A crippled kill-pen horse who was heavily in foal when she was purchased by a meat buyer in February, driven two hours to a collection facility for slaughter-bound horses, and then miraculously saved, has been offered lifetime sanctuary in Massachusetts, along with her month-old filly.
Christina Sawelsky, a registered nurse and experienced caretaker of five OTTBs she has adopted over the years from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, stepped up to offer broodmare Open Zipper and her foal Faith a home, without hesitation.
“Just the fact that she was dumped at auction, heavily in foal, and barely made it out of the slaughter pipeline was amazing to me. It was like a movie. I followed the story about them on social media, and when I realized they’d be made available for adoption, I knew I had to help them,” says the Sharon, Mass. horseman. “The fact that she slipped through the cracks after doing so much, and then spent time as a broodmare, inspired me to offer them a soft place to land. And to give the filly a place to grow; she’ll never leave us.”
Open Zipper was among a band of four heavily pregnant mares saved in a multi-prong rescue effort Feb. 29. The rescue, led by Gerda’s Animal Aid of Vermont and supported by numerous individuals and charities, removed four heavily pregnant mares and a fifth who was not in foal, and brought them to safety.
Though all the mares were special, Zipper’s story was nearly miraculous, recalls Gerda Silver, who spearheaded the entire effort. Zipper was in the worst shape of them all, and dropped deeper into the black hole of the slaughter pipeline than any of them.
After Silver managed to trace Zipper to a holding facility about two hours from the Pennsylvania livestock auction, and then convince the meat buyer’s son to turn around and bring the horse back so she could be purchased the animal, the appearance of a perfect adoption home made Silver’s heart soar.
“I never expected to find a situation like what Christina is offering her. This is something so wonderful I can’t imagine how it even happened. It’s like a miracle,” Silver says.
Kay O’Hanlon Myruski, a horse rescuer in Goshen, N.Y. who has been caring for Zipper and Faith since they were saved, agrees.
“This home is so perfect for Zipper and her foal,” Myruski says. “Christina will find that Zipper will be a very easy keeping mare. And even though she has physical difficulties, she has learned to accommodate her bad leg and gait, and is a great mother to her foal.”
She adds, “Open Zipper is a such a high-class mare. You can look at her and see the stamp of old-world European Thoroughbred on her. And her filly is going to be absolutely stunning. She’s nicely bred, with good conformation, and she’s just a pretty, pretty filly.”
Both mare and foal have received clearance from a veterinarian for travel. The plan is to wait for mild weather before Sawelsky hitches up her trailer to personally retrieve them.
When she hauls them into Massachusetts, Sawelsky and her daughter Elisabeth, who is also a nurse, plan to make Zipper and Faith the centerpiece of a horse sanctuary they are beginning to create. They plan to found a sanctuary for Thoroughbreds, which serves adults and children with disabilities.
In her years spent working with human patients, and with Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation adoptee Sing Me Back Home, who she nursed through many illnesses before his death, Sawelsky plans to welcome the mother and foal into the barn with TRF adoptees Private Relations and Quantity. (Please see an earlier story about Sawelsky’s TRF horses here: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2016/01/29/in-tribute-to-her-warhorse-2-others-find-a-home/).
“My daughter and I both love horses. And it’s been a dream of ours to combine our passion of helping people—we’re both nurses, and our love of horses,” Sawelsky says. “We’ve always been drawn to the underdogs and the misunderstood. I think that’s where my love for off-track Thoroughbreds comes from. And kids with disabilities are so often overlooked in their life. I hope to create a sanctuary where kids and horses can find some peace and happiness in each other’s company. And Zipper is the perfect horse for this.”