Mysteries swirl, friends form over kill-pen horse

Jennifer Ferrell jumped into a bit of a mystery when she purchased her OTTB from a meat buyer's lot in January.

Jennifer Ferrell jumped into a bit of a mystery when she purchased her OTTB from a meat buyer’s lot in January.

After reading for years about the joys and rewards of rescuing kill-pen Thoroughbreds, Jennifer Ferrell jumped in with both feet this past January and landed deep in a mystery.

It began with the identity of the horse she rescued.

After spotting a picture of a shell-shocked looking chestnut Thoroughbred, shown in a well-known meat buyer’s Shippensburg, Penn. lot, Ferrell purchased the horse for $675 with the help of volunteer Thoroughbred advocate, Beth Walker.

Walker, a registered nurse and unpaid volunteer for the PA Kill Pen Network, had helped to identify and advertise the horse as 12-year-old mare C.A.T.K. Fly, a racehorse hailing from Washington.

Capwaynesglass
Barn name: Edward
Sire: Thunder Puddles
Dam: Capall Glass, by Ends Well
Foal date: May 5,1997
But soon after the underweight animal shipped to a quarantine barn to recuperate from Strangles and regain some lost weight, a horseman attending to the animal broke the news to Ferrell: this was no 12-year-old mare she’d just rescued.

“I’d been texting with Sarah Dean, the person who has the quarantine farm, and then one day I noticed the pronouns changed. She started referring to her as him. So I asked if we were talking about a gelding or a mare, and she said, ‘You have a gelding. I thought you knew.’ ”

Though the North Carolina equestrian didn’t care whether she had a male or female horse, she Dean began a quest to figure out who was the real “project horse” she had purchased.

Figuring a mismatch had occurred with the reading of the Thoroughbreds lip tattoo, which all Thoroughbred racehorses have been branded with, new photographs were taken, and opinions were sought from the most eagle-eyed lip-tattoo readers, she says.

A cloak of mystery surrounding the kill-pen Thoroughbred's identity until another effort was made to read his tattoo.

A cloak of mystery surrounding the kill-pen Thoroughbred’s identity until another effort was made to read his tattoo.

“Someone finally figured out that the first letter in the tattoo was an H and after that we found his number and description matched a 19-year-old gelding named Capwaynesglass,” she says.

Intrigued and curious as to how her new horse had wound up dangerously close to taking a trip to the slaughterhouse, Ferrell started some online sleuthing and uncovered the last known owner, who had the horse 11 years ago.

Knowing it was a long shot, Ferrell contacted Emily Day of Daybreak Stables, which was the last listed owner of record of the horse’s last race at Fair Hill, in May 2005.

“When I called Emily day, we had a wonderful conversation, but she and her husband were very concerned,” she says. “They vaguely remembered the horse, but they were very upset when I told them where he’d wound up because they take their ownership and aftercare very seriously.”

Day was so dismayed by the news that she posted a long note on Daybreak Stable’s Facebook page detailing her concerns, the sleepless night she spent after hearing the news about the gelding she called Cap, and her personal commitment to try even harder to ensure racehorses have a safety net. (Please see her note here.)

This was one of the photos that Ferrell spotted on Facebook, which inspired her to step forward and buy her first kill-pen horse.

This was one of the photos that Ferrell spotted on Facebook, which inspired her to step forward and buy her first kill-pen horse.

“Cap’s route (to the meat buyer’s yard) is surely known by someone out there. But whether it will be known by us, I can’t say,” she states. “I will find out what I can. I will start keeping records on each horse that leaves here for a new life somewhere else. Even though that gives me little influence over what the new owners decide to do, at lease I will know what we did.”

Day’s farm owned Capwaynesglass for a few months after his last race in 2005, and though she reached out to past jockeys, his history, more than a decade later, had been forgotten.

But this next chapter of his life will be well documented, Ferrell says.

She purchased her OTTB for the explicit purpose of creating a chronicle of his journey, from kill pen to whatever their future holds. And she writes of the surprises and challenges in Project 2016, a blog about their journey.

“At the time I decided to rescue him, I thought that there’s so much suffering in the world, and that I have the funds and the time to devote to helping this horse,” she says. “Somebody else might have been really upset by the mix-up in identity, but I knew I was going to keep the horse no matter who he turned out to be.”

And Walker, who helped to identify the chestnut, says she’s just thrilled the horse is in good hands.

In the end, Edward has found a new life with his rescuer. And Ferrell has formed a friendship with the OTTB's past connections.

In the end, Edward has found a new life with his rescuer. And Ferrell has formed a friendship with the OTTB’s past connections.

The full-time nurse and unpaid volunteer says it was especially busy on the day that photos and descriptions were taken of Ferrell’s OTTB. “We only have a couple minutes with each horse, so we don’t have much time. I’ll be taking notes while someone else is taking pictures” in a last-ditch effort to save the horse from slaughter. Though she was certain she had documented the horse as a gelding, when the tattoo was read later on, it indicated the number of a female horse, she says.

So far, Ferrell says the journey with her new OTTB has provided plenty of material for her new blog. She and the horse’s last owners have become friends, and plan to visit each other. And Edward has emerged, after two bouts of Strangles, to be well worth all the fuss.

“Everything about this horse has been dramatic, from the mistaken gender to getting sick. And then on the truck ride here, the truck broke down,” she says. “But even with all of that, he’s the sweetest horse. I keep telling him he doesn’t have to be so forgiving. He’s been through a lot. But he is truly the sweetest horse.”

Jail sentence expected to buoy slaughter fight

Richard Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission, helped convict a Florida man to a 1-year jail term for animal cruelty this week.

Richard Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission, helped convict a Florida man to a 1-year jail term for animal cruelty this week. Couto spent six months gathering evidence to help bring the conviction.

An animal rights group seeking to shut down illegal horse slaughterhouses and other illegal butcheries received a shot in the arm this week when a Florida rancher, targeted in an undercover sting, was sentenced to a year in jail.

Following the sentencing of Jorge Luis Garcia, 48, of Ranchos Garcia Farm to a year behind bars without possibility of probation, animal-rights activist Richard “Kudo” Couto declared the sentence a “groundbreaking” decision, one that should help other prosecution efforts of illegal slaughterhouses.

“We’ve investigated 137 cases, but this is the first one involving the treatment of farm animals that has gone to trial,” says Couto, founder and president of the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM). Prior to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer’s sentencing of Garcia to 364 days in a county jail on Tuesday, the Animal Recovery Mission had yet to have one of its cases result in this stiff a sentence, Couto says.

Couto, right, speaks with the media following the conviction of Jose Garcia to a 1-year prison term for animal cruelty.

Couto, right, speaks with the media following the conviction of Jose Garcia to a 1-year prison term for animal cruelty. Couto reports the small courtroom in Palm Beach County was packed.

“This is the first time in the history of the state that … a person has been sentenced to prison for torturing animals,” Couto says, noting that Garcia was charged with two misdemeanor counts of torturing goats to death.

The sentencing came months after Couto and other ARM investigators investigated the 4-acre farm in Loxahatchee, which borders the fabled Wellington show grounds.

In October, local and national law enforcement agents who acted on the evidence amassed by Couto and ARM investigators shut down Rancho Garcia Farm in a large-scale sting. Rancho Garcia, along with the G.A. Paso Fino and Medina farms, was shut down, and arrests were made. Please see an earlier article: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/10/16/cuoto-illegal-butchers-killed-show-horses-too/.

Couto rescued his OTTB Freedom's Flight eight years ago while assisting the South Florida SPCA and Miami-Dade Police Dept. on a raid at an illegal butchery. Freedom's Flight was tethered to a tree, then next in line to die.

Couto rescued his OTTB Freedom’s Flight eight years ago while assisting the South Florida SPCA and Miami-Dade Police Dept. on a raid at an illegal butchery. Freedom’s Flight was tethered to a tree, then next in line to die.

Although Couto suspected horses were slaughtered on the farm, and law enforcement recovered horsemeat from farm freezers, no remains of horses were found. And this particular case centered on the treatment of livestock instead, he says.

Noting that he was both surprised and thrilled by the sentence, Couto says the decision establishes case law, which can be used going forward to prosecute other slaughterhouses. “We have several investigations going on right now, and when we conclude them, we’ll use this sentence to show prosecutors that cases against animals can result in jail time,” he says.

Couto is a retired real estate agent who devoted his life, beginning in 2008, to saving horses and investigating illegal slaughterhouses. While volunteering with the South Florida SPCA, Couto helped rescue off-track Thoroughbred Freedom’s Flight from the knife blade of a backyard butcher. The flashy chestnut was tethered tightly to a tree awaiting his death when he was rescued by the Miami-Dade Police. After that incident, Couto adopted the gelding and made it his mission to shut down slaughterhouses. Please see earlier story: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/04/08/liberated-from-illegal-butcher-a-horse-inspires-2/.

After documenting the activities taking place for years in backyard butchers and illegal slaughterhouses, Couto says the sentence this week renews his faith that slaughterhouses will eventually be shut down in Florida.

“Cases involving farm animals are usually overlooked,” Couto told the SunSentinel newspaper. “This is an extremely important case that will help us with our investigations moving forward.”

Q&A: She helps keep 900 TRF horses happy

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Herd Manager Sara Davenport transitioned from doing breed demonstrations and management for the Kentucky Horse Park to overseeing 900 Thoroughbred ex-racehorses.

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Herd Manager Sara Davenport transitioned from doing breed demonstrations and management for the Kentucky Horse Park to overseeing 900 Thoroughbred ex-racehorses.

A herd of 156 Thoroughbreds spots Sara Davenport as she pulls up to the Oklahoma land where they roam across sprawling fields.

On this particular day, the Rye grass is growing thick, and the watering ponds are nearly spilling over. And as the herd manager for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation approaches, they gather and turn like a flock of birds, sensing no need for her assistance on this day.

“These horses are so funny,” says Davenport. “If the grass had been getting a little thin, they’d see our trailers and coming running toward us because they know we’d be moving them to better grazing. They’ll literally come running and jump onto the trailers. But they did not want to come out of their fields yesterday. The grass was thick. The ponds were high. So we literally had to herd them and corral them.”

Last month, Davenport and six others spent a total of five hours examining every horse, laying their hands on their coats, checking their teeth, and picking up each hoof and flipping their lips to read their tattoos. Their work continued with the administration of wormers to the single, largest herd of ex-racehorses in the TRF’s national herd, which numbers near 900.

Since assuming the mantle of herd manager for the nation’s oldest and largest Thoroughbred retirement farm, Davenport crisscrosses the United States checking the Foundation’s 25 farms and horses twice a year. In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Davenport discusses her “dream job” keeping track of all those horses and all their wants and needs.

Q: Your life with horses has had a fairytale element to it.

Sara worked for the Kentucky Horse Park doing breed demonstrations before taking over the reins as the herd manager at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Sara worked for the Kentucky Horse Park doing breed demonstrations before taking over the reins as the herd manager at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Before I came to the TRF, I worked at the Breed’s Farm in the Kentucky Horse Park riding in costumes that represented the breed. One of the horses was an English Shire; a horse once rode by knights. So we dressed them in chainmail and carried swords and rode them to theatrical music while doing sword fights. I also rode Arabians in native costumes, covering my head with native garb. It was every horse girl’s dream job, and I loved it.

Q: How did the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation lure you away?

When the World Equestrian Games came to Lexington in 2010, I was working at the horse park helping to organize their Equine Village. We had clinics, horse shows, a petting zoo, and it was my job to help coordinate it. One of our vendors was the TRF. After the games were over, someone at the TRF approached me and said, ‘We need someone like you at the TRF.’

I started on MLK Day in 2011 as an office assistant and eventually became the herd manager.

Q: Hard work and horses were in your wheelhouse since you were a kid.

Today, Sara keeps a vast database on every Thoroughbred retired with the TRF. And she makes frequent trips to the 25 farms where they are kept. Pictured with William Cox of Wateree River Correctional Institution in South Carolina.

Today, Sara keeps a vast database on every Thoroughbred retired with the TRF. And she makes frequent trips to the 25 farms where they are kept. Pictured with William Cox of Wateree River Correctional Institution in South Carolina.

I grew up on a small Arabian horse farm in Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, Hodgenville, Ky. One of my strongest memories is of the chores I did. Every single morning my parents got up and fed the horses so I could get ready for school but then I came straight home and went right to work. I fed the horses, cleaned stalls, switched their turnout and made sure everything was in order.

My friends would always talk about what they were doing after school, but I never once asked my parents if they could do my chores so I could go out with my friends. It never felt like a burden. I was supposed to take care of theses horses, and that’s what I did.

Q: How do you manage 900 horses?

The most important thing I do, primarily, is keeping the inventory on all horses up to date. I know where they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. At any point I can track a horse on the TRF data base and see his status.

Sara loved the breed demo work she did at the Horse Park, but finds caring for 900 ex-racehorses even more fulfilling.

Sara loved the breed demo work she did at the Horse Park, but finds caring for 900 ex-racehorses even more fulfilling.

I visit every farm twice a year. We have 25 farms … and every time I go to a farm I photograph every horse and save its data. At any point someone can email me and ask if we have a particular horse, and I cannot only say yes, but I can provide the latest information on him.

One of my favorite farms to visit is the Rafter G Ranch in Tulsa. It’s so funny. Greg Goin, who oversees the farm with his wife Shellie, can just whistle for the herd and they come running toward him in a stampede. To them, he’s just a big, loud member of their herd.

When I started this work, I didn’t know how much it would mean to me. Or how much I’d care about the horses. But now that I’m knee-deep, I worry about them like they’re my own horses. If there’s a snowstorm in New York or a tornado somewhere, my first thought is for the horses, and hoping that they’re safe. In a way, they’re kind of like my own horses. You can ask me about any horse, and I can tell you where he is. They’re kind of like my horses now. And, I love them.

— The TRF supports its herd through donations. Anyone interested in making a small gift may do so by clicking this link: https://trf20546.thankyou4caring.org/Make-A-Gift, or by calling the office: (518) 226-0028.