Bryan Hayes: the ASPCA’s Horse Whisperer

Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 10:45am
ASPCA FIR responder Bryan Hayes

If horses could speak, there are at least 16 who would thank ASPCA responder Bryan Hayes for his patience and compassion.

Bryan was one of nearly a dozen responders with the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response (FIR) team assisting Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) in Washington State with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized during an animal cruelty investigation. Discovered on an abandoned property in November 2013, many of the horses were severely emaciated and dehydrated, with no access to water.

When Bryan arrived at the Spokane County fairgrounds, temperatures hovered between 13 and 18 degrees. The majority of the horses had been placed in outdoor paddocks; others were in nearby stalls. Eleven, in critical condition, were taken to a local veterinarian for immediate medical attention. There were 16 yearling colts who refused to be touched.

“They were flighty and would run from you,” Bryan says. “Our task was to get halters on those horses and inventory them—give them numbers and take their photos.” 

That’s where Bryan’s expertise came in.

He and other ASPCA staff and responders worked with one horse at a time. After each horse was in its own paddock, Bryan used a broom as an extension of his arm to slowly pet each horse.

“They would stand for that,” he says. “Then I would replace the broom with my hand. All the horses seemed to calm down.” 

In addition to haltering many of the Spokane herd, Bryan trimmed hooves, some that were splitting, including those of an emaciated mare who had to be sedated. Because so many horses were close to starvation, Bryan speculates more would have died were it not for the intervention of SCRAPS and the ASPCA.

The majority (47) horses were placed with adopters, foster families or rescue groups, and boarding facilities, and the ASPCA continues to provide support for boarding costs and re-homing the last remaining horses. 

Local authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of property owner Janice Hickerson on charges of animal cruelty. Her whereabouts remain unknown.

Bryan, a farrier by trade, also handled logistics at the temporary shelter in Florida where more than 200 dogs seized in a multi-state dog fighting raid in August 2013 are being housed and cared for by ASPCA responders. Over the past three years, Bryan has also assisted the ASPCA as a consultant in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, among other natural disasters and animal cruelty cases.

Bryan has experience working with various types of animals, but horses have always been part of his life. Bryan cared for his first pony for more than 20 years, and is now the guardian of two dogs and a 9-year-old American saddlebred named Captain.

The ASPCA is grateful for all of Bryan’s assistance in many of our crucial rescue efforts. To learn more about the ASPCA’s work to end equine cruelty, visit our Fight Cruelty section.

ASPCA FIR responder Bryan Hayes with horse in Spokane, WA

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