On February 8, 2016, I attended a horse auction.
The whole way to the auction I talked with my mother about how, “I’m not going to pity the sick’n old ones.” But rather that I was looking for a project horse, because we don’t need something that’s going to cost us an arm and a leg to repair. When we arrived, my heart began racing.
I had heard the rumors, I had read about the FBI investigation on Another Chance 4 Horses, I heard about the cases of horrible abuse and neglect, but never once did I expect to walk in on what I did. The smell was overpowering, driving horses hitched, the auctioneer yelling out sickeningly absurd prices, and the hollers of horses and cattle.
I walked through the main aisle where the horses are tied to the wall. A very crowded, dirty, unsanitary way of mixing horses from all walks of life. Most seemed very unloved, very unkempt, some sick, lame, depressed, injured, and blind. I walked directly passed horses that had shown any signs of contagious disease, or extreme injuries. I walked outside of the barn where, yet more horses are tied to cattle panels, in segregated pens, or standing in a cattle chute. The horses outside were not any better looking than the ones inside. At least the horses inside tied to the wall had water, some hay, and maybe an owner at their side.
I walked towards a chute that had a rather large amount of horses crammed in it. They all had different tags then the horse’s around the auction house. Their tags read “USID” with a barcode below it. At first I asked myself what this may mean, then I realized that these horses were labeled with a death sentence. These USID’s are used by slaughterhouses to identify their livestock. These particular horses fates by the end of the auction, was to be loaded up in a overcrowded livestock trailer, and be shipped to Mexico or Canada. If they survived the grueling journey from the US, they would likely be inhumanely slaughtered for human consumption. The thought of this made me ill, and I had to walk away and find where my mom had gone.
As we wandered through the other parts of the auction house, I told her about the pen. She shook her head and told me that we both knew what we were going to see. I knew it too, but I just didn’t want to believe it.
As we were standing in the main aisle where the majority of the horses are kept, a large black mare flew back trying to avoid a bite from the paint beside her. She snapped her lead and she began trotting through the aisle. No one so much as bothered to tie the horse back on the wall, even though plenty of people watched it happen.
I walked up to the mare with my hand out, telling her "woah" and "be easy." She calmed down, and I walked her back to where she was originally tied. I tied her lead back to her halter, and stood there for a few minutes. I didn’t want that paint beside her to go after her again. I looked closely at this mare, beautiful soft doe eyes, tiny ears, petite and feminine face, and to top it all off, this solid black mare had one perfect front white sock. I looked closer at her face noticing what I thought was dirt, she smelled of something foul and awful. Dirt didn’t cover this mare's face. It was blood, and old blood, too. I moved her forelock to the side to see if she had a wound there, and did she ever. This gorgeous mare had a slash mark from the top of her poll, the whole way under her forelock.
I decided to look under her top lip, praying that she wasn’t a tattooed off the track Thoroughbred. I flipped her lip up, and there it was, her tattoo. This athlete who worked for greedy human beings, ended up getting terrible wounds and this is how we repay her hard work? This is how we treat our athletes? We owe them more than to be thrown out like yesterday's trash.
This poor mare, who was calm, sweet, and obviously low man on totem pole, looking the way she did, all because she was banged up a little bit, taken to this death trap of an auction. It’s not fair, none of this is fair. I thought we had athlete protection laws for our racing Thoroughbreds? I thought you weren’t allowed by law to send Thoroughbreds to auction? I just don’t get it. There are billions of words in the English language yet I can’t find one to describe how I feel about this. Saying I am angry is an understatement; saying that I am shocked doesn’t express anything. I wished for nothing but to load that mare in my trailer and take her home. But she was already purchased by someone. I started to grow ill when I tried to figure out who purchased her. I went to the office of the auction house to get some information, all they could tell me was that she was sold. I got angry, and ran back down to where the mare was.
She wasn’t tied to the wall anymore, and neither was the paint mare beside her. I panicked and ran outside hoping maybe they were being walked out. As I walked to the loading area, I saw a trailer pulling away; she was in it with that nasty paint mare and a few other auction horses. I cringed. I don’t want to get on my social media websites to see her picture come across my feed as a slaughter victim statistic, or part of the kill buyer owned programs. After my mom and I got home from the auction, I cried. I cried for that Thoroughbreds mare with the soft doe eyes. I cried for the horses with the USID’s. I cried for the horses that I couldn’t save.
I take this as a hard learned experience that this world is cold. We treat horses like livestock because they live in a barn. But let’s face it, we equestrians know they are far more than just a barnyard animal. They’re our salvation, our confidence, our sanity, and our companions. They’re horses, and we owe them more than just to be tossed away.