Gone is the look of terror, and so too, the tufted, matted coat that once hung on the skinny frame of a quarter-million-dollar winning racehorse who was mere steps away from slaughter.
To look at him now, standing regally in his European-styled stall in Florida, Mascot looks more like a prized stallion than a charity case who, by chance, ran into his savior at the New Holland auction as time was running out.
Saved on Aug. 6 by A-Circuit rider Melissa Rudershausen, who just happened to walk past the lame, frightened animal as he snapped his ties and bolted toward her, the mangy animal who looked like a poster child for unwanted horses is now living the good life.
On Sept. 18, Rudershausen drove Mascot from Pennsylvania to her gorgeous, eight-stall barn in Ocala, Fla., where he has been recuperating.
Filled out after a month of eating 60 pounds of hay a day, his once-tattered coat shines in good health, as he walks in dappled sunlight and with confidence, toward his new life.
Awaiting him after the two-day trip was a stall so fine it looks like nothing less than the accommodations of a top Thoroughbred-breeding farm.
No “jail cell” rails for this guy. His new home features a European-styled front with curved iron railings that allow him to freely stick his head out of his Race name: Mascot
Sire: Five Star Day
Dam: Bunny Club, by Slew o’ Gold
Foal date: Feb. 10, 2003
Earnings: $241,901stall. And opposite of his refined doorway with brass accents is a quaint, arched window through which he can poke his head to gander the outside world.
“I’m such a fan of horses being able to stick their heads out of their stalls,” Rudershausen says. “And, it’s so much cooler because all the openness allows a breeze to blow through the whole barn.”
Rudershausen designed her “dream barn” with the goal of making the comfort of the horse central to her operation, the Double Rock Thoroughbred Rescue.
And a horse like Mascot, who earned a quarter-million dollars on the track before being dumped at New Holland, lame, and thin and most likely destined for slaughter, deserves the best.
To show just how much he agrees with her assessment, Mascot arrived at the stable like a rock star. Prancing and whinnying a challenge to the other stallion at the farm, he has been kicking up his heals and romping with the best of them.
“When we first got him, and he was at my mother’s farm, he was dead quiet,” Rudershausen says. “But since he got to Ocala, he’s decided he’s feeling better, and that he’s a stallion.
“We had quite a time getting him in and out of the paddock the other night because he was challenging another stallion, and letting him know that he’s the dominant one.”
Mascot should feel good.
He has been fed high quantities of good hay mixed with alfalfa since he was rescued Aug. 6. And has regained weight easily.
And while several abscesses in his right, front hoof, have required a “medical plate” that seals off his frog, the treatments he has received seem to be doing the trick.
“He’s 95 percent sound now,” she says. “I have a farrier coming on Monday to check him.”
Once Mascot is 100 percent, Rudershausen will slowly start him under saddle.
So far, Mascot has shown to be one resilient horse.
He was in “horrific shape” and scared the day she encountered him at the New Holland auction. Frightened and weary of being kicked by other horses tethered too close to him, he broke free just as she passed by.
“He ran right to me and I caught him,” Rudershausen says in an earlier interview with OffTrackThoroughbreds.com.
Later in the day, when he was run through the auction, nobody, not even the meat buyers, was interested in Mascot. He was too sickly looking, even for meat buyers.
But Rudershausen saw a brave expression and the look of eagles beneath the rough exterior, and so, she snapped him up.
So many horses are not as lucky as Mascot. The unlucky ones go from the feed lots to livestock trucks, often crammed into overcrowded vans with other terrified horses, and, deprived of food and water, they ride for hours of even days to meet their death in Canadian or Mexican processing plants.
Rudershausen can’t help them all. But, one at a time, she hopes to save the life of horses like Mascot as she turns her bucolic farm in Florida into the very best kind of safe house.
“I know, realistically, that I cannot help all the Thoroughbreds in need,” Rudershausen says. “But watching Mascot, along with all my other rescues, blossom into successful sport horses after surviving the slaughter pipeline inspires me to continue to help as many as I can.
“Personally, it is so important to prove to people that the Thoroughbreds that end up at these slaughter auctions are not useless and with a second chance they can become wonderful horses.”