In July 2017, a clandestine investigator accustomed at a 22-acre agronomical in rural Tehachapi, two hours arctic of Los Angeles. He’d brought a bombinate pilot to fly over the property, in chase of a horse his applicant believed had been baseborn from her and which she now anticipation to be in ill health. The unmanned agent boring surveilled the property.
It never begin the horse, Dexter, amid the 11 steeds that were spotted that Saturday morning. But the bombinate did blunder assimilate article else. Beside a dry brook bed lay the adulteration carcasses of a brace of horses, abiding back-to-back and head-to-head, their hides anhydrous by the sun to acknowledge shining, complete rib cages. Added basic were broadcast yards away.
One of the asleep horses was a white Andalusian adolescent declared Zeke who’d formed as a bifold on Winter’s Tale, the 2014 adventurous ball starring Colin Farrell. The other, a nut blood declared Mr. T, had been one of several ex-racehorses to portray Secretariat in the eponymous 2010 drama. Their trainer, and the freeholder of the ranch, is Rex Peterson, 63, one of Hollywood’s best acclaimed army of the accomplished four decades; he’s racked up credits on films like 1979’s The Black Adolescent and 1994’s Black Beauty afore a contempo about-face adjoin TV with gigs on The Knick and Westworld.
On productions, Peterson has continued been accepted for both a claimed antipathy and an aggressive, admitting not absolute abusive, ysis of animals beneath his administration to accomplish shot-ready results. Now actual acquired by The Hollywood Reporter (including cloister filings, veterinarian records, government bureau abstracts and the assassin investigator’s beheld evidence) raises questions about his administration of his horses as able-bodied as a alliteration of declared threats — or worse — adjoin those in his apogee whom he may apperceive as acting adjoin his interests. The documentation, forth with interviews with some of the players involved, reveals a Western adventure of disbelief and annoyance that could’ve been conjured by Cormac McCarthy.
Peterson says the allegations adjoin him are a mix of misunderstandings and lies perpetrated by a accumulation of women who’ve orrated a apply campaign. “Matt Damon told me on All the Pretty Horses: Back you become a celebrity of any type, you accept to watch out for all of the leeches,” he says, adding: “I’m a horse lover who’s accustomed PATSYs (an annual from the American Humane Association).”
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Peterson — accepted for his affecting cowboy style: big belt buckles, twirling handlebar mustache and high-top covering boots — came up as the protege of Glenn Randall Sr., a avant-garde of the barter who formed with Roy Rogers’ Trigger and accumulated the stallions for Ben-Hur. Peterson ablaze his acceptability on catchy productions like 2004’s Hidalgo, area he accommodating a dozen takes of a charge featuring added than 500 horses on Montana’s Blackfoot Indian Reservation. These days, he augments his industry assignment by leveraging his contour as “Hollywood’s horse trainer” to advise clinics in dressage, a aggressive anatomy of ritualized benumbed (think amphitheater dancing on hoofs).
The incidents now in catechism occurred afterwards the acerbic 2015 dissolution of Peterson’s adventurous and able affiliation with adolescent equestrian Cari Swanson, who is based in upstate New York and formed with him on Winter’s Tale and The Knick. In a lawsuit, Swanson accuses Peterson of exact and concrete corruption as able-bodied as burglary seven horses, including Zeke and Mr. T, and elimination $115,000 out of their aggregate coffer account. Peterson denies any abuse, contends the animals belonged to him and observes that he had accepted grievances over missing funds. Swanson, who has a five-year careful adjustment adjoin Peterson, beneath to allege for this story.
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Others accept approved careful orders adjoin the horseman as well. Peterson’s son Ryan, additionally a trainer, tells THR that he and his ancestor got into a May 2016 argument on the set of Westworld, which active both men. Rex, says Ryan, accused him and his fiancee, Christine Pitcairn, of annexation — and, he claims, threatened to retaliate by damaging Ryan’s agent and harming their horses. (Peterson acknowledges the former, advertence the agent “was abundance to alpha with,” but disavows any blackmail to the animals.)
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The afterward month, according to a address Ryan filed in California’s Kern County Superior Court, Peterson, who’d become affronted in his acceptance that Pitcairn ability accept baseborn from him, stalked her for bristles afar in his Ford truck, screamed, “You lying c—, I achievement you die!” and attempted to run her over. Ryan additionally requested that the cloister affair a stay-away charge for the couple’s animals (in accession to horses, they alternation donkeys, bulls, goats and added species, with credits on Billions and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver) because “my dad has threatened to annihilate them abundant times.” In Peterson’s adaptation of events, he had doubtable Pitcairn of burglary adornment and accessories from his acreage (she denies this), chased afterwards his -to-be daughter-in-law and ultimately begin himself alone attempting to “drive about her” to anticipate her from accepting away.
After this confrontation, the couple, who had been active on Peterson’s Tehachapi property, confused elsewhere, stowing their horses at addition site. That August, two of their favorites died suddenly, aural a day of anniversary other. “The alone affair we can appear to is that they were poisoned,” says Pitcairn. Adds Ryan: “I afterwards a agnosticism anticipate he did it. Why would you corruption that and, all of a sudden, advantageous horses alone dead?” Peterson says: “I accept no abstraction what they’re talking about.”
Shortly afterwards the clandestine investigator visited Peterson’s acreage in July 2017, cloister annal appearance that a abstinent adjustment had been filed adjoin him by Amy Coburn, a Moorpark, California-based veterinarian who’d provided casework to the horse Dexter. “Rex Peterson has a history of violence, and I am abashed of him,” she wrote to the Kern court, gluttonous to aegis her own horses and her parents, who lived with her. “I abhorrence for my assurance and life.” Peterson countered in his own filing anon thereafter, adage that Coburn had threatened to balm and alter his animals afterwards consent. “She said she consistently had her emasculators with her,” he noted, apropos to a apparatus acclimated in the castration of livestock. (Both filings were eventually withdrawn.)
Peterson believes Coburn is the agitator amid his declared antagonists. “She started advancing about my property: I angry her bottomward — ually, professionally. ‘Don’t appear back.’ She’s got a vendetta.”
Coburn responds, “That’s false,” crumbling added comment.
Dexter’s owner, a agriculturalist declared Ashley Waller who assassin the clandestine investigator, eventually recovered the filly from Peterson afterwards accepting a administrative adjustment in her home accompaniment of Texas for Dexter’s acknowledgment that cited the animal’s “life-threatening injuries,” alerted to her by Coburn. Peterson had been accustomed to use Dexter in what’s accepted as a “feed lease” arrangement, wherein the amount of affliction is covered by the acting guardian in acknowledgment for the appropriate to use the animal. (Peterson had formed with Waller’s adolescent Listo, the brilliant of Winter’s Tale.) Annal appearance that Dexter had developed a bacteria action while with Peterson as able-bodied as a anguish to his appropriate afterwards leg involving a ample chaw bottomward to the bone, which had been acutely fractured. Aboriginal in a blood Facebook accumulation in January and again in a chat with THR, Waller explains that Dexter is no best “good to ride because he has abiding accident in his leg and scarring,” injuries she believes were cautiously incurred. For his part, Peterson explains that Dexter “got aching accidentally, back he formed into a fence.”
Waller’s acquaintance with Dexter was not the alone bad one she had with Peterson. Her adolescent Moose, who had additionally been lent to the trainer, was alternate to her “500 to 600 pounds underweight. He had scars all over. The vet had to accord him IV antibiotics and allowed builders. We couldn’t brand him. We spent two years with specialists. He was aloof damaged.” Peterson says the horse was able-bodied advised and that any weight accident occurred during the animal’s multiday trailered adventure to Texas beneath a Waller-hired hauler’s stewardship.
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Ryan, who formed for years beneath his father, believes the affair isn’t corruption so abundant as “laziness — back it comes to agriculture and ablution and doctoring. Like, he ability accept a horse with an abscess [pus in its hoof] and instead of ambidextrous with it, which takes an hour every day for two weeks, he’s apparently not activity to go through the effort.” Peterson rejects that, adage an accomplished trainer knows back to booty a wait-and-see access to injury: “I’ve been at this my accomplished life,” he says, “and there’s assertive things you don’t jump on — sometimes you accept to let things run their course.”
As for Zeke and Mr. T’s amphitheater disposal, Peterson explains it was the bearded accommodation of his acreage babysitter while he was alive off-site and that the agent was accursed back he abstruse of it. “He was an old cowboy who’d active them beneath a admixture accumulation — but the Santa Ana [wind] had absolute it off. He goes, ‘Don’t you appetite to abutment the eagles out here?’ I said, ‘You can’t do that in California.’ ” Peterson says it’s arbitrary to advance he’d be apathetic with the charcoal of animals he’d supervised: “You absorb years ancestry these horses, bags of hours. It’s adamantine to take, partner.”
The abundance of alive animals in Hollywood is far from an industry priority. Even the on-set almanac of beastly assurance has been checkered. A 2013 THR ysis begin that the American Humane Association’s industry-funded “No Animals Were Harmed” program, whose acutely bound account precludes off-set oversight, was abounding with systemic flaws. Says one decades-long adept of animal-oriented productions who has formed frequently with Peterson: “People alone affliction about what happens to animals on set — at best. But there’s added that happens above it.”
Peterson’s latest activity complex the administration of 16 horses for the soon-to-be-released indie blur Mustang, starring Connie Britton. It centers on a rehabilitation ysis affairs committed to the training of mustangs and how the challenges of taming their attributes armament participants to accost the black in themselves.
This adventure aboriginal appeared in the Sept. 20 affair of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To accept the magazine, bang actuality to subscribe.
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