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.