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Dread Head Cowboy’s horse may need to be euthanized after trauma from Dan Ryan protest, prosecutors say

One veterinarian equated Monday’s incident to “forcing an 80-year-old woman to run a full marathon,” Cook County prosecutors said.

Adam Hollingsworth, 33, otherwise known as “The Dread Head Cowboy,” walks out of Cook County Jail, Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 23, 2020. Hollingsworth has been charged with 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,” walks out of Cook County Jail, Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 23, 2020. Hollingsworth has been charged with 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

Chicago’s “Dread Head Cowboy” rode his horse to exhaustion — and narrowly close to death — while protesting gun violence against children on the Dan Ryan Expressway earlier this week, Cook County prosecutors said.

The horse will never ride again and may need to be euthanized, Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Deboni said Wednesday, adding that one veterinarian compared Adam Hollingsworth’s actions to “forcing an 80-year-old woman to run a full marathon.”

Authorities found the horse collapsed on the pavement near 95th Street Monday, overheated, dehydrated, bleeding from the hooves, and with eyes so dilated they resembled “cartoon eyes,” Deboni said. The horse, coerced to run seven miles without horseshoes, also had sores beneath its saddle, which wasn’t properly padded, the prosecutor said.

After differentiating the well-intentioned protest to the horse’s alleged poor treatment, Judge David Navarro ordered Hollingsworth, 33, held on $25,000 bail for animal cruelty.

Adam Hollingsworth, known as the “Dread Head Cowboy,” posted video of himself riding his horse Sept. 21, 2020 on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Adam Hollingsworth, known as the “Dread Head Cowboy,” posted video of himself riding his horse on the Dan Ryan Monday.
Facebook

“The horse doesn’t know it was part of a protest,” the judge said. “The horse only knows how it was treated. And ... it appears that treatment was criminal.”

Hollingsworth’s protest began about 4:30 p.m. Monday as he galloped into the southbound lanes at 35th Street. Holding back traffic as police cars and motorcycles tailed him, he eventually exited at 95th Street.

The horse trotted at times, but was galloping for most of the ride, Deboni said. When the horse slowed down, most likely from exhaustion, Hollingsworth allegedly kicked and whipped it.

Hollingsworth, known for his civic activism, broadcast his protest on Facebook Live, saying “I shut down the Dan Ryan! Kids lives matter!”

But Deboni claimed that, in another video posted June 11, Hollingsworth said he would “ride his horse until it dies.”

The horse, in critical condition, continues to collapse during treatment, and is never expected to stabilize, Deboni said.

Chicago Animal Care and Control officials also said the horse was so battered, it would’ve died if it hadn’t been treated immediately.

“Euthanasia may be utilized for humane reasons due to the suffering the animal will likely endure for the rest of its life,” Deboni said.

Hollingsworth’s lawyer said his client’s protest was planned and that motorcycles were used to protect the horse from cars. Saddle sores are common for horses and not all riders believe horses need horseshoes on the pavement, the defense attorney argued.

Adam Hollingsworth
Adam Hollingsworth
Illinois State Police

Hollingsworth met with police earlier this month about the Dan Ryan protest, but his request was denied since authorities said it was dangerous and illegal, Illinois State Police said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office called Monday’s incident a “stunt” that endangered the horse and others. “There is a right way and a wrong way to call attention to issues of great importance and this stunt was decidedly the very wrong way,” the mayor’s office said.

Earlier this year, Lightfoot teamed up with Hollingsworth and his horse to promote the U.S. Census in South and West Side wards.

In addition to animal cruelty — a felony — Hollingsworth has also been charged with several misdemeanors: reckless conduct, disobeying a police officer, obstructing traffic and criminal trespass to state supported property.

On Tuesday, Father Michael Pfleger and activist Ja’Mal Green called for authorities to drop charges against Hollingsworth. However, Pfleger did say, “If the horse was injured in any way, obviously, I don’t want that. I’m sorry about that.”

Referring to Hollingsworth’s determination to shine a light on violence against children, Green said, “I understand the animal rights activists, who say what they say about the horse, Nunu, being injured...but what I want you to understand is that human rights matter as well.”

Hollingsworth, who didn’t answer reporters’ questions after posting bond Wednesday, is expected back in court Sept. 30.

Adam Hollingsworth appears at a rally for Breonna Taylor Sept. 23, 2020, at Dunbar Park, 300 E. 31st St.
Adam Hollingsworth appears at a rally for Breonna Taylor Sept. 23, 2020, at Dunbar Park, 300 E. 31st St.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

He made a surprise appearance at a protest in Dunbar Park, 300 E. 31st St., Wednesday night, briefly addressing the crowd of several hundred gathered in response to the Breonna Taylor ruling earlier in the day.

“I’ve been gone for two days, locked up in the jail, alone...,” Hollingsworth said. “I know who we’re fighting for. Our lives matter. Twenty-seven years from now, who’s going to take care of us? I know we will. I can’t say too much, but I love everyone out here. Our voices need to be heard.”

Contributing: Ashlee Rezin Garcia, Ben Pope