Everywhere she looked was sick horses.
Noses running, they coughed as they stood shivering in the slop left behind by a Canadian winter rainstorm.
The gray, who raced under the name E.Z. Irish, stood gingerly on a broken pelvis, and Somarvelous, who’d previously earned more than $200,000 on the track, was huddled among them; a total of nine forgotten Thoroughbreds, some still wearing their racing plates, deposited on an Ontario feed lot last December, awaiting their final ride to slaughter.
Not knowing how she could rescue as many as that, Mindy Lovell whispered to the horses, “I’ll get you out of here.”
The seasoned Thoroughbred advocate, who for years has bargained with horsemeat buyers and begged for donations to purchase doomed horses back, was overwhelmed by the magnitude of taking so many horses, all at once.
“When I saw them standing there, some slick from just coming off the track, still wearing with their racing plates, and others like the broodmares, who are the life of the industry, and you look at them and know they have nowhere else to go, that there’s only one more destination for these horses, it’s so unfair,” Lovell says. “It was pretty miserable. I was just overwhelmed by the whole situation.”
But she didn’t give into it. She took action. How could she not?
She’d promised to get them out.
Hastily she wrote a plea on Facebook seeking $5,100 to pay the meat buyer for the animals, and from out of the woodwork, the money came. A variety of organizations and private individuals in the US and Canada contributed, and as the fundraising effort was getting down to the wire, well-known horseman Maggi Moss emailed to ask if she had enough money.
“I told her I still needed $1,010 to cover the bail and I don’t know if it was coincidence, but the next thing I knew, within minutes, a thousand dollars came in from Long Run Thoroughbred Retirement, the final thousand I needed to get them out of there.”
With no time to rejoice once the horses were paid for and shipping arranged, Lovell raced back to her overflowing horse farm to get ready.
Scrambling like field hospital personnel in a battlefield, she pulled all her horses out of the barn, cleaned the stalls, and prepared for the truck to arrive. “The driver called and said he’d be there in 45 minutes! To be honest, I didn’t know if I could pull it off,” she says.
Her driveway was still snow covered from an earlier storm, and a hay delivery appeared only moments before the rescues were due to arrive. At one point, as she tried to maneuver around the hay deliverer, in the slush, with her wheelbarrow, she noticed she had a flat tire. “I just completely lost it.”
But soon, the truck came rumbling up the road, the door was opened, and one after the other they hopped down from the trailer and were led into the freshly cleaned and barn.
“It was like bang-bang-bang,” she says. “And when they walked into the barn, it was like they’d lived there their entire lives. They were so hungry and thirsty that all they did was eat and drink. And they were so tired. Their heads hung low, and their eyes were half closed.”
As they rested, Lovell and a veterinarian appraised their condition, and fortunately, except for E.Z. Irish, whose broken pelvis would heal in time, the others suffered no worse than colds, cuts and tired bones.
Lovell was able to identify all but one horse through tattoos and markings by availing herself of Jockey Club assistance. Their names were E.Z. Irish, Somarvelous, Twinkle of Hope, Grette Jabo, Honor Card, Sneakin Sally, Krystal Scepter and Mia Chilena. These eight and the other represented the largest, single-day horse rescue she had ever attempted.
And since the returned from the land of unwanted horses, two have already found new homes, while E.Z. Irish has bloomed into a stunning, “full of herself” mare who may be introduced to some light training soon.
“I’ve been doing this work for five-and-half years, and I had never taken in so many in such a short period of time. I think I pulled around 50 out of those particular kill pens, when this kind of thing went on week after week for six or seven months straight,” she says. “I had to. I made sure not one single Thoroughbred got left behind, no matter who they were or what they had, or had not done—every one of them deserved better!”
Mindy Lovell is a woman of her word. And she did as she’d promised. She got them out.