Animal advocates vow to attend every hearing for CT horse trainer facing 20 counts of abuse and torture – Hartford Courant


A Portland horse trainer accused of taking her so-called “vaquero” style to an extreme and allegedly abusing multiple horses appeared in court in Middletown on Thursday, drawing a crowd of peaceful protesters to the courtroom to advocate for animal rights.

Alexis Wall of East Hampton faces at least 20 counts of cruelty to animals for her alleged torture of horses that she was charged with training at White Birch Farm in Portland.

Amy Rader Wimler employed Wall as a horse trainer at her farm on 239 Sand Hill Road, according to the warrant. According to the warrant, Rader Wimler described Wall as a “true vaquero” — cowboy or cattle driver in Spanish — whose methods required a specific training philosophy to understand.

According to a lengthy warrant for her arrest, Wall’s methods included tying horses up for hours on end without food or water, using an electric shock collar, hobbling their feet until they bled, tying them up so tightly that they panicked, foamed from the mouth. or collapsed and running horses into each other.

Zilla Cannamela, one of several advocates from Desmond’s Army, a volunteer group that wants to raise awareness about laws against animal abuse and speak up for animals who are hurt, protested outside Middletown Superior Court on Thursday. She sat in on Wall’s hearing and said that in her decades as a horse owner, she has never seen a properly trained trainer apply any of the torturous methods Wall is accused of carrying out.

Cannamela, who manages a barn with 18 horses and has two of her own, said she is familiar with the “vaquero” style Wall claims to subscribe to, but has never known it to involve torture.

“The manner of training when done properly does not involve torture, period. Any trainer worth their salt does not use a torture method,” she said Thursday.

“It’s an antiquated mindset of training. You think about cowboys in the Old West and they’re big animals, so you have to get a little rough, but you don’t beat them. You don’t tie them up,” she said. “They’re sentient beings, and horses are so incredibly sensitive … but they have a very long memory, and methods like this can be psychologically detrimental for the life of the animal.”

She said she read the warrant for Wall’s arrest and was most concerned about comments Wall allegedly made to horse owners, according to police, including: “No, she ain’t listening so I have to make it painful so she will listen,” and “Horses listen to pain, and the pain must be great enough to leave a lasting impression.”

Those comments go against everything Cannamela knows about horses, she said.

“As a horsewoman, I have never used pain as a motive for training or a motive to get a horse to do what I want. Horses are working to partner up with you. They’re fight or flight animals. When abused either they’re going to run or they’re going to stand and fight and they can become dangerous through no fault of their own,” she said.

The warrant details one incident in which a horse tried to bolt from trainers after being tied up and someone at the farm threw a rock at its head as it ran away, injuring it, according to the police.

That horse, Ocho, was owned by Patricia Reilly, one of several horse owners who reported abuse.

Reilly spoke with state animal control officers who said that under Wall’s care she saw multiple horses “subjected to cruel punishments such as withholding food and water, tying for long periods of time, excessive use of spurs and being ridden hard for long periods of time.” and that she noticed a change in her horse’s behavior under Wall’s training.

In one incident, Ocho was reportedly seen in respiratory distress, gasping for air and covered in sweat with a pinkish colored froth around his mouth, and his tongue appeared bluish/purple, according to the warrant.

Reilly told The Courant that she removed her horse Ocho from the farm, where she had boarded him since November 2021.

“Although I cannot speak for the others, I think they will agree that this was not a decision that any of us took lightly. It is hard to stand up and say this is not right. Inhumane treatment of animals is simply not OK,” she told The Courant.

“I as well as others saw a number of training practices that were really concerning. When there was no internal investigation done, these concerns were brought to the state’s attention. People saw, people spoke up and now we trust the justice system to take it from here.”

Others said they saw horses whipped excessively, in distress and panicking, having raspy breathing, collapsing and having their heads slammed into walls, according to investigators in Wall’s warrant.

According to the warrant, horse owners reported seeing physical evidence on their horses of harm allegedly at Wall’s hands, including some horses bleeding from the mouth or having golf ball-sized welts from the excessive use of spurs, the warrant said.

Animal Control Officer Tanya Wescovich, who has 20 years of personal experience training and caring for horses, wrote in the warrant that after observing Wall’s training, she was confident that animals were being abused.

“Acts of so-called training in which an animal is put in a position to cause pain, left in a position for an extended period of time which will cause undue strain to muscles/tendons, cause physical harm to the animal, or mental torture is inhumane and not accepted by any respectable equine organization and constitutes acts of animal cruelty,” she wrote in the warrant for Wall’s arrest.

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Wall is charged with two counts of overworking, two counts of failing to provide proper drink, seven counts of mutilating or cruelly beating or unjustifiably injuring an animal and nine counts of torture.

She is scheduled to appear in court next on Oct. 13 at 10 am in Middletown. Desmond’s Army members said they plan to peacefully protest at Wall’s next court appearance, too.

“We’ll be at every single one right straight through to the end,” said Cannamela.


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