It was down to the dark gelding or the barren broodmare.
She could only take one.
Knowing that whoever she passed over would most likely meet a horrific end in the slaughterhouse, Beverly Strauss of MidAtlantic Horse Rescue agonized between the two horses at the New Holland auction on a hot July day in 2006.
In the end, and with a breaking heart, she chose the gelding.
Relatively young at age nine, the off-track Thoroughbred who previously raced under the Jockey Club name Pardner, a son of wining racehorse Deputy Minister, was squeezed onto a trailer heading for the safe haven at Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue in Pawling, N.Y.
And the memory of the other, the one left behind, would live on in the hearts of those who knew the story about a Monday at auction, when Strauss thought she was done pulling horses for Akindale, just as she saw the last two Thoroughbreds.
Lori Reed, a registered nurse and horse lover, knows the story well.
Sire: Deputy Minister
Dam: L’lle Tudy
Foal date: Feb.17, 1998
Earnings: $95,581Three months after Pardner was pulled from the auction, she adopted the beautiful dark horse she renamed Wilson, and she rarely lets two months go by without thinking about how thin was the margin between life and death.
“I think about how Bev felt and what she had to do to make a choice between the two,” she says, noting that she re-reads a discussion forum in the Chronicle of the Horse in which Strauss details the day she saved Wilson. “We don’t know for sure what happened to the mare, but I promise to always give Wilson the best life ever, in her memory.”
But his is not the story of dark thoughts and sadness now.
To the contrary: Since Reed adopted Wilson seven years ago, Wilson has brought great joy. Their bond helped mend the sadness she felt at losing her first horse to a freak barn accident the year before—her mare suffered fatal injuries after rearing up and flipping over.
All of her experiences with Wilson, from learning natural horsemanship techniques to discovering the strangest feeds to benefit his glossy coat, have comprised “the many journeys he has sent me on,” she says, noting that coconut meal has brought sheen to Wilson’s coat like nothing else.
She admits he has had some issues. At the beginning, he had a nervous habit of sticking his tongue out the side of his mouth and rotating it. “As soon as I’d walk out of the tack room with the saddle, he’d stick out his tongue. So I started to put his saddle on and hand graze him instead of ride him,” she says, explaining that over time, he conquered this nervous habit.
Seeking to make him as comfortable and happy as possible, the pair availed themselves of natural horsemanship clinics, where she learned to ride him bitless and eventually prepped him for a three-day Eventing clinic.
One of her happiest moments was riding all three elements of a three-day Event, and having him so responsive and yielding. “He never refused a jump!”
Although a subsequent veterinary exam revealed Wilson’s ankle was not stable enough to withstand the rigors of continued jumping, Reed is just pleased to have found the personal courage to try it once, and to have such a good horse to go through life with.
“My life is very good, I never had any big tragedies, thank God,” Reed says. “So his story really touched me, because he was so close to being slaughtered.
“I still read that thread from Beverly, and I think about how hard it was to have to make the choice between him and the other horse. And even though he isn’t sound for me to Event, I do dressage with him, and I love him. I feel like he and I are a team, Team Wilson, and I owe it to him to keep him happy.
“And I owe it to that mare Bev couldn’t pull.”