Vets, ranger, backpacker testify horses in Bitterroot abuse case were in bad shape

Very very strange-

Vets, ranger, backpacker testify horses in Bitterroot abuse case were in bad shape. By Perry Backus. Ravalli Republic (as published in the Missoulian)

Ohh . . . . here’s more on this. Georgia men back in court appealing Ravalli County horse abuse sentence. By Perry Backus. Ravalli Republic (republished in the Missoulian)

18 Responses to “Vets, ranger, backpacker testify horses in Bitterroot abuse case were in bad shape”

  1. Cris Waller Says:

    There is some more info- with pictures of what the horses looked like- on this blog-

    This is a horrific cruelty case.

  2. bob jackson Says:

    Not to diminish what is seen here but you ought to go to the outfitter camps in the Thorofare late fall. Some camps are ok with stock but way too many are awful. Sores all over and looking worse than most of the sores one sees on these horses pictured. The only one worse is the withers sore….and this pretty much matched the one an outfitters camp boss was riding to pack out an elk poached three miles inside Yellowstone. I caught them and the judge gave us their horses. The one with the huge withers sore (caused from resting the skull cap of poached elk rack in front of the saddle and travelling ten miles cross country in the dark) we tried to save but the sore kept fistulating underneath. Thus within a year we had to put him down.

    Oh, one more thing….I have a picture of my district rangers horse, one he rode and packed, that looks just like the one of the emancipated palamino. Could easily be its twin brother. The horse was old and could not fend for itself in the Park corrals for hay. But you know there is govt time and there is govt. time. Thus no time to keep it seperated to feed on its own, ….. ya know.

  3. william huard Says:

    These two guys from Georgia give new meaning to the word “redneck”. The shocking aspect of these animal abusers is the fact that they have no conception or awareness that these animals are neglected! They can’t understand what all the fuss is about! The court system needs to upgrade these cases to felonies so at least there will be some kind of deterent for this abuse. These people just don’t get it. Hence the word- redneck.

  4. monty Says:

    Wow! How low can humans get. Does anyone know, if these creeps are convicted, what might be the penality?

  5. william huard Says:

    The article said misdemeanor charges- so we are looking at a year in jail which will be suspended, and maybe a 750.00 fine- hardly a deterent.

  6. Robert Hoskins Says:

    I have at various times over the last decade corrected packing and saddling problems with inexperienced hunters or packers–oddly, mostly Southerners–at trailheads or in the backcountry with brand new gear and rented horses and no clue what they’re doing with either, but who wanted to do a western pack trip on the cheap. Much of the problem at arise from doing it on the cheap is with the people who rent horses to people who know nothing about horses, or with the hunting magazines that make a pack trip sound easy to manage. I have even loaned gear to such people, not so much for their sake but for the horses’ sakes, to make sure things are done right. (I’ve always gotten the gear back; I designate the local cafe as the place to leave the gear).

    I have taught such people how to fit saddles on horses (many times switching saddles around from horse to horse, and one time, turning the saddle around on one horse), how to saddle, how to pack and weigh panniers properly, how to place tarps on loads, how to tie diamonds of various sorts, and how to act around horses. Of course, it’s really hard to teach the latter. Nevertheless, I’ve found that such people are generally willing to listen and learn, especially if I revert to my native Southern accent. I’ve never come across such an egregious problem as is described here.

    Unfortunately, as Bob Jackson points out, some of the worst offenders in the mistreatment of horses are local outfitters who should know better but are willfully negligent for whatever reason. These people should be shot.

    I’m not sure if my impromptu courses in horse packing and management have helped or not, but I’d rather do it than not and see a horse mistreated.


  7. Larry Thorngren Says:

    I drove up 93 through Nevada last week and came to Boise via Hagerman and Buel. I drove past several dairy farms along the way and was appalled at the way the cows are treated. Most of them were covered in cowshit from the wet corrals and made me not want to drink milk or eat cheese again. I don’t see how they could get them clean enough to milk them or how the milk could pass any kind of a health inspection.
    It rained here in Idaho this morning and I hate to think of how the dairy cows in the state must look tight now. The add for the Idaho Dairymens Association should ask: “Got Green Milk?” Punishment for the mistreatment of animals needs to be upgraded to a felony.

  8. Chris Harbin Says:

    Actually, that many are from the south makes sense. Usually the last 3 places under the education column are taken by Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi. And of course Georgia started out as a penal colony. And, no, I certainly don’t put myself above anyone from that area because I am from Kentucky.
    Mules are not horses but after reading that sad story I’m glad that the mules that go down Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon are at least saddled and loaded correctly.

  9. outsider Says:

    larry would you rather that they are out on the open range?

    And no “got green milk” might be mistaken as a good thing, we are in the early days of the green movement 😉

  10. bob jackson Says:

    I agree with Robert about naive private parties packing and riding horses. Most, I believe are in sheltered Walter Mitty worlds. And you would think once they saw those sores developing they would ask others what to do. Most don’t, not because they are cruel and insensitive, but because these peoples worlds are wrapped in Wal Marts, Dollar General and race cars.

    It is hard to believe there is a whole segment of the USA population out there that don’t have a clue as adults how they fit in with the greater scheme of other species life.

    As Robert said, these folks will listen and do things better but it is such a small part of their lives I don’t know that it really will help. All one can do is hope so. And actually there is more hope with these types than the macho cowboys of the outfitter camps.

    The closest to death encounter with horses I ever saw was a family from Arkansas taking a two week trip through the Bridger – Teton. It was first of the season high water travel that at best should have been attempted by those with lots of water experience.

    I hadn’t even done the stream crossing probes yet (those camped at Bridger Lake would usually wait till I crossed the Thorofare Creek to know whether they could safely ford into the Park.)….. and I always considered this responsibility as the most dangerous part of my job.

    So here this family comes to the cabin and so proud of having their own stock. Stock was size appropriate of course and included two shetland ponies for the kids. Yes, I know, excellent fording horses. I didn’t even know how they got as far as they did. Soon a story of kids being washed down Mt. Ck, the Shoshone, and, and and and…But they were so proud they were on this trip.

    It had yet to sink in with them that at each swollen river crossing they were this close to death. So it was quite the dilimna of how to get them out of the woods. I knew if I could get them across the Thorofare they could go down Pacific Ck. without more dangerous waters.

    So I saddled up and took them to the best run out crossing. By this I mean chances of trees underwater were less and both banks had a distance without vertical slopes.

    After making it myself I came back and said I could put a kid on my pack horse and lead him across. The river was too powerful to do it more than a couple times…even with the strong horse I rode, so I asked the father if he could dally the shetlands after I got the kids over.

    Everything seemed to be planned but next thing I knew the young boy was on the back of his fathers saddle and they had already started into the dirty waters of death. The streams noise was too much and away they continued. Of course his horse got scared of the water, rushed and lept and then fell over backwards upon exiting the stream on the other side.

    It was father and son and horse looking like a couple of crocs fighting in the water. Sometimes all would be under and other times the people would be on the horses belly but still coming up for breaths. The father was wearing those cowboy spurs and they had gotten caught in the cinch straps. And with the son hanging on for dear life there wasn’t anything he could do to extract himself.

    As fast as the water was boiling and flowing they headed downstream right towards a log jam…and certain death. I was running the shore on the gravel bars and finally there was enough shallow water to grab the floating reins. Pulled the horses head above water and its body ….and riders bodies swung around and into an eddie. Then the son let loose, I pulled him to stand up water and then I cut the cinch strap from the horse. Then the fathers head came up and I pulled him and the saddle onto the gravel bar. Finally I had the father hold the horses head up enough so it could breath.

    Next day we did the same ford and on they went. I don’t think the whole life – death thing ever sunk in to any of them. It was just a bunch of folks who took one event after another, each as independent happenings.

    Such as it probably is with those folks with those sored and skinny horses talked of in this article. They will just go on with life without horses if they get charged with this offense. It will be sticking with what they know best ….. probably riding and killing wild boars with a Jim Bowie knife after the dogs have them worn down…or if this gets boring, using a chain saw to kill the next wild pig.

    And the last event is true by the way.

    Robert does well helping these folks. I just don’t know if it helps…but all one can do is hope so.

  11. Robert Bunch Says:

    Personally I really appreciate the help those two ladies gave that poor horse that was down in the stream and I wish more humans were as compassionate and caring about animals as they apparently are. I’m really glad the horses are recovered and doing well but I can’t say the same for those two yahoos. In my opinion those two guys deserve a much harsher sentence than they got. I hope they really “enjoy” their time in the can.

  12. Robert Hoskins Says:


    As I said, I do it for the horses’ sakes, not the peoples’.

    That’s a horrific story about the crossings.

    I was in the Thorofare working a trip with Press Stephens in late September 2003 and we ran across a bunch of Hutterites or Mennonites camped in the big, overgrazed overcut woods on the Forest just south of the Park Boundary off the trail leading up toward the Park Thorofare Ranger Station. I’m sure you know where I’m talking about. There must have been 50 people there, more dogs, several of which rushed my pack string with the expected results. I could hear a blacksmith hammering on anvils. Do you know what that was all about? I was horrified by that many people in one place.


  13. Chris Harbin Says:

    Any update on where the horses originally came from yet.
    By the way, I apologize if anyone was offended by my southeastern state education comment. I should not paint with such a broad brush. Most people here, though, do not know the difference between a coyote and a wolf. Worse yet there is a Creationist Museum in my state that has dioramas of dinosaurs and people living side by side.

  14. bob jackson Says:


    Those folks with the ladies in white bonnets and floor length dresses were coming in the last 8-10 years I was there. They usually had their cult camp where others didn’t go….upper open Ck or Hidden Ck. Usually 60-70 people in all and they were very illegal in staying over the 14 day limit. Normally it was over a month. Everyone who came upon them said it gave them the creeps.

    FS knew about them but did nothing about it unless the local outfitter complained of all his graze being eaten.

    I never saw them myself since they were out of the Park and it was summer. My usual out of Park travel (besides the Bridger Lake routine) started with the hunting season.

    I always dreaded if someday they all took the Jim Jones Purple Kool aid and I had to help retrieve the bloated bodies.

    We had another ultraconservative group that hung around the Wilderness and these were worse by far than the white cap toeheads. They took one of their “fallen” members up for a bit of repentance and killed him somewhere between the Snake and thorofare. The law never could find the body.

    One time the wilderness guard had to go check them out and wanted me along. We armed ourselves to the teeth but all were out of camp except one when we arrived at their camp up Castle Creek.

    The forest Service Black Rock administration should have cracked down on all these groups but had too bright of a yellow streak to do so.

  15. Robert Hoskins Says:


    Thanks. I wasn’t armed at the time, being with Press, who didn’t believe in having weapons along.

    This is the only time I’ve come across folks like that in the Yellowstone Country. We certainly don’t get them on this side of the Divide, but it be good to know who they are. Did/does the Forest Service know who they were and where they came from? Forewarned is forearmed.


  16. bob jackson Says:


    I see you are a fan of “cult” movies (as presented by WM) the same as I am. I like the Cohen bothers, Burn after Reading also. I especially liked this movie because it hit on the ineptness of govt. …. like in when Ozzie gets demoted and transferred out of the blue and responds, “no discussion…”. And the administrator says back,”Well we’re having one right now”.

  17. Robert Hoskins Says:

    I’m not sure how we got from weirdos in the wilderness to cult films. I’m a Hitchcock fan myself.

    There’s an update to this case; the two “men” have been convicted in district court: Sentencing scheduled for 3 March.


  18. Chris Harbin Says:

    Thank you for the update link!

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