Unremarkable as the coat of fur he wore like a brown paper wrapper, the plain bay Thoroughbred passed unnoticed and unremarked upon from the New Holland Auction to the hands of a meat buyer.
While he stood meekly in a Pennsylvania kill pen, awaiting transport to the slaughterhouse, someone who keeps an eye out for slaughter-bound racehorses noticed.
Working quickly for SunDew Saves Horses, an intermediary organization that connects horses purchased by meat buyers to rescue organizations, the woman gently put her hands on the horse’s soft, rubbery muzzle, and peeked underneath his lip. Revealed in an instant was the telltale blue serial number, a gateway to the horse’s identity.
Although the tattoo itself was unreadable, and could offer no name other than what the poor animal was being called at that moment—Hip Number 521, the fact that the number existed at all meant that at one time, this was a Thoroughbred racehorse. And a new deck of cards was soon dealt.
After a photograph of the sweet-faced gentleman with large, brown eyes was Tweeted and shared on Facebook, his plight caught the attention of Gerda Silver, a Vermont-based horse rescuer with a herd of 16.
“On this particular week, I had managed to raise several thousand dollars to rescue three horses, and by the time I saw this horse, I knew there was no way I could squeeze another penny out of my donors,” says Silver, operator of 501 (c) 3 nonprofit Gerda’s Animal Aid, Inc.
“But one of my volunteers told me she was haunted by No. 521, and I wanted to help him.”
Wracking her brain to figure out how to come up with the $1,000 necessary to first buy the horse back from the meat buyer, and pay to transport him from Pennsylvania to Vermont, she sifted through old letters and contact information of people who had helped her in the past.
When she came across paperwork connected with a rescue she had done a few years back, she remembered the kindly Texas businessman who had helped her rescue a Thoroughbred from Unadilla Auction.
John R. Murrell had been so helpful then, and so she picked up the phone and called him again.
“I thought that it couldn’t hurt. The worst he could do was reject the request,” she says.
After speaking with Murrell’s secretary, she learned that Murrell was on a flight somewhere, but that he would be apprised of her phone call.
Wasting no time, Murrell called her as soon as his plane landed, and agreed to pay the bail on the horse. And when no further funding was raised for shipment, he agreed to pay that too, she adds. All totaled, Murrell paid $992 to save the horse and get him on the road to safety.
Murrell, who frequently assists nonprofit rescues in their efforts, says his decision was easy. “I did it because he could not help himself,” Murrell says.
Once the animal arrives in Vermont, every effort will be made to read his tattoo through advanced technology, and finally learn the horse’s name and history, Silver says.
But, in the meantime, Murrell has given him a new name. He is henceforth known as Lone Star Lucky!
Says Silver, “This horse was really at death’s door, but the way the cards fell for Lone Star, I believe he was meant to be saved, even though the cards for stacked against him.”
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