As Mascot hobbled onto the trailer that would carry him far from meat buyers and slaughterhouses, to a safe, loving home, there were six more behind him, thin and forlorn, in danger of falling through the cracks.
Like him, they were scheduled to ship to the New Holland auction, according to Thoroughbred advocate Deborah Jones. The auction is often a last stop for horses before being sold to meat buyers or, if they’re lucky like Mascot, to a new owner.
This time, the horses were lucky.
Before they made it to the auction, Jones once again activated her vast network of horse rescuers, calling them on the phone, and posting messages on Facebook, pleading for help.
In a Facebook message to her friends, she wrote: “Extremely Urgent, New Holland Bound on Monday:” and then she listed the names of six horses expected to ship to auction, as Mascot had, a week earlier.
“After I learned six more horses were due to ship to New Holland, I put the horse’s names up on Facebook and warned that they’d be on the way to New Holland,” Jones says. “At first, I was a little disappointed with the response. I didn’t think people were responding quickly enough.”
But her Thoroughbred network came through for her again, like it had a week before, when successful ex-racehorse Mascot was rescued by A-Circuit rider Melissa Rudershausen.
The following six horses were spared from the auction house: Straitfromtheheart, Mi Minnaloushe, Alcatraz, Chromospere, River North and Verbetica.
Each clever name represented a life that hung in the balance. Some were in relative good health, maybe a little thin. One gelding, River North, suffered a significant ankle injury, that would prevent him from ever becoming a riding horse.
No matter what their condition, Thoroughbred people came out of the woodwork to dig deep and bail the horses out.
One horse Straitfromtheheart, was thought to be in training in West Virginia, according to his owner, horseman Jeff Gandelman.
When he got the shocking phone call from Jones, he reached out immediately to help the horse. He secured a new home for the friendly bay with Dianne Jeannont, the ex-racehorse’s favorite trainer. And he paid the expense to get the horse to her.
“Dianne went above and beyond. She has a small farm, and she took him,” Gandelman says. “Aside from being thin, he was OK.”
Some may dread a call like the one he got from Jones. Gandelman says he was grateful.
“She’s fantastic,” he says. “She’s got her heart in the right place, and I’m so thankful to have gotten the call.”
Straitfromtheheart’s new owner says she always loved this particular horse, and was glad to have him back.
“I don’t want any horse that I’ve had anything to do with to go to a bad situation,” she says. “He’s just a nice, old horse. He’s sound. He’s retired. And someday, he’ll be a lovely little hunter.”
Deb Dempsey, owner of Izzy’s Love Equine Rescue, took two additional horses after seeing Jones’ Facebook announcement.
Saying she has a soft spot for Thoroughbreds in need, she intended to take Mi Minnaloushe, a mare, but when she got to the farm and caught sight of the stallion Alcatraz, looking all the worse for wear, she couldn’t leave him.
“I was torn. I did not need a stallion at my barn, but I couldn’t leave a horse who had nowhere to go,” she says. “When I first started rescuing horses, I met people who only took horses they could re-home. If a horse was lame or had a problem, they’d leave them. I can’t do that. Those are the ones who really need us.”
Mary Lu Dolce Conti, a private Thoroughbred owner in Montgomery, N.Y., also took two.
She drove 10 hours, round trip, to pick up Verbetica, a sweet filly, and River North, a five-year-old with a badly injured ankle.
Like Dempsey, she saw Jones’ plea for help, and felt compelled to help.
“I’m a Thoroughbred lover and have 36 horses right now. Some are mine. Some are rescued,” she says. “If I hear a sob story, I can’t help but bring them in. If they’re sound, I retrain them and re-home them, and if they’re injured, I keep them as ornaments.”
But she does much more.
Dolce Conti took ownership of a significant breeding facility years ago, but refuses to breed horses until there are more options for unwanted horses.
“I’d rather claim a horse or take something that’s on the track than breed,” she says, noting that she races some of her horses, but that she never “dumps” them afterwards.
“My horses stay with me.”
Lastly, Chromospere, was sponsored by a farm that wishes to remain anonymous.
At the end of the week, Jones breathes easier knowing the six horses are safe.
And it’s thanks to those who answer her calls and are willing to step up to help.
“Jeff Gandelman did not hesitate to get Straitfromtheheart to safety,” she says, noting that some longtime supporters also donated funds to this effort.
Texas businessman and Thoroughbred owner John R. Murrell contributed funds to the effort, as did Andrea Pollack, co-owner of Mascot’s sire, Five Star Day.
And as another week begins, Jones barely has time to catch her breath before she gets a tip on another horse in crisis. And, as she reaches for her constantly ringing phone she wonders, and prays, that the good Thoroughbred people will still be be there to answer her own calls for help.