A good ending to a very sad story…
“It’s Sunday, the day that we attempt to step away from the war and spend a few moments reinvigorating our spirits while we clear our minds of the garbage that is collected while we battle to save America’s horses both wild and domestic…and the battle is real, heated and about to escalate to another level. So today we reflect upon a small skirmish that resulted in victory for one lone horse, a single soul, a blinking star in the equine universe. That’s how we do it, one at a time, a foal step here and another there but always forward and we don’t look back. The momentum is on and forward we will press. Please take a moment and relish in why we do what we do. In this war, any victory is a major accomplishment. Be Safe…” ~ R.T.
This is the face of horse slaughter. She’s a 4-year-old thoroughbred filly, a New York-bred. She was born on a beautiful farm in Westchester County. Her life on that farm would have been textbook perfect, it’s an outstanding facility, with a staff experienced in raising top-flight racehorses. Eventually, she was in training at Finger Lakes Race Track in Farmington, N.Y., but she never made a start. At the end of last year’s race meet, her owner asked her trainer to find her a home.
The filly was advertised online on the site where Finger Lakes’ trainers list their horses. She was offered at $500. Her trainer is unclear about whether or not he gave the filly away, or if he sold her. He can’t remember. He does remember a chaps-wearing woman with a British accent hopping on the filly for a walk around the backstretch and liking her enough to take her home; but she didn’t want the filly’s registration papers.
On May 25, the 4-year-old gray filly was at the D.R. Chambers & Sons, Inc. Friday night horse auction in Unadilla, N.Y. Horses might be sold to private individuals at Unadilla, but there is a good chance they will be purchased by, or for, a kill buyer with a contract to deliver live horseflesh to slaughterhouses in Canada. In late March 2012, another gray mare was sold for $35 to a guy up in the Lake George area who gets loads of horses together to ship to slaughter. (That mare was bailed from the dealer and is safe on an upstate New York horse sanctuary.)
Last Friday at Unadilla, one of the big guns of the kill-buyer coterie was on the grounds. He had his big rig, ready to take on and ship whatever horses he purchased.
This gray thoroughbred filly was spotted by a horse rescue affiliate at the sale, some calls were made, and the underground railroad for rescuing thoroughbreds at these kill sales was engaged. The filly was identified; her connections verified. There was no time to contact them because the sale was on. When the filly came into the sales ring, the big gun bid to $500, another bidder went to $525 and the kill buyer declined to bid further.
The winning bidder was bidding in proxy for one of the horse rescuers, the filly was safe, she would not go to slaughter in Canada. On her way out of the ring, the filly spooked and slipped into one of the cow gutters used to manage the manure from cattle. Her steel shoes on bare cement had no traction so she scrambled and flipped over. The filly cut and scraped herself up and got a puncture wound in her neck close to her ears.
According to the sales office, the filly did not have a Coggins blood test required for travel, so her blood was drawn. The Coggins test is for equine infectious anemia, formerly known as swamp fever because it is transmitted from horse to horse by insect bites. It does not infect humans. It would appear that the filly shipped to Unadilla without a Coggins, which is against the law.
The actual buyer of the filly was several hours away and would not be able to pick her up that night. The bidder made sure the filly was safely in a pen, with hay and water, for pick-up the next day. It’s not uncommon to leave a purchased horse at the stockyard overnight.
On Saturday, when the buyer showed up to take her home, there was no one at the stockyard. The filly had been moved, tied up in an aisle, wearing an unbreakable nylon halter, and without access to water during the hottest day of the year.
When the filly spied the buyer, she nickered and called out. When offered water, the filly dunked her muzzle and drank deeply. To keep her stomach from spasming with the surge of cool water draughts, the filly was rationed to sips every few minutes until her thirst was slaked. It took about half an hour. Upset and confused, the filly was reluctant to leave the dark barn to go out in the bright sunlight. Finally, she got on the trailer and was taken to the farm where she put her head down and started grazing at first opportunity.
The filly was immediately started on a course of antibiotics and pain-relieving medication. Two days later, she is stiff from the trauma, and some halter abrasions are beginning to appear from where she was improperly tied. Her head is very sore, and it’s difficult to put her halter on for treating her wounds. She’s thin in the way that horses are when they have a parasite load. She was not underfed and her feet are trimmed and shod. It doesn’t appear that she was shipped to the slaughter sale because of economic hardship.
In the meantime, while the filly was being picked up and settled in, her connections were sought. Within a day, her original owner-breeder was contacted and stepped up to cover her rescue expenses. Without a pause, one of the owner-breeder’s former farm managers offered a safe home to the filly.
With the legislative roadblocks to domestic horse slaughter removed, the horse-slaughter lobby is in overdrive scripting scenarios that always end up with the horses slaughtered – a win-win ending, unless you’re the horse. When the horse slaughter lobby massages their horse-slaughter-is-necessary rhetoric into the mainstream news media, it is always about how many “unwanted” horses are besieging the horse industry. It is about how there is no other way to “get rid of” sick, elderly or dangerous horses.
The filly that escaped horse slaughter is none of these. She is not sick; she is healthy and sound. She is not old and feeble; she is young and scopey. She is far from dangerous; according to her former trainer she is a “sweetheart.”
Who is this face of horse slaughter? Her name is Camp Nile. Campy for short.
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