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Dread Head Cowboy denies abuse to horse, wants focus to be on children at risk for violence

Adam Hollingsworth — better known as the Dread Head Cowboy — said he has received threats against his life in the wake of his Dan Ryan Expressway protest.

Adam Hollingsworth, 33, otherwise known as “The Dread Head Cowboy,” cries as he speaks to reporters at the corner of East 63rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue in Woodlawn, Thursday afternoon, Sept. 24, 2020. Hollingsworth has been charged with a a felony count of aggravated animal cruelty for riding a horse on the Dan Ryan Expressway during Monday’s evening rush as a form of protest against kids getting shot in Chicago.
Adam Hollingsworth, 33, otherwise known as “The Dread Head Cowboy,” cries as he speaks to reporters at the corner of East 63rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue in Woodlawn, Thursday afternoon, Sept. 24, 2020. Hollingsworth has been charged with a a felony count of aggravated animal cruelty for riding a horse on the Dan Ryan Expressway during Monday’s evening rush as a form of protest against kids getting shot in Chicago.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

An emotional Adam Hollingsworth — better known as the Dread Head Cowboy — pleaded Thursday for the spotlight to fall on youths at risk for gun violence and not the felony count of animal cruelty he’s facing following his Dan Ryan Expressway protest earlier this week.

“My focus is on the ‘Kids Lives Matter’ because if you look up the history of when it comes down to kids getting killed, 2020 is the highest rate … and it ain’t right,” Hollingsworth said. “Everybody is trying to steer away from that part, and that is very important — that is an important topic we need to stick on.”

There has been a rise in the number of children killed by gun violence in Chicago this year, and earlier this week, Hollingsworth rode one of his five horses onto the Dan Ryan Expressway in protest. Prosecutors say after the long trek authorities found the horse collapsed, dehydrated and bleeding from the hooves.

Hollingsworth denied abusing his horse NuNu and said what he did was no different than how horses are treated in the circus or at a racetrack.

“The people that don’t know anything about horses looking from the outside in, you would think that what I did was cruelty to animals,” Hollingsworth said. “But if you go to the racetrack, it’s 100 times worse, if you go to the circus, worse … it’s way worse than what I do to my horses. I probably could’ve did a little bit less, but I had to make a statement.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Deboni on Wednesday said the horse may need to be euthanized, and a veterinarian said what Hollingsworth did what was equivalent to “forcing an 80-year-old woman to run a full marathon.”

Hollingsworth said that description is exaggerated, and he would like to bring an outside veterinarian to inspect the horse.

“I think that is just a way to make the situation seem worse than it is because I am a Black brother and I am doing very good for the community and standing up for the Kids Lives Matter movement and not focused on anything else,” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth said he has no information on his horse’s status or location.

He began crying when he spoke about the hate mail he is receiving following Monday’s protest. He said people have threatened to beat him, hang him and kneel on his neck.

“Every day I step outside I am taking a chance with my life,” Hollingsworth said. “I basically look at [the hate mail] and just close them. I can’t change how a person feels.”

Despite the stress and the legal consequences he now faces, Hollingsworth said he would do it again.

“My focus is on ‘Kids Lives Matter,’ and if a person can’t agree with that, I don’t know what to call you,” Hollingsworth said. “Kids Lives Matter, I am not giving up until I’m not the only one out here. I shouldn’t be the only one out here.”

The Dread Head Cowboy called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Kanye West, Common and Chance the Rapper to stand with him in his fight to stop children from being killed.

Hollingsworth said he needs help like the mayor needed his help with the 2020 census when he joined the movement to help boost participation.

“When [Lightfoot] called upon me, I was there for her,” he said. “Monday was my stress signal: Lori come help me, I can’t do it alone.”

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.