerated eyes in two of the horses.

      Under cross-examination, Stevenson asked about underlying health problems and “refeeding syndrome.” Dr. Gleason replied that the horses “did fine recovering with simple rest, food and water.”


      Dr. Robert Brophy DVM testified as an expert witness. He is a long-time large and small animal veterinarian in Hamilton , MT , and had been appointed by the governor to the Mont ana Veterinary Board.

      “I’d seen injuries such as this and horses that were malnourished, but I’d nev er seen an aggregate, a combination, in 42 years, as this case,” Brophy stated.

      When questioned if the horses had underlying health problems, Brophy said, “If you hear hoofbeats, you don’t look for zebras. Food, water and rest are the basic medication.”

      Brophy also interpreted lab reports from blood tests that Dr. Dick Richardson had taken immediately after Able was rescued. “The animal was literally using its own muscle for food.”


Defense Witnesses

      Back country outfitter Rick Hussey explained how he cared for and fed horses in the back country: Horses being actively used are kept in corrals and fed about 30 pounds of hay cube with 20% grain per day. Horses not being worked are grazed in grassy meadows 24 hours a day.

      When asked about problems, Hussey listed what he took in as first aid and what he did for sores. He said that he did not allow his customers to ride downhill as that would cause saddle sores on the withers, as would ill-fitting saddles or thin saddle pads.

      Hussey described a good horse for his business as “a little overweight, has a one to two sized shoe, a short back, good bone, and is calm and slow.”

      Hussey looked at photos of the horses taken three weeks after they were confiscated and said that the abrasions he saw were normal for a horse packing in the back country.

      Judge Jeffrey Langton asked Hussey what the proper action would be in the back country if a shoe could not be replaced on a horse. Hussey answered, “Not to use that horse for riding or packing. Lead it out. If my horses were sore-footed to start with, I would never attempt the trip.”

      John Bell asked Hussey that if the stock was as in poor condition as the US Forest Rangers had emailed, and still taken into the Wilderness, was that more than inexperience?

      Hussey answered, “Yes, that was inexperience and stupidity. They’re just stupid. They’re dummer’n hell.”


      Curtis Heydon told about how he and his father had planned the trip, including the division of labor, with his father in charge of the horses and himself to be the “chief cook and bottle washer.”

      Curtis said that he always rode the younger bay that he called Pickles. His father always rode the older palomino called Morgan. He told of how camping on the east side of the Bitterroot Mountain s became more difficult due to not enough graz ing for the horses, losing feed along a trail, and that their plans to go over Pack Box Pass into Idaho were thwarted due to snow and deadfall.

      After about a mont h, they decided to go out of the mountains, recoup for a day or so in the valley, and then drive westward on US Highway 12 over Lolo Pass , and take the road south to Elk Summit, where they had been told was good graz ing for the horses.

      At the trailhead, Curtis stayed with the horses in camp with a couple of bales of hay and some senior feed purchased for the palomino. Craig drove the rig back over to Stevensville , Mont ana , left it there and was ferried back to camp.

      Curtis explained that “There were acceptable and normal saddle sorse on two to three horses, and Morgan had a nice, thick scab on top of his.

       “We noticed he was losing weight and so we increased his feed. We never ran out of feed the whole time we were in the back country.”

      Curtis estimated they had ridden the horses a total of no more than 38 miles by that time.

      After three days at the trailhead, they noticed the sore on Morgan had opened up into a much larger wound with maggots in it, and their first aid efforts did not work. They decided to go the  four to five miles up to Elk Summit, where another packer told them he had some deep wound ointment they could use. Craig cut out Morgan’s saddle pad to accommodate his sore, and they put on the saddle with their sleeping pads and bags. Curtis said that they nev er put more than 30 pounds including the saddle on him again.

      The horses were graz ed in deep grass in boggy meadows at Elk Summit, but lost the rest of their shoes, except for Pickles, who had two shoes that did not fit his feet.

      Heydon paused and asked to explain why he was calling the geldings “she.”

      “It’s a term of endearment. I know they are geldings.”

      On July 30, the Heydons moved camp again to Col t Creek trailhead, a little more than nine miles down the gravel Forest Service road. They noticed that the horses, especially Preacher, were sore-footed after the trip.

      After a day of rest, they decided that Curtis would leave at daybreak on Pickles, leading Bay Baby, and ride east over Pack Box Pass and down Big Creek Trail to the trailhead, about 18 miles, get the truck and trailer, and drive back over for his father and the other two horses.

      Curtis said that when he got over the pass and to the lake, he went down a steep incline called the “staircase,” where “she (Bay Baby) began to resist the lead, fight me.” Less than a half mile later, “she fell on the trail and couldn’t get up.”

      Curtis implored, “I’ve never hit anything in my life. I am dismayed by Miss Merrill’s and Q’s words saying I would. She (Bay Baby) was kicking the log, tearing it up. She had gone down before and we had used a lariat and another horse with Father to get her up. Pickles couldn’t help; she wasn’t big enough. I thought to leave the saddle on for warmth that night. I left a note saying I would be back within 24 hours to get her. I didn’t figure that if I wasn’t back in time, it was a legal binding agreement and somebody could just take it (the horse).”

      Curtis said that after he left the horse and encountered Merrill and Dehart on the trail, he got to the trailhead, found his cell phone was dead, tied Pickles to a tree and walked into Victor, about six miles, to use a pay phone to arrange getting picked up with his truck and trailer.

      Back at the trailhead with his trailer to get Pickles, Curtis met Merrill and Dehart again, and asked if they had found his horse. He loaded Pickles, took him to the Stevensville corral at the mini-storage, and was found by Deputy Shad Pease, who had already seen photos of the horse on the trail sent by Dawn Merrill. Curtis called Ranger Bill Goslin and was told that he had to do his best to get the horse out as soon as possible, or if the horse had expired, to remove the body so that predators wouldn’t become a problem for people on the trail.

      The next day, August 2, Curtis’ credit card was declined and he was del ayed waiting for money to be wired. He finally bought two “easy boots” for Preacher, medicine for Morgan, and said that he was worried about taking Pickles back on the trail to find Bay Baby (Able). Curtis called Goslin and told him he was going to drive over the next morning to pick up his father. By that time other trail users were calling in about the horse on the trail to both the police and Forest Service.

      Curtis was able to drive within four miles of his father’s camp. He rode Pickles in, packed up and they both “walked the four horses to the trailhead.” The easy boots they put on Preacher were lost along the way. They gave Bute to Morgan. By the time they left the horses in Stevensville and drove to their motel in Hamilton it was 11:30 p.m.

      They decided that “Father was going to take Morgan to Dr. Cross and I was going to ride Pickles up to get Bay Baby the next morning,” but when they called Goslin, he told them the horse was out and at Blue Mountain Vet Clinic in Missoula . They made an appointment to take Morgan to Dr. Cross.

      “There was a misunderstanding with Dr. Cross,” explained Hayden. “We said we had not ridden the horse in 30 days. Cross came to the conclusion that we had nev er put anything at all on the horse.”

      Curtis walked in for the saddle on August 6. “I always intended to get that horse. I enjoyed the horses greatly,” he stated.

      John Bell asked Curtis a series of questions, all answered in the negative: “If when you went to Stevensville on July 10, did you ever think of taking any of those horses to a vet before going in to the Wilderness? Did you think of resting and feeding them for a couple of weeks? Did you contact a farrier? You said that Able went down 13 to 15 times on the trip. Did you think that was bad?”

      And finally, Bell asked, “Do you really think those people were wrong to rescue Able?”

      Curtis said “I do.”

      Bell asked when Curtis first noticed the palomino was in bad shape?”

      Curtis answered “July 30.”

      Bell asked, “Are you saying that horse got in that bad of shape in four days?”

      Curtis answered, “Yes.”

      Bell said that the Elk Summit Guard Station was manned by a volunteer (with a radio). The Heydons had visited there many times and they could have asked him for help.

      Curtis said that he had nev er noticed anything wrong with the horses except for the palomino’s saddle sore. “I’m not a vet. When we saw a problem we took care of it.”


      Craig Heydon told about how he was raised on a farm with two draft horses and a saddle horse. While in college he exercised horses for his employer who rode horses in parades.

      He decided to take horses on this trip, due to his legs and knees not being able to take so much walking as when he and his son hiked and camped when he was younger. He decided after checking the internet for horses to rent for the summer, or outfitters to guide them, that it was too expensive.

      “Rental horses would have cost me $100 a day. Outfitters were much more. We didn’t want to spend a fortune to go into the Wilderness. We got all four horses for $3,500. I spoke to my brother in Neb r aska about leaving the horses with him on his farm for his grandkids after the trip.”

      Heydon narrated in a rambling account that they had trouble right away due to the equipment such as cots that they wanted to take with them.

      “The horse would hit the thing on the trail. When we came out the first time, we left most of that. I had relied on a guy in Georgia for advice for packing and saddles and he was wrong.”

      Heydon found out right away when they arrived in the Bitterroot Valley that when Preacher was packed first, he would lie down, and the older bay didn’t make it a half mile down the trail before he fell down.

      “That horse went down on us five times. I couldn’t determine whether it was clumsy or something else. Every time it would go down, it would lay there.”

      Heydon explained that they took 200 pounds of supplemental feed with them up to Big Creek Lake .

      Heydon said that by Elk Summit the horses had lost most of their shoes and the Heydons didn’t have nails for the remaining extra shoes, but that there was no problem until July 30 with their feet.

      Heydon ended his testimony by stating that “When we left Col t Creek (on August 3), there was nothing wrong with those horses. Nothing wrong with their eyes. Nothing wrong that we could see.”

      Judge Langton then asked Heydon about his preparation for the trip and what books he had read. Heydon showed the “Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, 2008 edition.” The judge asked about packing books and supplemental feed. Heydon told him that they had purchased about 350 pounds of feed for the entire trip from Georgia through Mont ana .


      Dr. Dick Richardson was on-call the Sunday afternoon Able was rescued and brought to his clinic. He testified that he was surprised that the horse was alert and walked into his stall, since he had been told by Merrill that the horse was in much worse condition.

      Richardson gave an account of what could have been wrong with the horses to cause them to lose weight, have huge sores and have sore feet that developed into laminitis, including pre-existing conditions, altitude and parasites.

      Richardson recounted, “I’ve seen horses as thin as this win races and run endurance.”

      He showed x-rays of Able’s feet and explained that the horse was likely purchased with an unknown history of hoof problems, including ringbone in one foot. “These foot problems would likely cause stumbling.”

      John Bell asked Richardson to read his statement made to the local newspaper, “Humane society people are all worked up and need to have their wings clipped.”

      Did Richardson think Merrill and Svaboda were members of the Humane Society, asked Bell ?

      Richardson replied, “No.”


      In rebuttal, Dr. Gleason refuted Dr. Richardson’s testimony, and John Moles reiterated his encounter with the Heydons and their horses.


Closing Statements

      John Bell asked the jury to do one thing: “Look at the 30 photos of the horses. They are every bit as revealing as the testimony, but they are not contradicting. Also, look at Dr. Gleason’s treatment of the horses, Dr. Cross’s medical report, even Dr. Richardson’s report, and the Forest Service emails.”

      Bell then brought out a board with the 21 counts of animal cruelty on it and instructed the jury in why each was there.

      Bell told the jury, “Curtis testified he nev er had any concern about these horses.

      “Was there a cost factor here? Cher yl Flanagan testified the Heydons wanted to adopt the horses and then bring them back at the end of the trip.”

      Bell went over the timeline of the Heydons’ trip. “Why did the Heydons choose to go back into the back country with these horses without getting them shod, rested, fed and vet care?”


      Mat Stevenson showed photos again of the horses at Elk Summit graz ing in green grass. “The horses were a little thin, certainly, but you can’t see these overwhelming health problems. Should the Heydons have been concerned? This (case) is about Dawn Merrill saying, in response to Officer McElroy’s question of what she wants him to do, and she says to ‘make this man go away.’”

      Stevenson instructed the jury, “You must find that moment in time when they grossly deviated from standard care.”


      John Bell then quickly summed up his case, “In spite of smoke screens and excuses, remember, the vets said they were gross deviations, including their witness, Dr. Ri chardson.

      “If you saw a family with four normal children moving in down the street, and then didn’t see those children for 40 days; and when they came out of their house they were emaciated and covered in bruises and sores, what would you think?”


Verdict & Sentencing

      The jury debated just three hours before coming to a decision.

      Judge Jeffrey Langton pronounced sentencing on March 3, 2010.

      What happens now to the horses?


Names and descriptions of the horses

Three of the four horses were renamed by the Humane Society after they were confiscated. Dawn Merrill and Mike Svaboda named Able, in honor of his trying to get down the trail. The Heydons had renamed most of the horses after they purchased them:


1)       Able, a 13-year-old bay gelding, called Bay Baby by the Heydons

2)       Diamond, a 20-plus-year-old palomino gelding, called Morgan by the Heydons

3)       Magic, an 8-year-old bay gelding, called Pickles by the Heydons

4)       Casino, a sorrel/roan gelding in his late teens, called Preacher by the Heydons


Sidebar: timeline.

       May 20, 2008 – Heydons leave Georgia for Montana with two newly purchased pack horses (older bay and sorrel/roan), picking up two more horses for riding: one in Oklahoma (young bay) and Nebraska (older palomino).

       June 8 – Arrive in Bitterroot Valley , Montana , camp out at Big Creek trailhead for about 10 days

       June 19 – Bill Goslin emails that “One of their horses is in poor shape: saddle sore, bad rope burn on legs, missing shoe

       June 24 – Return to valley, put horses in corral at mini-storage, stayed overnight at motel in Hamilton

       June 25 – go back in to Big Creek Trail to Tipi Rock camp (half way to Big Creek Lake )

       Late June – move up trail to Big Creek Lake camp

       July 7 – Bill Goslin and two others go up to Big Creek Lake to find Heydons. Tells them the pass to Idaho is closed due to snow. They decide to return to Bitterroot Valley and drive over to Elk Summit in Idaho after spending a day or two in Bitterroot Valley . Horses are kept in corral at mini-storage.

       July 10 – Heydons drive to Idaho and then to Colt Killed Creek trailhead in Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, clearing several downed trees on road.

       July 11 - Craig takes empty truck and trailer to Stevensville , MT , is ferried back. Truck and trailer left in Stevensville

       July 13 – Colt Creek Camp. Diamond’s (palomino) saddle sore opens up, filled with maggots

       July 14 – Heydons move to Elk Summit camp and “Horse Heaven Meadows”

       July 30 – left Elk Summit, moved back to Colt Creek Trailhead

       Aug 1 – Curtis rides young bay, leads older bay out over pass to Big Creek Trail (18-19 miles). Abandons downed older bay horse on trail. Meets Merrill and Dehart near trailhead. They later find the horse still lying in the trail. Jay Dehart walks six miles back that night and can’t find horse. Curtis stays in town that night and next.

       Aug 2 – Curtis calls Ranger Bill Goslin to tell him he had left a horse on Big Creek Trail, that he had taken the saddle off and would go back for it after picking up his father the next day.

       Aug 3 – Dawn Merrill and Mike Svaboda go back in for downed horse, bring him out and take him to Missoula vet. Curtis picks up Craig and other two horses, brings them back to storage corral in Stevensville. Heydons spend night in motel.

       Aug 4 – Heydons take palomino to Dr. Cross for treatment. Sheriff’s Deputies confiscate all four horses that night, and arrange for the three horses at the storage unit to go to the Bitter Root animal shelter.


Click here for a link to archived articles about the Heydon Abuse Case published in Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine.  


To read the short version of this article, please click here.  


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There will also be an article about the trial in the April Issue of RMR.


Reader Comments about the Trial. Click Here!



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