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Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;



October 2008 Issue

RMR has received many letters regarding the article “Left for Dead” which appeared in our September 2008 issue. Many of these letters are copies of those sent to the Ravalli County ( Montana ) Attorney’s Office. Some have been edited because we have limited space.


Dear RMR–

     The Bitter Root Humane Association has received an ever-growing response to your story about the rescued horses. The horse community has stepped up and given so very much support to our small animal shelter caring for these four beautiful animals. Letters, emails and phone calls have come from within Montana and many from out of state. I have received emails from New York , phone calls from Colorado , supportive notes from Utah , Oregon , Washington and Idaho and it grows every day.

     The letters conveying everyone’s best wishes and stories and yes, some anger and frustration over the whole situation, has helped my staff carry on through the long process of rehabilitating the horses.

     We have begun a scrapbook to record all the beautiful words that have come to us. All of these gestures make such a difference to our small staff of four. It will also make a difference to our volunteers who come in each day to help us clean up the horses’ area. And it will encourage us to not be afraid to take on the next case that comes along. We know we are not alone.

     As of today, Sept. 15, the horses are gradually improving. They are putting weight back on even though old “Diamond” struggles more than the others. Their long term health is still in question, especially Diamond’s and Able’s. Able is back on his feet but still limps on the feet and legs that were almost ruined.  

     The vet comes regularly to update any instructions to the staff on their care. The wound on Diamond’s back “would be difficult to heal” the vet said, but much to his delight, the staff has encouraged the wound to close to approximately 50% of its original size. He compliments the animal shelter staff for their diligence; they spend the majority of their day caring for 45+ dogs and 80+ cats and an aging facility. Thanks to a donor, we crossfenced our 2.65 acres in 2006, not knowing that it would be called on to handle critical care horse cases.

     The Bitter Root Humane Association has been here for 23+ years and hopes to move to a larger facility in its future. Being in the sheltering business we know one very important thing — animals have an incredible capacity to forgive and heal and, despite sometimes horrific circumstances, they come out of their pain and give you love. Diamond gives great hugs!

     Thank you to Rocky Mountain Rider for the coverage of this story. Thank you to the horse community everywhere for your support both financial and from your hearts. It makes a huge difference. Thank goodness we are not alone.

— Vicki Dawson, Operations Manager, Bitter Root Humane Association, Hamilton , MT


Dear RMR–

     Dawn Merrill and Q DeHart should received the highest award and recognition available for their heroic efforts in the rescue of the horse in the Big Creek incident of August 1. These two women are truly heroines in every sense of the word.

     Due to the torture, starvation and suffering endured by the four horses, one of the penalties that Curtis and Craig Haydon should receive is that they should be forbidden, by law, to own any animal anywhere for the rest of their lives, especially horses. They should also be held liable for any and all expenses incurred by the Bitter Root Human Association on behalf of their horses.

     Thank you Dawn Merrill and Q DeHart!

— Buzz Ramsey, Hamilton , MT


Dear RMR–

     I live in England and the story of those poor horses has come to my attention. It has also come to my attention that animal cruelty is a misdemeanour in the state where this happened.

     If this happened in England the people would be prosecuted and sentenced. I urge the prosecutor to make an example of these two men and show that this kind of thing cannot keep happening.

     Please could you let it be known to the people that matter that these two men cannot be allowed to get away with this.

— Thanks, Jan Unsworth, England


Dear RMR–

     Your article was posted to a national horse forum. All I can say is thank you for exposing these two sorry excuses for human beings.

Ann Conaway , Texas


Dear RMR–

     Bless you for printing the “Left for Dead” article, and having the courage to print the photos so that people could see this atrocity for themselves.

— Clair Cabal, Stevensville , MT


Dear RMR–

     Thank you for the article, “Left for Dead,” in your Sept. issue. Judging from the article and pictures, the Heydens not only abused their horses — they tortured them.

     Please continue to bring this kind of information to the public. Montana needs to change its animal cruelty laws and nothing will happen until the public demands that animal abuse becomes a felony. I’ve written (as the article suggested) to the Co. Atty’s Office. I hope others have as well.

—Thank you, Eva Maxwell


To Mr. John Bell, Ravalli County Attorney’s Office

     This letter is written to express my horror at the treatment Curtis and Craig Heydon subjected four horses to. These poor animals had the misfortune of being part of the Heydons’ wilderness “living off the land” trip following the death of Curtis’ wife.

     Ten years ago, I lost a close family member to cancer. I cannot get to “how” the Heydons could allow horses, under their care, to reach the point of looking like cancer victims. My compassionate side wants to think that perhaps Curtis felt he could even the score for the suffering his late wife experienced while dying. Yet when given an opportunity by Judge Bailey to donate money toward veterinary bills and feed costs, he and his father declined!

     I recognize your caseload is full and the priority of your office is more than likely felonies. The Heydons’ case is only a misdemeanor. But based on the US Forest Service District Ranger Goslin’s repeated experiences with the Heydons, it appears these Georgia men believe they are above the laws in Montana . Please use your prosecutorial abilities to show these men that their actions are not acceptable and they will be held accountable.

     I thank Rocky Mountain Rider for publishing the article that appeared in the Sept. 2008 issue. I thank the two women who took it upon themselves to ensure the horses had an opportunity to survive following the torture they were subjected to. I also thank the Bitter Root Humane Association for taking them in and ensuring they have proper vet care.

     I hope I have the opportunity to thank you for prosecuting the Heydons to the fullest extent possible under Montana law.

— Tamara L. Bruhn-Nelson, Owner, Snoopi’s Ark, Salmon, ID


Dear RMR—

     There is only one difference between wild animals and domestic animals. HUMANS!! Wild animals are totally on their own. Domestic animals are totally dependant on their owners.

     When an owner shows total disregard for the care and well-being of their animals, they should be held responsible to the highest level. Remember these two (Curtis and Craig Heydon) deliberately and knowingly did this to these horses. They just plain didn’t care!!

     Whether it be a Judge, Sheriff, County Attorneys , Commissioners, they are all responsible for helping us maintain a sense of dignity in our community when it comes to issues like this. These men (you should not really call them men) did a big injustice to these animals and a big injustice to our community. By letting them off with a slap on the hand, we send a message to our community that we really don’t care if people abuse animals.

     We need to have stronger laws to protect domestic animals from those owners that show no respect for the animals in their care. We have stronger laws that protect our wild animals than the ones that we call our pets. Maybe we should take their horse trailers or tack, or whatever was in place at the time of the abuse. Like we do with poaching, or drugs.

     If the County Attorneys office doesn’t prosecute to the fullest, and the Judge doesn’t give the maximum sentence and fines that he can, then they are not doing the job that they were elected for.

     Remember that when you go to vote.

— Joy Price, Corvallis , MT


To John Bell, Prosecutor

     I am sixty years old and have owned horses continuously for the past fifty-five years. I have seen some real unscrupulous treatment of equines; but nothing to the extent of the pictures that depict the treatment of these animals.

     I would not class myself as a bleeding heart animal activist; yet when I picked up a copy of Rocky Mountain Rider, flipped through it and saw the photos, I was absolutely sick to my stomach and could not read the story for five days. I want to retch at the appalling thing that happened in our adjoining state.

     My dad was born in a covered wagon in the early 1900’s somewhere in Missouri on his family’s trek to the Oklahoma Territory . Then, horses were used as work animals. Even as “work animals,” horses were not treated thusly, for if they were, then their human counterparts would most like not have survived themselves.

     We are supposedly a civilized society; but if we let these two sub-humans off with a slap on the wrist, then what does that say about America’s past, present and future civilization!

     Look at the public outcry for the brave filly that gave her best in this year’s Kentucky Derby? The thoroughbred industry decided to police from within, as their bread and butter depends on it.

     Montana should also do the honorable thing and prosecute these two men. Montana ’s “cowboy creed ethic” will be in jeopardy if the public gets a whiff of this horrendous atrocity and Montana let’s them go with a plea bargain. They should never be allowed to own horses again, be barred from entering the state with horses, and the confiscated horses should not be returned to them!

     I know, Mr. Bell, that you will do the honorable thing and prosecute these men and hopefully get the people of Montana into the 21st century with its Animal Cruelty Laws by setting a new precedent.

— Tandy Ashley, Lander, WY

Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;


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