A band of heavily pregnant Thoroughbred mares, including a badly crippled horse whose future is uncertain, was rescued from the New Holland Auction Feb. 29.
Four pregnant mares, most due to foal this month, and a fifth who is not pregnant, were rescued by Gerda’s Animal Aid, Inc. of Vermont, with the help of numerous charities and individuals who stepped up to offer foster farms and financial support, says Gerda Silver, of the Vermont-based nonprofit.
Working frantically for two days, Silver and other Thoroughbred advocates were able to join forces to buy back three horses who had already been purchased by meat buyers, and successfully outbid meat buyers on the others, Silver says.
The Thoroughbreds, who came through the auction with paperwork, were identified by Silver as: Murphy’s Code, 15; Lilly and Ice, 21, Stratacaster, 19, (not in foal); Open Zipper, 10, badly crippled; Lovely Ness, 7.
All horses have been checked by a veterinarian, who predicts that many of the mares could give birth any day. Open Zipper is expected to foal a little later, and will face complications due to disfigured, injured legs, which prevent her from easily lying down, Silver says.
As Silver and associates wait to see what comes next for the horses, the animals are being well cared for by foster and quarantine farms, she says. Murphy’s Code has already been adopted by a Virginia woman. Murphy’s Code has already been adopted by a Virginia woman. Lilly and Ice is at a foster farm in Connecticut. Open Zipper and Stratacaster are with Thoroughbred advocate Kay O’Hanlon Myruski, and Lovely Ness is with horse lover Barb Devers.
Following a hectic two days spent trying to help the horses, Silver admits she is still appalled that horses in this state could be put in this position to begin with.
The longtime operator of the Vermont 501 (c) 3 says the thought that mares carrying full-term foals could be shipped to slaughter is “sickening.”
“How disgusting is this? It’s bad enough to have regular horses go through. But this is beyond comprehension,” she says. “I’ve been told the meat buyers will take anything, just as long as the mares don’t foal on the truck.”
Three mares had already been purchased by meat buyers, including Open Zipper, the crippled mare. In her case, the mare had already been transported two hours away from the auction by the time her whereabouts were discovered, Silver says.
Crediting her board member Barbara Coakley for tracking down the mare who fell through the cracks, Silver explains that it felt like she was on a “mission” to save her.
“I knew there was a crippled, older Thoroughbred, and when I found out she’d slipped through the cracks, I was crushed. I didn’t want any of them to be lost, for sure. But to lose one and have her possibly endure that kind of trip to Mexico was just too horrible. I had to find her,” Silver says. “Finally our board member Barbara called and found out that the kill buyer’s son had her. She called and asked him to please bring her back, and he said he would, but he wanted $700 for her because he’d have to drive her two hours to bring her back.
“For him to do this, I got to tell you, I was pretty impressed, and so grateful that I cried.”
Though the mare is in rough shape, and some have suggested she may need to be euthanized at some point after she gives birth, Silver says it is a relief to know that the pregnant mares will be able to deliver their foals in peace.
“I feel really proud that we were able to save them. But now we’re responsible for their lives, and we’re going to have babies on our hands, all who need to be trained and cared for,” she says. “The excitement and the stress of the auction is over. But it’s only the beginning. To me, what happened to these broodmares is absolutely shocking. I know they send horses to slaughter. But to send pregnant mares who have full-term babies in their bellies, is shocking. Nobody else bid on these mares except kill buyers.”
But, there were many kind-hearted souls who stepped up to help the mares when the time came.
Silver credits the following people for stepping forward to help save the pregnant mares: Barb Devers, who has Lovley Ness and another mare on her property; Kay O’Hanlon Myruski, who has Open Zipper and Stratacaster; Michelle Crawfard of Crawford Farms; Chuck Beam; John Murrell; Christine Mariani Egidio; and John Elmer.
In addition, Facebook followers of Gerda’s Animal Aid reached into their pockets to raise money to buy and ship the mares from New Holland, Silver says.