Girl gets broodmare out of kill pen; ‘I promised’

Emma, 11, walks with the broodmare she saved from auction last summer. “I promised her.” Photo by Kay O’Hanlon Myruski

Emma, 11, walks with the broodmare she saved from auction last summer. “I promised her.” Photo by Kay O’Hanlon Myruski

A lumpy-legged Thoroughbred broodmare escaped death in a Canadian slaughterhouse last summer after a young girl, who had befriended the animal in her last hours, pleaded with adults to spare her.

The deal had already been made; the old mare dubbed “Ruby” was set to ship to a Canadian slaughterhouse when the last human to touch the mare’s soft black-and-tan muzzle turned out to hold all the cards in the fate of this one horse.

“I call my daughter Emma my tiny, little horse whisperer,” says longtime horseman and rescue volunteer Kay O’Hanlon Myruski of Goshen, N.Y. “She’d honed in on this mare right from the beginning and they formed a fast connection. Emma sat in a hay manger all day feeding her hay by hand and kissing her. The mare was obviously a used-up broodmare who’d been thrown away.”

Tied with bailing twine to a long, oak feed manger, Ruby stood sweetly on severely cracked and malformed feet while frightened horses tethered nearby bit and kicked. Ribs showed against her big, broodmare belly, and yet the mare’s beauty still showed on her face and her gentle manner toward young Emma.

Ruby’s lip tattoo, which appears to be J21608, is not confirmed. The mare has not yet been identified. The owners are trying other letter and number combinations to determine her identity.

Ruby’s lip tattoo, which appears to be J21608, is not confirmed. The mare has not yet been identified. The owners are trying other letter and number combinations to determine her identity.

And Emma, 11, was delighted with her new friend as she promised her aid. “I told her I’d get her out of there, and that no matter what happened, she’d be safe,” Emma says, noting that she gravitated toward the broodmare, who stood at the end of the line of horses, not eating, and trying to back away from their frightened kicks and bites.

“I stood with her because I was kind of scared for her. Every time a horse kicked she tried to get away, but she couldn’t.”

Balancing her time between babysitting the mare and running back to check in with her mother, the frenzy of the sale took hold and suddenly Ruby was gone.

“I went back to find her and she wasn’t there,” Emma recalls. “So I looked around until I found her” in a known kill-buyer’s pen.

The sickening discovery sent Emma into a tailspin. Even though she’d seen horses saved and horses not saved, she couldn’t quite grasp that this beautiful black mare was beyond her reach.

The pair formed a fast bond in the auction house.

The pair formed a fast bond in the auction house.

“As soon as Emma found out she’d been sold to a kill buyer she started crying hysterically,” Myruski says. “So a friend of mine, who also volunteers at the auction, approached the kill buyer, who was luckily one of the ones who is very nice to us, and my friend explained that there was a little girl in tears who wanted the mare. He just kind of shook his head, and let us have her.”

Having no idea what the mare’s background was, what her tattooed lip revealed about her past identity, and even in spite of her injured leg and cracked feet, flattened with wear; they took her anyway. To their Goshen farm, where for four generations animals and humans have worked together in harmony.

“We’ve had horses in my family going way back. Our farm is in the trotter capital, and my father, Derek Horne, spent years campaigning in Ireland against the transport of live horses out of Cork, on boats, to slaughter. I think some of my father rubbed off on my daughter, who has been coming to the auction at Unadilla with me ever since I could strap her into a car seat.”

The love story has continued with Emma and Ruby. The mare has grown strong and her kind spirit is in tact. “She’s a lovely, lovely mare. A lot of broodmares can be rude and aggressive, but not this mare,” Myruski says. “She’s so good that we’re going to start training her under saddle in the spring. She’s such a beautiful mover and I’m hoping that Emma will able to use her as her equitation horse.”

But more important than equitation and horse shows is the good work that her daughter is learning at a young age.

“This child gets up at 3 a.m. to go to the auction with me,” Myruski says. “She’s the future of horse rescue.” — Originally published on March 6, 2015. Merry Christmas!

40 responses to “Girl gets broodmare out of kill pen; ‘I promised’”

  1. antoinette fischer

    I was doing a little research on horses, and found this wonderful true story. Reminds me a lot of “Black Beauty”. This lovely horse will spend her last years happy, safe, well cared for, and very loved. Makes me feel like crying with happiness for Emma and Ruby, and crying with sorrow for those who are not saved. When will all animals be treated with kindness and respect, and barbarism become a thing of the bygone past?

  2. Jeri Young

    God bless you, Emma! Ruby is more than worth it! She will live with you, one way or the other for the rest of your life. May you have many years together. So happy for both of you!

  3. Bill Thomas

    If Ruby is Bag O’ Glitter, her great, great grand sires on top were Bold Ruler and In Reality. On bottom her GGG sire was Round Table and her GGG dam Moccasin. All giants of racings past. Regardless of who Ruby really is, the savior and the saved make a good looking pair. Well done, young Emma. Thank you, Susan.

  4. Lynne Jones

    Emma: God Bless You. May you and Ruby have many years of fun, love, and enjoyment together. Starting at such a young age, I hope one day we will see the end of this terrible happenings to so many lovely animals. I save what I can, but wish I had the monies to save them all from this end. I have a beautiful black as well as a dun with guilla (?) markings, and three others, plus a donkey I’m trying to get to trust me, and he has guilla (?) markings, as well. I love all of these animals and wish I could give them a lasting life of love and attention, but this has not meant to be. So, Emma, may you expand and continue the work of your mother and God Bless you both on saving those that you can. I wish I could meet you in person, as you are so special to this horse and I know many more to come. May God watch over you, Ruby, and your family in the years ahead and that you continue the wonderful work of saving these beautiful animals that killer buyers should be on that truck – not the horses.

  5. Carolyn McFann

    Great job, young lady! I hope you and your mare really have fun together. Thank you for saving her 🙂

  6. Freddi Smith

    Regardless of her history, she has a new life with a beautiful girl. Seems to me, that both had their wishes come true!! I am so happy for them both!!

  7. Cher

    If only owners would take responsibility for their horses, they wouldn’t end up in kill pens in the first place. Over breeding, lack of knowledge, lack of funds, not realizing the time and financial commitment, so many horses end up in kill pens. Then there’s the perfect owner for what, 5 to 10 years….loved the horse, but now that horse is lame, the kids off to college, the person gets old, and can’t care for the animal. What do they do? Haul to the nearest auction. What should they have done? They should have humanely put their horse down. That is the duty of every horse owner. If people did the humane alternative, the kill pens wouldn’t be so full. The cost is high, I know. I’ve had to do this twice, and believe me, mentally it was the hardest thing in the world I have ever had to do. I promised my two geldings that after a lifetime of love and service to me, that I would never ever let them suffer. They didn’t. It was expensive. Depending on where you live a month or two of board. Isn’t your best friend deserving and loved enough to do the right thing? Ending kill pens is up to us, the original

  8. MS

    There should be no such thing as “KILL PENS” — HOLDING HORSES FOR SLAUGHTER — our government seems to be behind this (the BLM) — healthy and treatable horses should NEVER be killed — either they roam freely on public land OR they’re adopted by horse lovers and living on private land — WE CAN CREATE HORSE SANCTUARIES FOR HORSES WHO ARE SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN. The mindless, cruel, idiot-monsters who came up with this idea of murdering our horses should be voted out, and fined severely — this horrific plan is needless, immoral, callous, sadistic, hateful, irrational, merciless, insane, brainless — what kind of society would allow such monsters to make such important “life” decisions! LET’S SAVE OUR HORSES!

    1. April


  9. Jenny

    So touching! If I had a farm I would be doing the same. The horse made civilization possible. They should not be on the dinner plate.

  10. empirearab

    J is 2006. If it is indeed Bag O’ Gliiter, she is by Texas Glitter out of Honey’s Money, by Bag. Texas Glitter was a multiple graded stakes winner of $826,077 and ran with some of the best sprinters in the country from 1999-2002. Bag O Glitter ran 3 times, winning her last, a $12,500 claiming race. She ran all 3 times at Lousiana Downs in 2010. She earned $7,890. She has no reported offspring.

  11. MJ Wilson

    Thank you Emma and her mom! Go Emma and Ruby!

  12. Kim

    It may be J2160B. I’ve posted this story to a couple friends who may be able to help.

    1. lexi63

      it is only 1 letter – the letter is the year they where born , she is a 2006 ( J ) , all the others are numbers they have to contact the jockey club , here is the link , for help to identify a difficult tattoo – Need help with a difficult tattoo? Click here to complete and submit a Tattoo Research Form to Registration Services. Please allow 3-5 days for research and processing. CLICK HERE –

  13. Bobbi

    Your story touched me. The animals know…and so do the children. We had the same thing happen to us in Oct. of this year. Look up Airica and Frozen on Facebook. Its my little girl and her save….a white donkey. If u scroll back to Oct 19 her story starts with pics and video. It sounds so similar to your story.

  14. Deborah Backlund Rourke

    A happy ending finally from a kill pen. Oh, if only we all that love horses could do this. Thank -You!!!!

  15. Kathy

    She may be Bag O’Glitter, a 2006 bay mare out of Honey’s Money. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Does it seem to fit?

    1. Kim

      I believe that’s who she is ???? Emma, you have a winning race mare you rescued! I know you’ll be buddies for a long time ???????? God bless you and Bag O’ Glitter!!

  16. Judith Ochs

    Emma found the true Christmas…

  17. Patricia

    Like to know about buying horses off the adopt so they won’t be in the slaughter… Thanks

  18. Karen Kusey

    Here is a guess on your mare.

    Cadallac Doll Letter O 21605 out of Cadallac Plus

    Year 2011

    I will check some more. Karen Kusey

    1. Kim

      That would only make her coming five. It sounds like this girl is much older

  19. Deborah Jasper

    Is there any update on this mare tattoo and who she was before this great life she has now?

  20. Sónia graça

    Beautiful girl. Save all you can, girl, you have a big heart. And this mare know.Love you Emma.

  21. Bernadean britt


  22. Harriet Helisek

    beautiful…it shows human compassion starts early! love the connection between horse & child!

  23. lizofsparta

    Why are horses still being slaughtered. Is the money really needed when these horses are terrorized. They are intelligent animals and have served man for centuries. They suffer from fear knowing something is very very wrong. Hormone replacement treatment, Primaren (sp) is made from pregnant horses urine. Then, the mare and her foal are sent to slaughter. Come on people. We can be better stewards. Thank you Emma. Stop rounding up horses too and then sending to slaughter. One man paid $10 a piece at an action. Then made thousands sending them to slaughter. Disgusting.

    1. lexi63

      YOUR SO RIGHT Liz , this is a horrifying & growing problem here in the U.S people would rather take the few hundred dollars or nothing to “get rid of their responsibility” then pay the few hundred to put the animal down in its own home to END THE SUFFERING . who ever thinks when they ‘get rid of their horse’ that it will find a decent home, its chances are about 1 in 100, the same as a dog or cat being brought to a shelter . the animal dumping problem has grown immensely the last 10 years to where we are sending THOUSANDS of horses every month across the borders, most of these terrifying deaths are because of “professional” breeders (same as with dogs at shelters- 50% are pure breds now) & cats the problem is mostly people being irresponsible & not spaying & neutering their animals who are just kitten producing machines . I recently moved to N.Carolina here the problem with small animals horrifying , there are mills in everyone’s back yard , dogs living their entire lives in rabbit cages being abused , the problem is the people are not educated ,they think their “problem”, their horses or pets will find another home, Chances are they will NOT, people need to take responsibility & put their animals down before the weeks of suffering turn into months of suffering then they end up in the slaughter truck for a grotesque & brutal end in a foreign slaughterhouse. On the same note, people should also think about what THEY are putting on their plates as “MEALS” Animals are NOT ‘meals”, the species does not make a difference when that animal is forced to suffer -here is an educational film that everyone should watch & hopefully pass on, so we can make better food choices that will end the suffering for all the innocent

  24. lexi63

    I am sure Ruby will make a perfect equitation horse , Thank You Emma for saving her . can’t wait to hear the updates .

  25. Susan Ketterling

    Thank you Kay and Emma!

  26. Marge Cullen

    What a wonderful daughter you have. I thank Emma for saving her. These things break my heart. We don’t send our grandparents to slaughter when they are tired and just need to spend time grazing and taking it easy.

  27. Jordan

    I have a rescued ottb too. I used to work with racehorses and we just found each other both broken and we truly saved each other. is a great site but you can only look up by name not tattoo. I know the jockey club website has something or at least used to where you could search by tattoo number. But I believe you have to pay, but you could try calling and seeing if you can find somebody to try some different possibilities. There’s a woman who travels around to the slaughter sales and if she finds a tattooed thoroughbred she traces the tattoo to the last trainer and contacts them in hope they’ll get the horse back and find it a good home.

  28. thezekechronicles

    Sweet girl, sweet horse. Best wishes to both and thank you for saving Ruby.

  29. Mary Darden McLeod

    You go, Emma!! You and Ruby are both beautiful. Blessings to you both in 2016. xoxo, Mary in Boone

  30. carol

    What a great story! Merry Christmas to all who saved this beautiful girls life.Goes to show even young people can make such a big difference in animals life’s.

  31. tbdancer

    A wonderful post to repeat on this greatest of holiday mornings! Merry Christmas to all!

  32. Jeanne LaFontaine

    Beautiful. Rescue as many as you can, young Emma????????????

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