Eddie, A Horse Story

In the horse rescue business, there is a euphemism for when a horse at auction is sold to a kill buyer, who gets dollars for pounds for transporting horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.  We call it “getting on the wrong trailer.” In the United States last year alone, over 100,000 horses climbed on that trailer, many of them after successful careers as racehorses, ranch horses, dressage horses, jumpers or just plain family pets.  The old and the infirm are particularly at risk, since a horse who cannot be ridden is an expense many owners cannot afford.  Often these horses are transported over long distances without food or water, to be further injured en route to meet a terrifying end.

On Saturday night, one such old horse showed up at Mike’s Auction in Mira Loma, California.  He didn’t have a name, just a number—hip #245.  He was blind in one eye due to an old injury, and his other eye was cloudy.  The buzz floating around was that he had been a trained dressage horse, but no one knew for sure.  All of the familiar Southern California rescues were there, as they are the second Saturday night of every month, steeling themselves for that inevitable point in the auction where they run out of money or space, and the elderly, the lame, the unbroken and unwanted run out of time.

The morning after the auction, Forgotten Horses Rescue posted on Facebook that it had been able to save five equines from slaughter, one of which sold for the astoundingly low price of $40.  A supporter wrote in, “What happened to hip #245?  A quiet retirement home or the wrong trailer?”  Trish Geltner, who runs Forgotten Horses replied, “Sadly we were out of funds by the time his number came up.”  Denise Tracy, who owns Tracy Acres, a sanctuary for retired and otherwise unadoptable horses up in Vacaville, had worried about him all night after seeing his picture on the auction list.  When she learned what happened, she wrote, “On my way to church, tears streaming down my face.” Denise has had some trauma in her own life, and has a soft spot for blind old horses.  She offered him a permanent forever home at her sanctuary, if he could be found and retrieved.

Trish sprang into action.   She located the horse, frightened and already bloodied and bruised from being thrown into a pen with younger stronger horses.  She put out a call to Forgotten Horses’ Facebook supporters and within minutes funds had been raised to pay his “bail,” to transport him to a temporary foster and obtain veterinary care, and to pay his way to Vacaville and Denise’s welcoming arms.  At the time that I am writing this, he is on his way north.

It turns out, this horse’s name is Eddie.  He is 24 years old, an Irish thoroughbred, and was indeed a dressage horse.  The woman who brought him to auction cried when she left him, saying that he was a good horse and that she had tried in vain to find him a retirement home when she could no longer keep him.  A kind hearted person is always an optimist—surely she hoped that someone, someone with means, would step up and save him from certain death in a Mexican slaughterhouse.  In the end, just in the nick of time, a small village of horse lovers reached into their pockets while Denise Tracy reached into her heart.

At Tracy Acres, one of Denise’s horses has a sign hanging outside her stall.  The sign says, “A True Love Story Never Ends.”  Eddie is going home, and the rest of us are the better for having made it happen.


  1. I support Forgotten Horses Rescue and follow them on Facebook. Thank you for shining a light on what they do. It’s heartbreaking to see the conditions of the horses, ponies, and donkeys at Mike’s Auction.

  2. Mary Ann,
    You have probably heard the moving words of Anatole France on this subject:
    “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

    How true.

  3. How we treat animals is an often sad reflection on our material society here in America. Just my own HO, but it is sad to see and think about. I now volunteer at an animal shelter in my retirement. They do a wonderful job of trying to find the right home for every single animal that comes in there. But it is still heart breaking to see. I walk by so many kennels when I am distributing things to see “Moving”, “Owner ill”, well, you can imagine all the “reasons”. It is painful to look at the ones that have known (hopefully) love and now are just bewildered, stressed and exhibit depressed behavioral traits. They deserve so much more.

  4. When I was the State Vet at a harness track that was considered the last place to compete before the meat market, people would moan about the fact that the horses that did poorly would go to auction and be slaughtered. But those in the know pointed out that there actually was a possible worse fate: the horses that were bought by the Amish were often used as though they were “junker-car” equivalents. Just because they weren’t killed didn’t necessarily mean that their lives might be better.

    1. Margaret, this would be considered by many a reason to bring back American slaughterhouses–at least there would be a chance of regulation and a humane death. The deaths that these horses face in Mexico, where many are bludgeoned to death (believe me, the bolt is humane by comparison), not to mention the transport conditions, are horrible. This is why the AVMA and the AQHA have lobbied to bring slaughter back to the US. Not saying I agree with that, but only that it’s a very complex issue. M

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