The horse ridden for 7.5 miles on the Dan Ryan Expressway during an impromptu protest Monday by a man known as the “Dreadhead Cowboy” would not have survived without immediate treatment and may still be euthanized, according to Cook County prosecutors, who said the treatment of the horse was the equivalent of forcing an 80-year-old woman run a full marathon.
Adam Hollingsworth, 33, was held on $25,000 bond during a court appearance Wednesday after he was charged with a felony count of aggravated cruelty to an animal, as well as misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct, trespassing and other traffic offenses. He must pay 10% of that amount, $2,500, to be released from jail.
Hollingsworth has also been dubbed the “Census Cowboy” for his work with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to boost census participation in Chicago. He said he rode the horse on the expressway during rush hour in support of the #KidsLivesMatter movement — an initiative that aims to raise awareness and motivate residents to fill out the census to help communities receive better funding.
But Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Deboni said the horse was ill-equipped for this ride and was run almost to death.
Hollingsworth allegedly rode the horse onto the Dan Ryan at the 35th Street feeder ramp at around 4:30 p.m. Deboni said the horse spent most of the ride galloping, but it did not have on proper shoes for the pavement, which caused bleeding and “extensive damage” to its health.
Law enforcement began trailing Hollingsworth on the expressway until the horse collapsed at around 9500 South Lafayette, Deboni said, adding that onlookers allegedly saw Hollingsworth kicking and whipping the horse to keep it galloping after it slowed down.
Hollingsworth was then stopped and taken into custody.
The horse was taken for observations by both the acting director of Chicago Animal Care & Control and another equine veterinarian. Deboni said both experts agreed the horse suffered “a great deal” due to its treatment, citing extreme dehydration, overheating and lacerations to its front legs that caused “profuse” bleeding.
“The horse’s eyes were dilated to the point they looked like cartoon eyes,” Deboni said.
Both experts said it would have been “virtually impossible” for anyone to not have realized the animal was injured and in distress, according to Deboni. The horse was given extensive medical treatment, but Deboni said it remains in critical condition and will never be able to be ridden again.
Euthanasia may be used for “humane reasons,” he said, “due to the suffering the animal will likely endure for the rest of its life.”
Hollingsworth is a known activist and pillar in the Chicago community, his defense attorney said Wednesday. She said he loves and cares for his horses, and disputed the facts as they were laid out by the prosecution.
In a video posted to Facebook, Hollingsworth could be seen riding down the expressway with a motorcycle escort and yelling “kids lives matter.”
“All imma say until we focus on Kids lives matter this gone keep happening,” he wrote on Facebook ahead of the ride.
Despite those intentions, Cook County Judge David Navarro said the horse itself couldn’t have known that it was being used as part of a protest.
“The horse only knows how it’s been treated,” he said. “And it would appear from (the prosecution’s proffer) that that treatment was criminal.”
CNN contributed to this report.