Big winner nearly dies on the way to slaughter

Press Exclusive earned $400,000 on the track and foaled 9 babies before she was a “downer horse” on slaughter truck.

Press Exclusive earned $400,000 on the track and foaled 9 babies before she was a “downer horse” on slaughter truck.

All that money, nearly a half million dollars worth of racetrack winnings, couldn’t help her as she thrashed in panic and fear.

Flailing beneath the hooves of 30 other terrified horses, last December in a tractor-trailer heading for a Canadian slaughterhouse, once-winning race mare Press Exclusive had lost her balance on the truck, and her place in the world.

No longer valuable as a racehorse or a broodmare — she gave birth to nine foals—she fell down among the legs and hooves of the other slaughter-bound horses, and was pummeled as she struggled beneath them, writhing in the shavings and manure.

Press Exclusive
Sire: Press Guard
Dam: Gosh
Foal date: May 5, 1996
Earnings: $436,810
“By the time she made it to Ottawa, where the kill buyer off-loaded her to do paperwork before proceeding to the slaughterhouse, a sale-barn vet wanted to kill her immediately because she was in such bad shape,” says Mindy Lovell, longtime Thoroughbred rescuer, owner of Spring Hill Farm and operator of Transitions Thoroughbred Program.

Covered from head to toe with deep cuts and abrasions, Press Exclusive sustained four fractured ribs and blows to the face that caused grotesque swelling.

Of all the horses Lovell has pulled from the junk heap of discarded horses, the mere mention of Press Exclusive brings her to tears.

Her eyes were swollen shut from blunt trauma sustained en route to the slaughterhouse.

Her eyes were swollen shut from blunt trauma sustained en route to the slaughterhouse.

“She made $436,000 on the track and produced nine foals, one after the other, as soon as she retired. The last foal that was weaned off her just ran through the Select Yearling Sale at Woodbine and sold for $16,000!” Lovell says. “With a horse like that, with high earnings and nine foals, Jesus, God, that’s not what she deserves at the end of the day.”

And so on a fateful day in December of 2012, as a veterinarian hovered near, insisting the sorry animal be euthanized on the spot, her poor condition making her unfit even for slaughter, Lovell and her personal horse-shipper intervened.

The veterinarian who manned the Ottawa holding facility where the truckload of slaughter horses had stopped and temporarily unloaded, agreed to send the mare on to Lovell, despite deep skepticism. Already labeled “condemned” for meat sale, the once flourishing horse wobbled on weak legs to a transport waiting to carry her off to Lovell’s Ottawa farm.

And when she arrived, a few days before Christmas, and Lovell saw her for the first time, fear clawed her heart.

“I’d seen a lot of emaciated horses before, but there was something really wrong here,” she recalls. “I asked my vet if it was necessary to euthanize her, and she said it was worth giving her a chance. She said the next 48 to 72 hours would tell us if she would make it. If she stopped eating, or she got down in the stall, it would be ‘game over.’ ”

Press now has a permanent sanctuary home where she is adored.

Press now has a permanent sanctuary home where she is adored.

Lovell had agreed to purchase the animal, sight unseen, after receiving word from her network of horse-rescue associates of the animal’s need. She’d raised the necessary funds to purchase the mare from the meat buyer, and when she finally saw the animal’s condition, she couldn’t give up. Not yet.

Even after Lovell’s veterinarian judged the mare’s body to be a 0 on a scale of 1-5, and the horse’s fate seemed hopeless, Lovell started in immediately trying to get proper nourishment and medication to the injured animal.

The mare was given antibiotics and Bute, and coaxed to keep eating, even when it seemed all hope was lost.

“The biggest worries I had with Press was her reluctance to eat,” she says. “So I started feeding her peppermints.”

The peppermints led to a healthy, fattening diet of hay, hay pellets, 18 pounds of daily grain, beet pulp and nutrients to aid digestion.

Gradually, signs of defeat were replaced with a reawakening of spunk.

Press arrives at her permanent sanctuary in upstate New York. She is pictured with Susan Wagner, founder of Equine Advocates.

Press arrives at her permanent sanctuary in upstate New York. She is pictured with Susan Wagner, founder of Equine Advocates.

“The day I walked into the barn in the morning and found her pawing for her breakfast, I was absolutely ecstatic, which is the opposite reaction I’d usually have to a horse pawing for feed,” Lovell says.

For months she kept vigil over the horse, and it took even longer before she was able to slow her hurried step to the barn to double check, one more time, on the fragile animal’s wellbeing.

By late winter, Press Exclusive was well enough to take a walk outdoors.

Her eyes were no longer swollen, and the cuts and other signs of trauma had also healed sufficiently for the mare to eagerly walk on the lead line, tentatively at first, and with increasing vigor.

“When I began to notice shavings on her coat, I knew she was able to lie down at night” and this reassured Lovell that she was out of the woods.

As she recovered, many fans and interested parties, shocked by the horse’s condition, had their eyes opened to the horrible fate that can befall a racehorse, she says.

Press enjoys the green, green grass of home.

Press enjoys the green, green grass of home.

Fans, as well as those who had been touched by the once great mare, opened their hearts and wallets to aid her recovery. An owner of one of her offspring even paid the “bail” money to make the initial purchase that rescued her from the slaughter pipeline and an executive at Purina paid for six months worth of feed, Lovell says.

“A lot of people came through to help Press,” she says. They included Susan Wagner, executive director of New York-based Thoroughbred charity Equine Advocates, who offered the biggest gift of all: sanctuary.

On Sept. 10, fully restored of her strength, her swagger, and her Alpha Mare personality, Press Exclusive was relocated to her permanent new home, where she won’t be asked to do anything except to enjoy a romp in green paddocks with other horses.

In a transfer facilitated by Marlene Murray of the Race Fund, Wagner and Lovell agreed that the best thing for the fine mare was R&R, with no possibility of being bred or sold.

“Everybody followed her story. I remember waiting for her to arrive, and we were all waiting to see what she looked like, and what her condition was. We’d never seen a picture until she arrived right before Christmas,” Lovell recalls. “It was so bad that I had to warn people that it wasn’t pretty. She actually fell when she stepped off the van for the first time.”

She adds, “People were so shocked. She was such a great horse, and my hope now is that if her story can help make a difference, and inspire people to find other options for their horses, then she’s done her job. Press Exclusive was not an isolated incident, so I hope she will help a lot of people think twice about where their horses are winding up.” — Originally published on Sept. 20, 2013.

*This blog is sponsored by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF, Inc.), the country’s oldest and largest retirement charity for ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds.

25 responses to “Big winner nearly dies on the way to slaughter”

  1. Laurie Waller

    I am both dismayed and touched. I should not be surprised that a “commodity” would be treated this way by people who have only monetary goals, but I am. A beautiful, innocent creature, any creature, any person, any living thing deserves respect as being a part of this universe. Made for a reason, created especially to bring something to the earth we live in. Not to be picked out, used, abused and then thrown away. I could cry, I can get angry but it won’t change things. I choose to sign petitions, make phone calls, send messages, whatever I can to counteract these things. I can especially, thank from the bottom of my heart the people who first hand assisted in the saving of this horse. This symbol of what is wrong in our world, this symbol of how things can be made right.

  2. An Nijenhuis

    people should stop breeding horses on the scale they do now…there are enough horses and breeding them means another horse dies….stop breeding stop killing

  3. Martin Breffit

    love and peace to all mankind including animals

  4. Susan Ifland

    This is why we all need to call and e-mail our representatives in state and Washington. The SAFE ACT needs to pass so this will never happen again. We can do it if we all try. NO MORE SLAUGHTER!!

  5. Lyn Bunyan

    I was saddened enraged and utterly shocked to see and read of such a magnificent mare simply being discarded like an empty coffee cup…shame on you !!! Press didn’t deserve that, but thank the Lord we have kind caring and truly devoted hire loving folk always there trying to pick up the pieces that others have shattered. Press looks amazing and I pray she forces on with good health and above all the love and kindness she so surely deserves. Thank you for saving her life. Lyn Xxxx UK

  6. bear Medicinewalker

    my soul weeps at the cruelness some humans are capable of. So quick to callously discard things that no longer serve their greed and materialistic lifestyles. I am so glad that this mare was able to be like a Phoenix rising again to be the symbol for those that are set to similar fates.

    No coincidence here that she was brought to these people who cared and re-birthed her, love, respect and gratitude to them and those like them that continue a long and somewhat hidden walk.

  7. samariaguru

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes. Have you ever heard of the Native proverb, When we go to the gates of heaven, we will be met by every animal we have encountered in our lives. They decide if you can go to the light. Great karma awaits you!

    1. susanjcaldwell28

      Unfortunately, there is no proof of god or heaven, both extremely unlikely, what we have is now and we should be kind and loving to all sentient beings because its the right thing to do

  8. Brenda P.

    Thanks for saving her!!

  9. Brenda P.

    There should be a law against the throwing away of animals. All animals should be taken care of for their entire lives. That means race horse owners need to put some money to the side for the poor horses’ later years in life.

  10. J Nagy

    Thank God for that TRF INC. That story hurt my heart, that evil people did that to a great horse. Karma will get them for sure.

  11. Laura H.

    This story is very inspiring, but what about all the other horses that were in that van? The ones that were “healthy” got the prize of being slaughtered. It’s frustrating that the battle is so great and the resources so small.

  12. Victoria Andreo

    God bless the rescue workers who made a difference between life and death for this beautiful TB. They were truly her angels on earth!

  13. secret sue

    I hope she live well and comfortable. Poor animals to be so proud and then be so abused and thrown away to die. May she be a contented mare.

  14. Doris Brooks

    God bless the wonderful folks who nursed her back to health. What a transformation.

  15. Dixie whiteside

    Tears welled up in my eyes as I began to read this story. When I got toward the end I was feeling a bit of hope for Press. Thank you so much for seeing hope for her. May God bless you for taking her and giving her new life.

  16. rudolphfurtado

    This is the fate of the majority of racehorses in country’s where horses are slaughtered akin to cattle.If “Ferdinand” a once upon a time “KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER” was slaughtered in a Japanese slaughter house then it doesn’t require “Rocket science” intelligence to understand the plight of lesser “ALSO RAN RACE HORSES”. Its a tragic aspect of the sport of “King and Queens”. Remember that a horse let alone a ‘Race-horse” is a expensive animal to maintain as a per akin to a car or dog.

  17. Terri Crawford

    God bless you.

  18. Maggie Hall

    Thank you for saving this mare. We have got to change the laws and attitudes about the fate of retired racehorses.

    1. KAREN

      You are so right……God bless you for saving this mare.

  19. Susan Galvan

    Thank you for loving press. She sounds like a very special and deserving girl. ❤

  20. Jen

    I love to read about caring groups of individuals who make sure horses in peril are saved. I also don’t understand why people who cause such injury aren’t charged with animal abuse. Aren’t there laws? Press obviously has been given scrupulous care and attention to make such a good recovery. May she continue to enjoy her retirement the way all horses should.

  21. Sharon Mueller

    The people who let horses get in this condition, and/or ship them to a kill buyer, need to be NAMED and SHAMED so people know who they are! Obviously they have no feelings for the horse, so maybe public embarrassment as a result of their actions can dissuade them.

    1. Deirdre O'Malley


  22. Cheri

    I do recall the initial presentation of her story, I cried. I couldn’t be happier for a lovely mare, and even though we will never likely meet, I admire her transformation and those who made it happen for her.

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