Group's cross-country trail ride suspended, horses seized in ETX

Published: Apr. 5, 2014 at 10:09 PM CDT
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LINDALE, TX (KLTV) - A group of horseback riders, who say they are traveling across the United States to promote American History and hospitality, are stuck in East Texas.     

A month ago, they came to Tyler.  The trail riders say a misunderstanding in Oklahoma ended with the horses being impounded and subsequently mistreated at a Muskogee towing yard. The yard is where Muskogee police take impounded cars.

When they received their horses back from the impound yard, the group brought their horses to Tyler to nurse their horses back to health.  Now, the trail riders have had their horses confiscated once again and their leader is facing animal cruelty charges.

"We need to know our neighbors and get back in touch with them and be friends," says Steven Hawke.

That's the basis of Hawke's message as he and a group of horseback riders set off on their seven year, 30,000 mile ride across America. Youtube videos show the group making stops in small towns across the country, but two years into the trip, they've run into trouble.

"We got to Muskogee and the horses were picked up and left for 11 days in a trailer and they got beat up. I brought them here so I could feed them better and treat them better and get them healed," explains Hawke.

Hawke says he brought the horses to East Texas in a trailer and was keeping them in a Lindale pasture when authorities got involved.

"They arrested me--- charging me with animal cruelty. It's mind-numbing to me," says Hawke.

The horses have been gone for a month. All that's left is some hay on the ground and some of their medicine. Lindale Police say they took the six horses into custody and are providing ongoing medical care while they investigate the alleged animal abuse.

Hawke and his fellow riders say abuse couldn't be further from the truth.

"I've seen how extraordinarily careful he is with these horses. First thing we'd do in the morning is go feed them. Then we'd worry about feeding us," says Alex Mayo.

Mayo, who has been on the ride since August, says they learned in a court hearing that their white horse, Zoe, is now dead. Lindale Police say they were awarded the horses in a seizure hearning in January. The police departments add that one of the horses did have to be euthanized by a veterinarian due to the pain and suffering the animal was enduring. Now Alex is worried about her own horse, Glory.

"Glory is my baby. I'm so protective of her," says Mayo.

The group says they don't know where their horses are or how they're doing, nor do they have the thousands of dollars it'll cost them to get the horses back. The Lindale Police Department says there could be more to the story, but right now they're not willing to elaborate because of an ongoing investigation. Steven Hawke, whose legal name is Gaylord Stevens, does have a criminal record, including a 1973 burglary conviction. He acknowledges that incident and says it has nothing to do with his care for these horses.

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