Once destined for slaughter, Grace flourishes

Grace, the very beautiful, very loved OTTB mare rescued from slaughter by equine book author Kim Gatto

Grace, the very beautiful, very loved OTTB mare rescued from slaughter by equine book author Kim Gatto

What saved the delicate mare from the slaughterhouse 14 years ago was a combination of little things, really.

First there was Kim Gatto’s ability to see past the Thoroughbred’s nicked, dull coat to envision her at her best; she saw a beauty beneath the shabby exterior of a horse who stood quietly with 30 others at the Pennsylvania auction house. “I could see that she was really pretty underneath,” Gatto recalls. “She was really petite and delicate.”

And the next small thing— the money that would determine who purchased the horse—came down to the price of an inexpensive lunch.

Ten dollars more was what Gatto bid when the mare was led into the auction ring.

“I bid against the meat buyer. He went to $450 and I bid $460,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it. I had tears in my eyes when it was over.”

She had gone to the auction on her riding coach Hilary Cohen’s advice to look for a younger horse for showing, one who would give her childhood mare Chutney some time off.

When she caught sight of Grace tethered with 30 other horses, she was a far cry from the beauty she would become. “I had never seen horses in such bad shape,” Gatto says. “Grace wasRace name: Confetti Crossing tied in a row of horses and she had no expression; she was thin, and there were cuts all over her.”

Race name: Confetti Crossing
New name: Grace
Sire: Festive
Dam: Nearcross
Foal date: March 27, 1995
And yet, the fine bones of good conformation were evident.

“The horse seller noticed I was looking at her, and got on and trotted her around. She was a really nice mover.”

When Gatto brought her home, the four-year-old was skittish, didn’t trust people, and had never eaten a carrot. Inside of a year, she was winning most of her classes in hunter/ jumper horse shows, eliciting praise from the most discriminating Warmblood owners.

Thinking back, she still can’t believe the slim margins at play on April 20, 1999, the day she went to the New Holland Auction and left with Grace, the Thoroughbred she now calls her “second horse of a lifetime.”

Her first was a Thoroughbred named Chutney. But when the mare died just shy of age 32, Gatto understood that the horse named after Grace Kelly was waiting in the wings.

“Grace was never really affectionate. She was more aloof. But when Chutney died, she suddenly became so affectionate,” Gatto says.

Having just returned from a business trip, she saw Grace in a backfield grazing with the herd. And she called to her. “She looked up and came galloping towards me. She stopped a few feet away and I went up and she let me hug her without moving away.”

All dappled and happy, Grace enjoys her field. Photo by Amanda Rains

All dappled and happy, Grace enjoys her field. Photo by Amanda Rains

That show of affection was one of the most rewarding moments in a story that began the day the Massachusetts equine author decided to take a chance on the ex-racehorse, and has continued to reward her since.

“When we started out, the biggest thing was trying to get her to trust. The first time the farrier came she trembled and reared; we had to get the vet to tranquilize her to do her shoes.”

Gradually, that all changed. By the next year she was winning local dressage shows, including the Charles River Dressage Show.

And Gatto does more than spread the word at local horseshows; she has authored several books and equine magazine articles about Thoroughbreds, and Grace’s story has been featured in horse publications as well.

Her books include Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, which deals with horse loss and other forms of separation, and she contributed a chapter to Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul on her first Thoroughbred, Chutney.

She has also written Churchill Downs: America’s Most Historic Racetrack, and is completing another volume on Saratoga.

The Franklin, Mass. editor and writer has always been enamored with Thoroughbreds. Each horse has a story and she counts herself fortunate to have known two great characters: Chutney and Grace.

“Chutney has been gone for nearly two years, and I still think of her every day. But my thoughts are no longer on what has been; instead, I look forward to spending each day with Grace.”

—Author’s note: This story was first published in October 2010.

14 responses to “Once destined for slaughter, Grace flourishes”

  1. Rosanne

    Kim, that was so heart warming…You are an angel…Do you still have Grace?

  2. Nancy George

    This is a great story with a happy ending….I have her book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge. My vet gave it to me when I lost one of mine and it was very comforting.
    Many happy future days to Kim and Grace!

  3. Lisa Neely

    What an uplifting story… Love this affirmation of a beautiful life, partnership and heart

  4. Delrene in Carlsbad, Ca.

    Beautiful story. So happy for Grace and Kim. We need more happy ending stories but thanks again for posting this one.

  5. José Guedes

    Kim Gatto is an angel God put on Earth!!

  6. Amy Bush

    I loved reading such a wonderful story! My wish is that all Thoroughbreds would end up just as Grace has. There is so much potential in these animals and people need to give them a chance, take them home, try to understand them, and recuperate from the lives they led on the track. Young horses, really babies, thrust into a fast paced life of hard work, and strain. They just need to find out that it isn’t all like that. Once they have had some time they are ready to go to work and have a close relationship with a human….they want it, and just need time. Some heal easier than others. Our world wants so much instant gratification and the best things come from time and understanding. Kim, your Grace sounds just like my Habit. He didn’t like his hooves trimmed, didn’t trust the farrier and was so aloof. He didn’t used to like affection….it took him quite a while. He is definitely an introvert…lol I am so happy that you and Grace found each other! 🙂

  7. Rosanne M. Frieri

    I agree with Barbara, it is time to put an END to this barbaric act of cruelty. Petition your Senators, encourage them to vote in favor of ending horse slaughter. The bill is S.541. This is a criminal act, these horses should not end up slaughter houses.. STOP them from being hauled outside the country. That god for Kim, you are an ANGEL. Now lets start working together to end this abuse!

  8. Barbara Griffith

    If you want to stop horses like Grace from ending up slaughtered go after your Senators. These are the very people that will not cosponsor S.541 that would put a stop to all US horses being slaughtered, stop them from being hauled outside the country for slaughter in other words this bill would pull the plug on the over breeding that is rampant in the US. This is where the truck loads of horses being slaughtered is coming from. Money is at the bottom of all of this cruelty.
    If these breeders didn’t have a easy way to discard the horses they didn’t want they wouldn’t breed as many. A living horse is worth much more than a hanging slab of meat.

  9. Hilary Cohen

    I remember the day very well in New Holland. You got a star that just needed some polishing. Well done Kim.

  10. Pamela Clark

    Such happy tears! God’s Blessings to you and all rescue efforts! What would this world be if not for angels on earth such as you!


    A most touching story of peripatetic, talented, author, Kim Gatto, and the two dear horses she has rescued, Chutney and now Grace. Warm congratulations to a very deserving lady on all fronts, literally!!!!

  12. Elvira

    Thank you for giving this wonderful horse a chance to show what she’s made of…strength, love and determination. God bless both of you!!! May you have a long life of friendship. Elvira

  13. Martha Foster

    Another wonderful story of a diamond in the rough! Thank you for sharing. So many out there could shine with a little polish.

  14. Suzie Birks

    I always fill up when I read these stories. There is hope for these beautiful creatures. God bless all who open their hearts to them.

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