Platinum Ticket: 80K American Horses Shipped to Slaughter [VIDEO]

Platinum Ticket’s Final Ride

It’s a story about multiple people throwing away a once-successful racehorse turned hunter/jumper named Platinum Ticket after he’s no longer useful to them.

A documentary by Animals’ Angels USA exposes what it calls “the horrors of the horse slaughter pipeline”.

When the film begins, the gray Thoroughbred finds himself injured, emaciated, and at a low-end auction. Consequently, the viewer gets a peek at Platinum Ticket’s happier days. It was before he and dozens of other horses are bought by known kill buyer Tara Michelle Sanders of Louisiana, on behalf of Thompson’s Horse Lot and Co.

Then go behind the scenes and see how this kill pen that operates a “broker program” treats horses. These are the people claiming that horses are just hours from shipping to slaughter. In reality, many are not in danger of that fate, according to Animals’ Angels. The group adds the broker’s true intent is to sell the horses at high prices.


Learn more about the project here or go to Animals’ Angels



What Our New Name Means for Horses

Horse Authority

As you may know, Rate My Horse PRO is now Horse Authority.


The answer is really quite simple. Just like people, brands grow and mature with time. Therefore, the social enterprise’s name needed to more accurately represent our brand.

Horse Authority also got a dynamic new logo, fresh color palette, and the latest in the digital real estate market at

Passion led us here in 2010, while purpose drives us to continuously improve and elevate our work. Horse Authority combines innovation, technology, and good business to develop and deliver sustainable solutions that positively impact horses.

As a result, you’ll find new resources like Horse Marketplace. Every purchase you make drives change. That’s because the sales proceeds fund horse welfare initiatives.

You’ll find new authors, writing a variety of online equestrian magazine articles. Do you have something interesting to say along with a little writing finesse? If so, you may have what it takes to be part of our writing team.

During the rebrand, a publishing hiatus was necessary to build a solid foundation for future growth. Our reporting of horse news and equine law cases returns now. Although, a backlog of major equine legal cases may slow things initially.

So, please invite your horse friends because together we can do more for horses.


Thors Gets Second Chance in NJ Animal Cruelty Case

Monica Thors

A New Jersey judge gives an animal cruelty defendant the chance to have felony charges brought against her dismissed. Monica Thors, 57, of Mullica Hill must complete one-year of diversion, although she can own horses during the program.

Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson approved animal cruelty defendant Monica Thors' application into the state's pre-trial intervention program (PTI) this week.
Monica Thors

Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson approved Thors’ admission into the state’s pre-trial intervention program (PTI) this week. The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s office tells us it opposed the pro se defendant’s application. 

A grand jury indicted Thors in June 2015 on nine felony counts of animal cruelty. Court documents state she knowingly caused serious bodily harm to her animals by not following a veterinarian’s instructions. Four horses died or were euthanized. Thors pleaded not guilty.
Authorities seized seven horses and a goat from the Monica Thors Animal Rescue Inc operator in December 2014. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture began investigating Thors in the fall of 2013 leading to the NJ SPCA’s involvement.

Animal Cruelty

There are two main types of animal cruelty, intentional animal abuse, and animal abuse through neglect.

Monica Thors horse torture
According to Prince and Monica Thors

Photos show the now deceased Standardbred named According to Prince held upright by a sling from the stable’s rafters. Blood appears to stain the floor below the horse’s bloody hoof. An extension cord attached to an electric power tool snakes beside the horse. This photo isn’t unique.

Consequently, other images tell a similar, but contradictory story about Thors. While professing her love for her animals she allegedly tortured her equines by drilling their hooves until they would bleed.

Thors allegedly failed to make modifications to her overweight horses’ food intake so they could lose weight. The horses suffered from chronic laminitis.

Pre-Trial Intervention

New Jersey’s pre-trial intervention program is for first-time, non-violent offenders making Thors eligible. The law considers Thors a non-violent offender since she allegedly committed crimes against horses, not people. 

The state’s website adds that PTI:

“render[s] early rehabilitative services when such services can reasonably be expected to deter future criminal behavior. PTI strives to resolve personal  problems which tend to result from the conditions that appear to cause crime, and ultimately, to deter future criminal behavior by a defendant.”

Our document request regarding Thors’ PTI was denied due to state law. The judge ordered Thors to serve one year of PTI, which includes reporting to a supervisor.

Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson did not include a mental evaluation or counseling for Thors, according to Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office.

Researchers report a relationship between animal abuse, violence, and other anti-social behaviors. A three-year study concludes animal abusers are 5 times more likely to commit violent acts against people.

The prosecution will dismiss nine counts of animal cruelty against Thors if she completes the program. If she isn’t successful, the case returns to court for prosecution.
Stay with us as we continue following this case.

View Case 


Online Fraud when Importing Horses

Email Hacking Leads to Wire Fraud

A California dressage trainer importing horses was a lucrative victim for an unseen online predator, an email hacker.

Rebecca Rigdon of Rigdon and Blake Stables in San Diego is sharing her horse purchasing experience. She says time played a crucial part in nightmarish ordeal:

Once the decision was made to purchase two horses, I spoke on the phone to our good friend and agent Egbert Kraack several times.

Like any other purchase we discussed the vetting results and when it came to getting their bank details I spoke to him on the phone. He told me his wife was emailing me the details as we spoke along with detailed information about the vettings. Within the next ten minutes, I received the email from his wife.

The first paragraph detailed both horses’ vettings. It also included information that only they would know with their bank details. My client and I made our way to our banks and proceeded with our wire transfers.

Five business days went by and they had not received the funds, so we sent them a cover photo of both our wire transfer receipts with all of our information. On day seven we received an email from Egbert’s wife saying that the money was finally received and we could all “rest well” that the funds had arrived.

Day eight, I speak to Egbert and he tells me that he cannot fly the horses on their scheduled flights because he has not yet received the funds. I said to him, “what are you talking about, your wife sent me an email yesterday telling me that the funds had come through?!”

He replies, “she never sent you that email.”

Within minutes we discovered someone hacked into his wife Julie’s email, as well as mine. They left the information about the horsesvettings as originally written in Julie’s email and had changed the banking details to their own. They then sent the email from Julie’s email only slightly changing the address.

We determined very quickly that we had wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to hackers.

I was corresponding via email half the time to the hacker thinking it was Julie, Egbert’s wife, and the hacker was corresponding with Julie half the time posing as me. 

Who knew this degree of hacking into your email system was possible?

They had stolen from us. I was dumbfounded. We were all in shock.

Immediately we went to our banks and filed fraud reports. We both met with our local police in San Diego and filed reports with the FBI.

I called all of my insurance companies in hopes that at least it would be covered via my trainer’s insurance policy. And I could at least pay my client back and maybe even my mother-in-law. They all said, “I’m so sorry, but this isn’t covered on your policy.”

I emailed my hacker to maintain contact and to act as if we were none the wiser. I told him or her that we wanted to go ahead and purchase “the ZZ Top Mare that I tried for 500,000 Euro and to please resend their bank details, address, and phone number so we can send the wire asap.”

They responded immediately telling me to “wire the funds to their sister company in Hong Kong since it took so long for the first wire to come through”. The hackers gave me their fictitious address and number. I played along….strung them along…..tried to keep them interested.

We didn’t sleep that night. I called Egbert every hour from 1:00 AM on….he called the local Dutch police, met with the bank which we had wired the money. The banker told him that he “couldn’t tell him if our funds were still there because of privacy,” yet Egbert “sensed” that the banker was trying to tell him that the funds were still there.

I sent all the emails and proof that our emails had been hacked to the police. Egbert worked tirelessly to prove what happened to the bank and moreover the Dutch police department. Within 12 hours they went to the bank and told them to release the funds back to us.

I then received a call from the President of the bank in Holland. He assured me that they had wired the funds back to us.

They did. Oh my God… I cried. They did it. We did it. We got our horses. If we would have waited even a few more hours to act the money would have been gone.


Rigdon says in the future she’ll only share bank details via encrypted messages to protect their transactions.

Cybersecurity experts suggest one way hacked emails can lead to wire transfer fraud is when users click phishing emails.

Experts recommend the following to protect your email accounts:

  • Use strong passwords and frequently change passwords on all devices
  • Never click on a link, open an attachment, or reply to a suspicious email
  • Check your online bank account daily and change your banking passwords often
  • Avoid free Wi-Fi to protect against hackers capturing a password
  • Never send wire transfers or any sensitive information by email unless it is encrypted
  • Install all the updates for your virus protection software and anti-spyware


Wire Fraud / Cyber Crime Warnings

Who else may help protect your interests? Your real estate agent when you’re buying or selling your luxury horse or equestrian property.

Specifically, customers are told in writing by realtors that they won’t ever be asked, via email, to wire or send funds to anyone.

Horse professionals may consider adding similar language warning their customers not to comply with email instructions to wire funds. Speak with your lawyer to see if this meets your business needs.

All the while, the criminals that almost took Rigdon continue lurking on the web. Authorities have not caught the hackers so they are probably hot on the trail of another financial windfall. Don’t let it be at your expense.


Horse Authority published this article on March 7, 2017, and it has since been updated.



UPDATE: Oklahoma Horse Trailer Dealer Sentenced to Prison for Fraud


Thirty-four-year-old Ericka K. Smith, who also goes by the name Ericka Benman, is now serving her time in an Oklahoma prison. A judge sentenced Smith to serve 63 months in prison for fraud of almost $1.5 million.

She resides at FMC Carswell for female offenders in Tarrant County, Texas.  She is slated for release on July 1, 2022.


Losses almost $1.5 million

published September 29, 2017

A judge sentenced an Oklahoma woman on Tuesday to 63 months in federal prison for using a horse trailer dealership to defraud almost $1.5 million. Ericka Kathleen Smith, 34, now goes by Ericka Benman, according to court documents from Cleveland County.

Benman, of Norman, pleaded guilty in January to bank and bankruptcy fraud. She bought and sold horse trailers and trucks through the trailer business registered as Longhorn Ranch Trailer Sales of Kansas City Inc, a Kansas company.

Benman defrauded Frontier State Bank in May 2011 by making false statements about her income when applying for a loan. The loan allowed her to purchase a truck for $68,000. It was collateral to protect the bank’s funds. She created a false lien release to sell the truck to a Texas customer of Longhorn Ranch Trailer Sales for $73,000. Benman failed to notify the bank.

Benman also committed fraud during her 2012 bankruptcy by giving false testimony regarding the sold truck financed by Frontier State Bank. She claimed she sold it to a person in Calfornia for $16,000.

The court found that Benman’s fraud caused almost $1.5 million in losses and involved “sophisticated means”.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the case leading to Benman’s prosecution by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry A. Kelly.

The defendant’s sentence also includes five years supervised release and almost $1.2 million in restitution to eight financial institutions.

Benman begins her prison sentence on October 31.

Norman Riding Academy

Benman operates Norman Riding Academy where she offers horseback riding lessons and horse training. She advertises that Ericka Benman Performance Horses operates out of Norman Riding Academy, which is located at 1500 60th Avenue Northwest in Norman.

Convicted Federal Felon Ericka Benman aka Ericka K Smith continues selling Groupons for Norman Riding Academy
Buyer Beware – Groupon Ad for Norman Riding Academy

Benman offers group and private English and Western horseback riding lessons for children and adults. Despite Benman’s upcoming prison date, the Norman Riding Academy is still offering Groupons for sale. We have made Groupon aware of the issue.

It does not appear that her farm’s clients are aware of her identity or federal crimes. We attempted to reach several through social media, but none have responded.





UPDATE: Johnson & Johnson Heiress Suspended by USEF for Bad Behavior

Jazz Johnson Merton kicking horse

The U.S. Equestrian Federation released its ruling after Jazz Johnson-Merton’s questionable conduct toward her horse in September at the Hampton Classic Horse Show.

A video surfaced of Johnson-Merton, 36, falling from her mount Joe Cool at the Hampton Classic in New York. She stood, then attempted to kick the horse in the stomach before lunging at him. Joe Cool reluctantly moved forward leaving the arena in-hand, which left Johnson-Merton dragging the horse behind.

Johnson-Merton was competing in the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over division when she fell.

The Federation suspended the Johnson & Johnson heiress for two months and fined her for her unsportsmanlike behavior.


Unsportsmanlike or abuse?

Update September 23, 2017

Two days after the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) launched a horse welfare investigation into Johnson & Johnson heiress Jazz Johnson-Merton, she is apologizing.

It comes after a video surfaced of Johnson-Merton, 36, falling from her mount Joe Cool at the Hampton Classic Horse Show in New York. She stood, then attempted to kick the horse in the stomach before lunging at him.  Joe Cool reluctantly moved forward leaving the arena in-hand, which left Johnson-Merton dragging the horse behind.

Johnson-Merton was competing in the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over division on Friday, September 1, when she fell.


The judge told stewards Maria Biancone and Mary Choate about the incident, although it is not in the steward’s report.

USEF states it obtained written reports and the video obtained by Molly Sorge from The Chronicle of the Horse, which first reported the story. The Federation is conducting its investigation and “any subsequent actions in accordance with their regulatory rules and procedures”.

USEF adds the welfare and safety of horse and rider are paramount.

Mea Culpa

Johnson-Merton notes her “unprofessional display of aggression and poor sportsmanship” in the letter to USEF President Bill Moroney. She says she will never exhibit the behaviors again.

One of the greatest pleasures in my life has been riding and showing horses, and I have enjoyed this hobby since I was a little girl.

In the recent incident at the Hampton Classic, I had a very inappropriate emotional response to my horse’s behavior, one that I have never had before. I was scared and angry, and reacted very badly.  For that I am deeply sorry. My reaction was short lived, and immediately after I realized my mistake, I got back on to jump a schooling fence in order to finish the day on a trusting note with this horse.

I can assure you that the apology that I gave to the stewards at the time and this plea to you now is genuine. I will never again exhibit this unprofessional display of aggression and poor sportsmanship.

It pains me to see that I have brought negative attention to our sport, the sport that is most dear to me.

Please accept my apology. Sincerely, Jazz Merton

USEF announced its investigation into the incident on September 21. Stay with us as we continue following this story.



Horse Authority originally published this article on September 22, 2017. It has since been updated.

UPDATE: Scott Langton Death Ruled Suicide

Death Investigation Closed

Update October 30, 2017

Florida authorities have ruled the death of former veterinarian Scott Langton a suicide.

The District Nine Medical Examiner’s office states Langton’s cause of death was a “gunshot wound of the head and the manner of death was suicide”.

The Orange County Sheriff’s office released the incident report to us Monday, October 30th. The investigation into his death is closed.

The fire department responded to Langton’s Chuluota Road home in Orlando late on October 4 for an “unresponsive male” found by a co-worker. He was dead when firefighters arrived.

Langton did leave a note, according to officials.

The Florida State Attorney’s Office charged Langton last month with felony sexual battery of a teen. The state dismissed the case last week.

Experts state contemplating suicide can be the result of overwhelming life circumstances. Suicidal individuals may exhibit a variety of warning signs including, but not limited to substance abuse, withdrawal, anger, or recklessness.

There is help for those in crisis and those wanting to help them.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers resources including a helpline. The lifeline offers free, confidential support for those in distress at 1-800-273-8255 every day, all-day.


Breaking News

Former Florida equine veterinarian Scott Langton, 42, died from an apparent gunshot wound, a family member we reached late Thursday confirms.

The District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office, which serves Orlando, tells us Langton’s body is in the morgue. Accordingly, a death investigation is underway.

Officials confirm Scott Langton's death was suicide. The former equine veterinarian is seen during happier times.
Scott Langton pictured during happier times in a photo with his children.

The Florida State Attorney’s Office recently charged Langton with felony sexual battery of a teen. The alleged drugging and rape occurred when Langton’s wife was out of town in November 2013.

A week ago, Seminole County terminated Langton’s participation in drug court stemming from his August driving under the influence conviction. The criminal court ordered him to reappear in the case next month.

We have spoken with the Orange County Sheriff Department and will bring you additional details as they are available.





Florida’s Langton Charged with Drugging, Raping Teen

Teen helped in home, vet clinic

Florida authorities arrested and charged former equine veterinarian Scott Langton, 42, with felony sexual battery of a teen.

Langton’s former teenage worker is accusing him of drugging and raping her at his house almost four years ago. Langton hired the equestrian to watch his children and help with horses being treated at Corner Lake Equine Hospital, which is located on his house’s property. His wife was out of town during the alleged November 2013 rape.

Scott Langton makes his first appearance on a sexual battery charge in Orange County
Scott Langton makes his first appearance on a sexual battery charge in Orange County

The young rider alleges Langton gave her an unknown medication, because she was in pain after a horse riding injury. He allegedly gave her four to six pills out of a big white bottle. “The medication caused her vision and awareness to become hindered” and that is when the rape occurred, court documents state.

The victim said, “she didn’t think twice about taking the medication Langton gave her because he has treated her horse and she trusted him.”

After the alleged sexual battery, the victim told investigators she quit working for the family a few months later.

“She felt numb and stated this incident took a long time for her to process” and “she was scared of Langton because of what he did to her.”

It wasn’t until January 2017, that the victim confided in family and friends about the alleged rape, which led to her filing a police report. Orange County Sheriff Office detectives from the Major Sex Crimes Unit began investigating the Avalon Veterinary Clinic owner in March.

Langton did not cooperate with the criminal investigation, according to investigators’ notes.

October 2013 drugging allegations

In February 2014, Langton faced two charges including kidnapping with the intent to inflict harm. Florida Chief Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra dropped the charges four months later.

The arrest affidavit we obtained states Langton allegedly drugged another equestrian at his house in October 2013.

 … as she made her way towards the exit, without warning, Langton became violent and pushed her a few times. At one point [the victim] fell to the floor. While on the floor, Langton climbed on top of [the victim’s] chest and pinned her down. She states he pinned her down and injected her with an unknown substance into her thigh area. [The victim] states she became weak and couldn’t move. She blacked out and woke up with an intravenous needle in her arm attached to a bag of unknown fluid.

Langton publically began his downward descent in January. Drunk, he crashed his vehicle into a tree while in possession of cocaine and a schedule IV controlled substance.

Subsequently, he relinquished his veterinarian license.

A Seminole County judge adjudicated Langton guilty of driving under the influence in August. He was sentenced to one-year probation, a suspended license, and drug court.

Langton is scheduled for arraignment in the sexual battery case on October 11. Stay with us as we continue to follow this case.


Update: On September 28, Seminole County terminated Scott Langton’s participation in drug court, which sends his DUI / drug case back to criminal court. He is ordered to appear on November 1 in that case.


View Case



Harvey Flood Horses Headed to Auction

How you can help

Horses saved from rising floodwaters after Hurricane Harvey last month remain unclaimed by their owners. As a result, they could end up at auction this week and this may be just the beginning.

A College Station Fire responder patiently rescued a bay paralyzed by fear as floodwaters surged. Today, the 10-year-old mare continues waiting for her owners. Similarly, Brazos County has a 5-year-old mare impounded after she was overwhelmed by the flooding.

The equines only suffered minor injuries during their August 27 water rescues.

Attempts to find the horses’ owners have been unsuccessful, officials say. The state can sell stray livestock at auction, only if they wait 18 days, and follow procedures attempting to notify the owner. The county extended the period to 30 days, as a result of the hurricane. Brazos County requires stray horses be sold at auction, although some counties allow non-profit horse rescues to step in.

The deadline and auction are Tuesday.

If auctioned, College Station’s Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society plans on bidding. Co-founder and horse rescue president Jennifer Williams, Ph.D. says Bluebonnet doesn’t normally purchase horses at auction. “We had money donated specifically for helping Harvey horses and have plenty of foster homes…”

If you’d like to help, you can send a donation to Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society marked “Brazos Horses” to make sure the rescue is not outbid by kill buyers.

If you would like more information or believe one of the horses is yours, contact Brazos County Animal Control at 979-361-4923.

The Livestock Commission is auctioning the horses on Highway 21 in Bryan at Noon on Tuesday, September 26. Photos of both horses are below.

Stay with us as we keep you updated about other Harvey Flood Horses headed to auction.

Harvey Flood Horses headed to auction
10-year-old mare
Impounded by Brazos County Sheriff after Hurricane Harvey
5 year-old-mare

Oklahoma Horse Tests Positive for Equine Infectious Anemia

Details still emerging

Oklahoma officials confirm an equine infectious anemia (EIA) disease investigation led to the euthanasia of a Bryan County horse.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture (ODAFF) has placed the index facility under quarantine. The state tested a six-year-old Quarter Horse gelding due to its exposure to an EIA-positive racehorse that originated from Louisiana. The two infected horses raced at Delta Downs in Vinton at an unknown date.

Louisiana officials tell us the index horse tested positive in Illinois after the Vinton race.

The deadly disease affects equids, which includes horses, donkeys, and mules. Equine infectious anemia is a viral disease so it attacks the horse’s immune system. Affected horses can carry the disease without symptoms for years or they may become acutely or chronically infected.

Clinical signs of EIA include fever, weakness, weight loss, anemia and edema, and death. All infected equines, including those that are asymptomatic, are carriers of the disease.

There is no cure or vaccine to prevent EIA.

Biting insects typically transmit EIA which is a blood-borne illness. The use of infected needles can also transmit the disease from equine to equine.

To help prevent the disease, veterinarians recommend insect control, good horse facility sanitation, testing new equines with a Coggins test before bringing them onto your property, and quarantining new equines for 45 days.

A Coggins test determines if there are antibodies present in the horse’s blood indicating the presence of EIA.

This is the second case of EIA in Oklahoma this year, while the first was in March.

Illinois has not reported an EIA-positive horse since the one that went missing at the beginning of the year. We contacted Illinois seeking additional information.


Dayle Kountz: Probation for Horse Cruelty

Two-time animal cruelty offender

A Montana judge sentenced the owner of Kountz Arena to probation Thursday for felony animal cruelty.

Bozeman’s Dayle Kountz kept his stallion Young Doc Bar alive after an accident without veterinary care. Consequently, part of the horse’s lower leg fell off leaving only a bloody nub of dead tissue.

Silver Bow County District Judge Bradley Newman gave Kountz a two-year deferred sentence, along with a $2500 fine, and negligible fee. Furthermore, by successfully completing the sentencing conditions, Kountz may be eligible to have the felony animal cruelty charge wiped from his record.

Kountz pleaded no contest to the felony last month in a deal with the prosecution. The state dropped two additional felony charges including aggravated animal cruelty.

Authorities began investigating Kountz in March 2015. Horse show competitors at Kountz Arena found Young Doc Bar emaciated, lying in his own filth with a bloody stump instead of a leg.

Documents state Kountz kept the stallion alive after a December 2014 accident to collect the horse’s semen. The paint horse’s foot rotted off at the fetlock joint some two months later. Kountz euthanized the three-legged stallion as a result of authorities getting involved.

Kountz owns dozens of horses. He also has a prior animal cruelty conviction from 1999.

Deputy Gallatin County Attorney Erin Murphy has not responded to our interview request.




The American Paint Horse Association’s Disciplinary Committee reviewed the court findings at its October 2017 meeting. The Committee suspended Dayle Kountz, according to Cindy Grier APHA’s Director of Compliance.

Our multiple attempts to obtain additional information from Grier via email regarding the specifics of Kountz’s suspension went unanswered. 


View Case 



Miniature Horses Head of the Class in Maryland

Service animals

A Maryland school district approved guidelines Tuesday allowing students to use miniature horses as service animals.

The Baltimore City Public Schools’ board vote aligns the District with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service animals receive training to give the disabled greater independence.

In order to meet the necessary requirements, service horses must be potty trained and easily managed by their handler.

Experts state training time and care costs are similar between miniature horses and dogs as service animals. Consequently, the economics start to look different when analyzing the animals’ lifespans. A miniature horse has up to four times the working life expectancy of a service dog.

Furthermore, mini horses have a calm demeanor, excellent memories, and stay focused when working. They also have excellent eyesight.

The ADA recognized miniature horses as service animals in March 2011.

Learn more here.



Vince Sentenced to Jail for Animal Cruelty

Two-time convicted horse abuser

A Virginia judge sentenced Nottoway County horse farm owner Robin Vince to a year in jail for felony animal cruelty.

Robin Vince animal cruelty conviction lands her in jail
Pollyanna in February 2016

Authorities investigated Vince of Crewe in February 2016 leading to the discovery of a shallow grave containing four dead horses. They obtained evidence of additional maltreatment which allowed the seizure of 40 horses and 15 dogs from Ravenwood Horse Farm.

After a three-day trial in May, Nottoway County Commonwealth Attorney Theresa Royall secured a 26 count animal cruelty conviction including three felonies.

A jury previously convicted Vince of misdemeanor animal cruelty in 2014.

Central Virginia Horse Rescue - Pollyanna

“I feel like justice is finally being served for these horses,” says Cindy Smith, founder of Central Virginia Horse Rescue. 

The county placed 19 horses, including Pollyanna, with Smith’s rescue for rehabilitation after the seizure. The mare’s permanent scars tell a painful story. Hot oil poured over her grey speckled flesh in a misguided attempt to “treat” rain rot left the sweaty looking discoloration.

Of the six remaining horses, Smith says three are available as companion animals, two are in training as riding horses, while one will remain at the rescue for life.

Upon Vince’s release, she is not to own or possess any animals, although it is unclear for how long.

The Commonwealth also charged Vince’s daughter Rhiannan Vitiello, another convicted animal abuser, with 44 felony counts of animal cruelty.

A trainer is working with the Arabian mare Pollyanna to get her ready for forever home although you can donate or see other horses available for adoption at Central Virginia Horse Rescue.



Florida Vet Charged with Animal Cruelty, 30 Horses Seized: VIDEO

3 mini horses euthanized

A Florida veterinarian is facing felony animal cruelty charges after authorities seized more than two dozen neglected horses.

Florida Vet Gail Nichols Charged With Animal Cruelty 2017
Gail Nichols

Polk County Sheriff deputies began investigating after receiving a tip resulting in the arrest of veterinarian Gail Anne Nichols, 66, and Paul Craig Smith, 74, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged each with three felony animal cruelty counts, misdemeanor animal cruelty, and five counts of confinement of animals without sufficient food, water, or shelter.

Investigators discovered 28 miniature horses, 2 horses, 8 dogs, and 2 birds suffering from various forms of neglect leading to the removal of 38 animals.

Veterinarians euthanized three miniature horses due to the maltreatment, severe neglect of their hooves and poor prognosis. The minis’ tiny feet were overgrown causing them to spiral upward making them lame.

The crippling effects of neglect are evident when the hooves become elf shoes. The long-term lack of hoof care caused one miniature horse’s hooves to turn upward in different directions. One hoof faced backward while the other faced forward on its front end.

Another miniature horse was only able to walk on three legs due to an untreated injury. The 11-month filly had a wire embedded into her skin cutting off the blood supply to her hoof.

“The fact that a practicing, licensed veterinarian caused so much suffering to her own animals is extremely concerning. We hope from this point forward she is not allowed to own, or treat, any more animals.”

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd

Authorities found five of eight dogs in cages without water in the property’s main residence. The rats, clutter, and smell of ammonia festered making it uninhabitable. Nichols and Smith live in separate travel trailers on the two-acre property.

While all horses had access to water in dry lots, only 18 of the mini horses had access to hay or grass.

Deputies learned from Nichols that she practices part-time at Gulfport Veterinary Clinic located in the St. Petersburg area and at Animal Emergency of Pasco in Port Richey.

Nichols and Smith reportedly breed miniature horses and are petitioning the court to retain ownership of the seized animals.



Former Florida Veterinarian Guilty of DUI

Treatment for Drug Charges

A Florida judge adjudicated a former equine veterinarian guilty of driving under the influence last week.

Orlando’s Scott Langton pleaded nolo contendere to the DUI leading to one-year probation and a suspended driver’s license for 6 months.

Former Florida equine veterinarian Scott Langton guilty of DUI
Scott Langton

Judge Jessica Recksiedler sentenced Langton to treatment-based drug court for possession of cocaine and a Schedule IV substance as a part of a plea deal. The rehabilitation based program is an alternative to incarceration for defendants that enter the criminal system due to addiction.

Prosecutors charged Langton in January after he crashed his BMW into a tree. Seminole County Sheriff deputies found cocaine, Diazepam, and alcohol at the scene of the single-car crash.

Langton voluntarily relinquished his veterinarian license in June. At the time, he committed to working with a group that helps rehab “impaired health care professionals”.

Langton owns and practiced veterinary medicine at Avalon Veterinary Clinic and Corner Lake Equine Hospital.


View Case


‘Horse Killing’ Means No Reinstatement for USEF Members UPDATE

Penalty Guidelines effective September 1, 2017

The United States Equestrian Federation has released the specifics of the horse welfare and safety violation types and penalties. The new guidelines go into effect in two weeks on September 1, 2017.

When the Federation announced the approval of new horse welfare penalties by the Board last month we sought answers to your questions. While Julian McPeak, the group’s Marketing and Communications Director initially replied to our request she failed to provide a response.

So is USEF President Murray Kessler’s commitment to transparency working?

USEF states if a member violates any of the horse welfare and safety rules and goes before the Hearing Committee the penalty should be appropriately severe. The Committee uses the Penalty Guidelines in horse welfare and safety cases as a guide to the types and ranges of penalties to impose, allowing consistency.

The violations include the following:

Rule Violation Types & Penalties

I. Excessive Use of Whip or Spurs and Improper Use of Bits

  • Excessive or intentional use of whip or spurs or improper use of a bit to cause harm or pain to a horse/pony.
    • First Offense – Suspension of 6 months and $6,000.00 fine
    • Second Offense – Suspension of 12 months and $12,000.00 fine
    • Third Offense – Suspension of 24 months and $24,000.00 fine

II. Illegal Equipment

  • Use of illegal equipment with no intent to cause harm or pain to a horse/pony or which doesn’t cause harm or pain to a horse/pony.
    • Discretion of the Hearing Panel
  • Intentional use of illegal equipment to cause harm or pain to a horse/pony
    • First Offense – Suspension of 12 months and $12,000.00 fine
    • Second Offense – Suspension of 18 months and $18,000.00 fine
    • Third Offense – Suspension of 36 months and fine of $36,000 and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership

III. Cruelty/Abuse/Neglect – Includes excessive riding, lunging, training and showing, deprivation of water and feed, striking with an object, unintentional death, and violations of the 12-hour injection rule involving forbidden substances for purpose of competition.

  • First Offense – Suspension of 12 months and $12,000.00 fine
  • Second Offense – Suspension of 24 months and $24,000.00 fine and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
  • Third Offense – Suspension of 60 months and fine of $60,000 and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership

IV. Death and Maiming – Includes acts in which the death of a horse occurred, but was not intended

  • First Offense – Suspension of 36 months and $36,000.00 fine and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
  • Second Offense – Suspension of 60 months and $60,000.00 fine and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
  • Third Offense – Lifetime ban

V. Intentional Death for Financial or Other Means

  • Lifetime ban

In each instance, if multiple horses are involved, the penalty applies to each horse and runs consecutively.

These new penalties go into effect September 1.


* Reciprocity of Criminal Charges – In cases of reciprocity of criminal charges, the minimum USEF penalty should at least mirror the criminal penalty with latitude given to impose more severe penalties.

New Horse Welfare Penalty Guidelines

Published July 30, 2017

The United States Equestrian Association will not reinstate a member who kills a horse under new horse welfare penalty guidelines, whether it was intentional or not.

The Federation’s Board unanimously approved the guidelines last week to help improve horse welfare at sanctioned competitions. The Hearing Committee will utilize the guidelines, which aren’t mandatory, when considering penalties in horse welfare and safety cases. The Board’s January review found the former penalties “were no longer sufficient”.

USEF states amending the penalties in the following categories helps Hearing Committee Panels govern members fairly while providing a safe environment for our horses. Included are:

  • the excessive use of whip or spurs and the improper use of bits and other illegal equipment.
  • cruelty, abuse, and neglect, which includes deprivation of water and feed, and striking a horse with an object. A member’s intentional killing of a horse is included.
  • death/maiming and the killing of a horse for financial or other means. It includes acts where the horse’s death was not intended.

“Our members have demanded we impose stiffer penalties and offer stronger protection for our horses’ safety and welfare,” USEF CEO Bill Moroney said. “…they are certainly applicable in light of our duty to protect our equine partners.”

The Panel has the flexibility to impose penalties above or outside a penalty range due to prior violations, egregious conduct, and the need for increased deterrence, USEF adds.

If you witness horse abuse or neglect at a USEF sanctioned horse show immediately contact the horse show’s steward. Have the steward file the information in their report during the horse show. Document what you can with photos or video.

Board’s recommendation on Depo-Provera

Starting September 1, any equine given Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (MPA) three months prior to the competition date must have a medication report form and an MPA Disclosure Form on file.

The Board voted to approve phase I recommendations from USEF’s MPA Panel. The suggestions include the continued investigation, research, and analysis of MPA used in competition horses. MPA is commonly referred to as Depo-Provera.

The Federation suggests it is using the MPA Disclosure Forms to analyze pharmacokinetic data related to MPA.

Opinions differ when it comes to MPA and its effects in competition horses. Withdrawl times are currently unknown.

USEF states the membership’s usage data and other research will be assessed and further recommendations will be made at a later date.

The medication report form will be available online. For those that do not report, the Federation warns there will be a penalty imposed.

The Board also approved a ban on injectable magnesium sulfate for later this year. USEF will notify members prior.

It also approved the MPA Panel to assess the controlled use of pergolide mesylate in competition horses with Cushing’s Disease. The Equine Drugs and Medications Rules currently have pergolide mesylate on the forbidden list.

Stay with us as we bring you the latest updates.


EHV-1 Virginia Update: Third Culpeper Horse Confirmed Positive

Culpeper quarantine extended

Virginia officials confirm a third Culpeper horse tested positive for the neurologic strain of the equine herpes virus (EHV-1).

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reports another horse at the quarantined stable developed a fever August 16. Veterinarians are providing the horse medical care on-site.

The state has extended the farm’s quarantine until September 6th.

The index horse began exhibiting neurologic signs on August 11 leading to its transport to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg. Staff isolated the horse and continue its supportive care.

VDACS’ Animal Health Lab confirmed a diagnosis of the neurologic strain of EHV. It is also known as equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM).

A second horse from the farm developed a fever and neurologic symptoms leading to its euthanasia at the start of the week. The lab confirmed the same diagnosis.

Veterinarians recommend vaccinating against EHV-1 to help prevent the virus. No current vaccine prevents the neurological manifestation of the infection.

EHV-1 may lie dormant for long periods of time and then re-activate during a horse’s period of stress resulting in clinical disease. The virus is highly contagious and typically has an incubation period of 2 to 10 days. It can cause abortion, respiratory and neurologic disease.

Symptoms may include fever, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, urine dribbling, hind limb weakness, and lethargy.

Veterinarians recommend biosecurity methods when showing or introducing new horses at your farm. These include limiting horse to horse contact and horse to human to horse contact. The virus spreads readily through direct contact with infected materials.



In-Utero Foal Scam Leads to Grand Theft Horse Case

Second Hand Souls Animal Rescue and Animal Actors

A self-proclaimed animal rescuer in California is facing multiple counts of grand theft for allegedly scamming buyers of in-utero foals.

Second Hand Souls Animal Rescue operator Susan Guillot is charged with felony theft for allegedly defrauding horse buyers.
Susan Guillot has a criminal record that includes embezzlement.

Prosecutors charged Good Hope resident Susan Guillot, 62, with six counts of felony grand theft. The operator of Second Hand Souls Animal Rescue and Animal Actors also faces two misdemeanor charges. One count is for conducting business without a permit and the other is for failing to pay taxes.

Riverside Sheriff deputies arrested Guillot in early July on an outstanding warrant. It stems from a horse sales fraud investigation that began in 2016.

Detectives obtained evidence leading them to nine victims that entered into a contract with Guillot to purchase an in-utero Friesian foal. Guillot allegedly collected the purchase price of up to $6,500 before the foal was born although the buyers never got their foal after weaning.

Court documents state two victims unknowingly purchased the same in-utero foal from Guillot. She also allegedly led two buyers to believe their foal was stillborn, “or put to sleep immediately upon birth”. Guillot never provided veterinary records or refunds to the victims.

Guillot advertises her services through Second Hand Souls Animal Rescue and Animal Actors as an animal trainer to the entertainment industry. She claims to rescue animals which she then retrains for work in movies and TV commercials.

When seeking donations through her Facebook page, before it was taken down, she offered donors “a receipt”. California nor the IRS have Second Hand Souls Animal Rescue and Animal Actors registered as a charity which means contributions are not tax deductible.

This isn’t Guillot’s first brush with the law. She ended a three-year probation stint last year after brokering horse sales with fraudulent contracts.

Guillot is out on $34,000 bond.

Horse Helps Inmate’s Hunger for Change

Horses and Humans Helping Each Other

From inmate to farrier, see how a wild Mustang changed Chris Culcasi’s life path.

And see where Zephyr the Mustang lands after her training is complete.



Missouri Stable Owner Sentenced for Child Sex Abuse

D&D Horse Stables

A Missouri judge sentenced a Rogersville stable owner to serve five years in prison for child sex abuse on Friday.

David Davenport of D&D Horse Stables entered an Alford plea in May to charges of sodomy, child molestation, assault, and sexual misconduct.
David Davenport

David Davenport of D&D Horse Stables entered an Alford plea in May to charges of sodomy, child molestation, assault, and sexual misconduct. An Alford plea allows the defendant to enter a guilty plea without admitting guilt.

The state did not offer Davenport a deal, according to Greene County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Diel.

Davenport’s horse business offered Tennessee Walking Horse training, sales, and horse boarding. His victims were teenagers that worked for him at his horse stables. They said he tried to intimidate them into not telling what he did because no one would believe them.

Davenport must register as a sex offender once he is released from prison.