Also Aug. 19, the Parker County Sheriff’s Department arrested the other nine horses’ owner, Keith Hall, Weatherford, Texas, charging him with a Class A misdemeanor, Cruelty To Animals/Livestock, according to Deputy Danie Huffman, the Parker County Sheriff’s Department public information officer. He’s officially charged with “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly failing to provide necessary food water and care for an animal, to wit: nine horses, by failing to provide water and food for two or more days.”
The charge that Hall was arrested on relates solely to the investigation of the previous nine horses that died. Millie Montana's treatment was not a factor, Huffman said. Hall spent the night of Aug. 19 in jail and he bonded out Aug. 20.
Millie Montana (Montana Doc x Cal Filly Bar x Cal Bar) carried trainer Joe Suiter to a victory worth $92,468 with a final-round 221.5 and earned $139,353 during her cutting career, according to Equi-Stat records. She then retired to life as a broodmare. She still had a young foal staying in an adjacent stall on Aug. 13 when she was transported to another location to receive health care and treatments.
Parker County Sheriff’s Department investigators responded to reports of the original nine distressed horses along Old Brock Road near Weatherford, Texas, around noon on Aug. 12. They found eight horses already dead on the property.
A ninth horse was found alive, but was later euthanized due to liver and renal failure. According to a press release from the Parker County Sheriff’s Department, there was no water, hay or feed for those horses on the property. And according to a responding veterinarian, eight already deceased horses had been dead at least two days, and they had not received any water for several days.
Aug. 13, the day after the nine other horses were found dead and dying, Parker County authorities asked well-known local horse woman and mare care specialist Shelly Mowery to check on Millie Montana. The mare’s identify was unknown to investigators at the time. They had found her in a stall near where the other horses had been turned out, with an un-pure water supply and apparent health problems.
Mowery identified Millie Montana by sight, recognizing the mare from her glory days as a competitive cutter. Mowery worked as a television reporter during the 1990 NCHA Futurity Open event won by the mare.
“You don’t forget a Futurity winner,” Mowery said. Along with her husband, cutting trainer Rick Mowery, she provided medical care and a healthy refuge for Millie Montana the last week of her life. The Mowerys also arranged for her burial.
Hall had checked on Millie Montana in person and agreed to the transfer, Mowery said.“Rick [Shelly’s husband] came with the trailer and it was in and out,” Mowery said. “The mare walked right up the ramp and she was ready to go. The sheriff’s department wanted us to at least look at the mare and we got permission.”
Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler told Quarter Horse News a few days before Hall’s arrest that a woman apparently assigned by the horse’s owner to care for his horses had been charged and possible charges were pending against at least one more person as the investigation continued. It eventually led to Hall's arrest.
Horse caretaker Linda Pharis, also charged with Cruelty To Animals/Livestock but never arrested as of late August, told investigators Hall was not feeding his horses and he had instructed her not to give them hay until he arrived at the scene.
Hall reportedly told investigators he does not feed the majority of his horses anything except what they graze from in the pasture. He also does not put hay out except during winter months, according a filed statement regarding the case.
Shelly Mowery focused on caring for Millie Montana, hoping for the best, but realizing, with input of a veterinarian, she could not recover and live a good life.
"She’d not been taken care of,” Mowery said. “She didn’t get in this condition overnight. You’ve got to take care of these older mares.”
Millie Montana’s stall did not appear to have been cleaned regularly, and while the mare did have water when she checked on her, it was not clean, Mowery said.
“At age 24, horses are going to have some issues, but in our opinion, she had a real will to live,” Mowery said. “She still could get around [despite apparently not having her hooves trimmed for several months] in a whole different way.”
An NCHA Futurity Open Champion should have been treated much better, but so should any horse, she said.
“I just really can’t figure it out,” Mowery said. “Everybody needs to be very hands on [in making sure their horses receive proper care]. I’m disappointed.”
Millie Montana, a producer of 10 money-earning cutting foals so far, “probably could have carried on a lot longer” if she’d received better care, Mowery said.
“Who do you blame? I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not going to pass judgment, but it’s a shame. She’s in a better place.”