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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;

Public Responds to Rescued Horses 

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer

Photos courtesy Dawn Merrill


November 2008 Issue


Editor’s Note: No other article we have ever published has brought as much reader feedback as “Left for Dead,” written by our staff writer, Dorinda Troutman, for our September 2008 issue. It is the story of Able, a bay gelding, as well as three other geldings, who were ill-treated by their owners on an extended pack trip during June and July 2008 in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana .

     You may read the entire story, with photos, and letters to RMR from readers at


Results of Hearing and Date Set for Trial

     In early August 2008, Craig Heydon, 71, of Roswell, Georgia, and his son, Curtis Heydon, 37, of Woodstock, Georgia, were charged with four counts of animal cruelty (misdemeanors) and were released on $10,000 bond each.

     On October 9, 2008, a pre-trial omnibus hearing was held in Judge Jim Bailey’s court in Hamilton , Montana . At that time, a jury trial date was set for January 27–28, 2009.

     Neither the Heydons nor their lawyer, Mathew Stevenson, were present at the hearing. The small courtroom and hallway were packed with spectators. Stevenson indicated in a letter to the judge that he would call three witnesses at the trial. John Bell, Ravalli County Assistant District Attorney, told the judge that he had sixteen witnesses on his list.

     The recent release of the horses’ papers tells the story of their purchase in three states. Craig Heydon is listed as the legal owner of all four horses. The sorrel gelding (who is now recovered enough to show he is actually a red roan) known as Casino and the bay gelding known as Able were purchased for $700 and $900 in Canton, Georgia on May 20, 2008 from a sale yard. Their Coggins tests had been performed across the border in Cleveland , Tennessee . The bay gelding known as Magic was purchased for $1,500 at Roswell Auction Yard in Roswell , New Mexico , and the bill of sale was dated May 21, 2008. The palomino gelding known as Diamond was purchased for $750 in Decatur , Nebraska on May 28, 2008.  


Ten weeks after his rescue... a vastly improved Able has a reunion with his rescuers. From left: Mike Svaboda, of Corvallis , Montana , Dawn Merrill of MIssoula , Montana , and Q and Jay DeHart, of Stevensville, Montana . Able wears a fly mask to help protect his eyes after a recent operation to repair corneal ulcers.


The Horses’ Conditions Continue to Improve

     In early October, equine ophthalmologist Dr. Steven Roberts, of Loveland , Colorado , operated on Able and Diamond’s ulcerated corneas in order to alleviate pain and slow vision loss. They had not been able to recover successfully from ulcers caused by biting insects in the back country, in spite of local veterinary care.

     Magic, Able and Casino have regained their lost weight, and scars mark where their saddle sores have healed.

     Both Able and Diamond are still recovering from abscesses in their front feet. While elderly Diamond has not put on much weight, he has shed out most of his winter coat, just in time to grow a new one, and his huge saddle sore has completely closed.  


Q DeHart visits Casino, the older TWH gelding who was so malnurished he looked to be sorrel color. In October, after eating a lot of good food, he proved to be a roan.


Horses’ Plight Spurs Action

     Many people throughout the United States and from several other countries have responded with donations of over $20,000 and twelve ton of hay for the horses being cared for by the Bitter Root Humane Association (BRHA). (Congratulations to RMR readers for chipping in and helping out!!)

     All money donated in the name of the Heydon horses has gone into a special “Horse Fund” account, which was set up more than a year ago by the BRHA from a $2,000 donation from Bonnie Trotter. All veterinary bills have been paid from that fund.

     In September, the shelter had ten other horses put into their care from a local neglect case, and money from the “Horse Fund” also helps care for those horses.

     The Heydon horses, plus the neglect case horses, will all be fostered out within the county for the winter. People interested in fostering the horses must fill out a form at the BRHA.

     Future plans involve forming a group to help change Montana ’s animal cruelty law, which now dictates that ten horses must be involved in order for a person to be charged with felony animal cruelty.


What You Can Do to Help

     To put pressure on the authorities to prosecute the Heydons to the fullest extent, write to:

Prosecutor John Bell

Ravalli County Attorney’s Office

205 Bedford Street , Ste C

Hamilton , MT 59840


     To help the horses with money for veterinary bills and feed, or to donate hay, contact the Bitter Root Humane Association at 406-363-5311, 262 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, MT 59840;  


Quality Supply of Hamilton and Missoula , Montana , donated a run-in horse shelter kit worth $3,500 to the Bitter Root Humane Association to help horses recovering from neglect and abuse. Pictured from the left: Bill Clark of Atascadero, Calif. (while on vacation), Buzz Ramsey, Ken Kaske and Dennis Loftis, all of Hamilton, Montana, volunteered their time and expertise to assemble the metal shelter (about half done in this photo). Dawn Merrill photo.


Help During Hard Times

   Horse owners face many difficult decisions over a lifetime of owning horses, especially during the past year when feed prices have risen and there is an unwanted horse problem. One California horse sanctuary is raising money to help owners geld stallions and are recently offering low-cost, painless euthanasia as an alternative to sending horses to slaughter.

   In order to help people who may be facing hard financial times and who cannot afford to feed their horses, Rocky Mountain Rider will run a free classified ad for anyone seeking good homes for their horses at no cost. For more information, call RMR at 800-509-1537, 406-363-4085, or email

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


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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