Boy saves doomed T’bred with birthday cash

Brandon Allen, 9, of Ontario donated his birthday cash to save doomed Thoroughbred Karazan from slaughter.

Brandon, 9, of Ontario donated his birthday cash to save doomed Thoroughbred Karazan from slaughter.

A freckle-faced boy with a shock of red hair pledged his birthday money last August to save a doomed chestnut Thoroughbred from the Canadian slaughter pipeline when nobody else would.

Brandon, 9, of Ontario says he couldn’t bear the thought of the pretty ex-racehorse, whose looks reminded him of his own, going to slaughter. So after his mother MJ Allen explained to him that 17-year-old mare Karazan has been purchased by a meat buyer and would likely go to the slaughterhouse, he asked her to spend his birthday money to save her instead.

“I did it because nobody else was going to buy her,” Brandon says. “And I saw her hair was the same, exact color as my hair. And I wanted to save her because I love horses.”

His offer floored his mother, who was so proud of her son’s generosity and compassion that she cobbled together $650 with the help of some friends and purchased the mare from an online site that offers horses who have already been sold to a meat seller, a last chance to go to a willing buyer.

Sire: Kayrawan
Dam: Regents Glory
Foal date: April 1, 1998
Allen explains: “I recently found out about this website, Need You Now Equine, and I was watching this mare Karazan because nobody seemed interested in her. My son noticed and asked what I was doing, and when I explained it to him, that’s when he said, ‘Mummy, my birthday’s coming up. Just give my birthday money to them. I don’t want the horse to die.’ ”

A few days later, the Ontario mother announced she had a surprise for Brandon. “I thought I was in trouble,” says Brandon. But, the news was much better: Karazan had been saved from slaughter. And better still, the horse was now his!

Brandon noticed the horse was the same color as his hair!

Brandon noticed the horse was the same color as his hair!

“When I told him the horse had found a home he started jumping up and down,” Allen says. “And then I said, ‘She’s yours!’ and he went nuts.

In late August, a couple of weeks before he turned 9, the best birthday present of his life rolled down the driveway.

After years of begging for a horse of his own Brandon got his wish on Aug. 22, and Karazan got hers, too.

“Karazan’s already spoiled,” says Allen, who notes that she has given her son beautiful rides on their small horse farm, where Brandon and Karazan will create lifelong memories.

“She’s his best friend. He’s always out grooming her and whenever he feels down, he walks out into the field with carrots in his hand to talk to his new buddy,” Allen says. “They’re a perfect match; She was meant to be with him.”

Trampled kill-pen mare readies for show

Selleria on the day she was rescued.

Selleria on the day she was rescued.

The mare’s bandaged feet oozed with abscesses, useless to deflect the blows that rained down upon her.

One sharp kick, and then another, came without mercy from a band of frightened horses who tore at the tattered coat of the weakest among them.

As she lay in the soft mud of the Hermiston Auction in Oregon last February, her life spiraled away.

“There were a couple of mares who stood guard over her, but the alpha mares were pretty relentless with the attacks,” recalls Mary Lei, founder of local rescue Rescuing Equines in Need (REIN), who watched in horror as the silent animal seemed to accept her sad fate.

She’d been dumped in the Oregon kill pen and left to cower, and to eventually stumble and fall as some onlookers laughed.

It hadn’t always been this way for the once-beautiful chestnut filly, Selleria.

A granddaughter of Storm Cat, she was born in Kentucky in May 2009. She grew to be glossy coated and full of promise, and she sold a year later at the fabled Keeneland Sale for $24,000.

Barn name: Ria
Sire: Van Nistelrooy (Storm Cat)
Dam: She’s Mahogany
Foal date: May 12, 2009
She began racing in 2012 at Santa Anita and a year later in September, after a 3rd place finish at Golden Gate, she fell off the radar and reportedly passed through several hands. Five months later she landed in the auction lot to face attack, ridicule, and certain death.

“When she was run through the ring … she was trying to hurry and she fell. People were actually giggling and pointing and laughing at her,” Lei says. “Though we’d intended to euthanize her there at the auction, I thought this was a pretty cool horse who deserved to be put down in a better environment than that.”

So Lei and her team bought padding for their horse trailer, and the young mare, despite her obvious pain, hobbled onboard.

It was, for Lei, one of the most emotional encounters she’s had at an auction. “Ria was gross, covered with ticks and lice and rain rot, and standing in eight inches of mud,” she says. “I said to her, ‘you’re pathetic,’ and hugged her neck, and she dropped her head over my shoulder to pull me closer. And for the first time since I’ve been doing rescue, I started bawling.”

Throughout her recovery from multiple abscesses and laminitis, Ria remained bright-eyed.

Throughout her recovery from multiple abscesses and laminitis, Ria remained bright-eyed.

In the months that followed, Ria surprised one and all with her bravery and determination to live. In spite of her pain, she approached each day with a bright eye, her ears forward, Lei says. “I’m so impressed with this horse, and that she never gave up when a lesser horse would have,” she says. “Even covered in all that mud, that horse still believed she was some level of royalty.”

And possibly even a star.

Ria, her hoof ailments healed with careful care by farrier April Wolf of The Savvy Hoof, has been entered to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Showcase later this year in her birthplace of Kentucky.

Under the gentle training of Oregon horseman Stacey Riggs, Ria has been started on a path to learn dressage, freestyle trail riding, and other disciplines. “She’s a super sweet and very kind horse, and my goal is to work on a connection with her, and building back her strength at a rate she can handle,” Riggs says. “Ria beat the odds and recovered and the next step of her life has begun.”

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Jan Vandebos: ‘I wasn’t prepared to let her go’

Diorella survived a serious head fracture two years after receiving extensive care through the efforts of her owner Jan Vandebos.

Diorella survived a serious head fracture two years after receiving extensive care through the efforts of her owner Jan Vandebos.

An all-out effort to save the filly Diorella began in the horse’s third year of life, after she flipped on the lunge line and fractured her skull.

So severely was she hurt that she writhed and seized in the dirt, unable to stand without falling back down.

It was horrifying to witness, says her owner Jan Vandebos. She had stepped away for a brief moment on June 28, 2012, and returned to find her horse, who had just been lunging with a groom, crumpled in the dirt.

But she did not flinch away from the animal she loved.

Moving quickly on what she recalls as the “worst day of her life,” she carefully checked the filly’s nose and eyes for evidence of blood, and finding none, made the decision to do everything humanly possible to save her.

“I wasn’t prepared to let her go unless I felt I had taken every avenue to save her,” says Vandebos of RanJan Racing, which she owns with husband Robert Naify. She had brought the young filly into this world to be a riding horse and was determined to save her: “I wanted to make her whole again.”

Sire: Betrando
Dam: Specific Gravity
Foal date: Feb. 9, 2009
Like a commander of a military MASH unit, Vandebos first quickly arranged to have a throng of people on scene to assist, and immediately contacted her personal veterinarian Dr. Phoebe Smith, who was on site within 20 minutes.

What followed was controlled chaos.

Diorella’s eyes darted back and forth as she tried to make sense of her world, and struggled to rise. Working quickly, Dr. Smith administered medicine to quell her seizures, as Vandebos and others tried to calm the frightened animal. “I kept thinking that if we could get her calm, and get her to the hospital, we could save her,” she says.

Diorella was anesthetized, rolled onto a tarp, and lifted by 20 people onto an emergency van and taken to Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos, Calif., where she would spend the next two months in intensive care.

Diorella is released from the hospital. Her head was still swollen, and a long road to recovery awaited her.

Diorella is released from the hospital. Her head was still swollen, and a long road to recovery awaited her.

Dr. Erin Bryn, DVM, Diplomat of the American College of Internal Medicine, took over the filly’s care, and stood with the entire staff, who lined up outside the medical facility the day Diorella arrived.

A radiograph of Diorella’s skull, taken immediately after she was unloaded, revealed she had fractured bones at the base of her skull, causing her to have seizures, Dr. Bryn confirms.

“We treated her immediately with anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and anti-seizure medication,” Bryn says, noting that it was unusual for a horse with this degree of head trauma to make it to the hospital.

“We probably get one or two cases a year of horses who have flipped over.” Many die before they reach the hospital, or are euthanized on the spot, she says, noting that it is a rare horse to recover from such an injury.

Within 12 hours, however, Diorella was able to stand on her own!

For two months after those perilous beginnings, if a prognosis was issued, it was only in terms of whether the horse would survive. “It’s important to set the expectations low in a case like this,” Bryn says, adding, that the future ride-ability of a horse such as this is spoken of in terms of “miracles.”

Diorella was eventually led on wobbly legs over an outdoor path, which had been carpeted in case she fell, to a waiting van.

Her next stop was the J & M Thoroughbreds farm in Santa Ynez, Calif., where Greg Fanning had stepped up as the sole volunteer to help Diorella with her physical therapy.

Jan Vandebos enjoys a moment with her prized filly.

Jan Vandebos enjoys a moment with her prized filly.

“I couldn’t find a farm for her. This was before I had my farm. Nobody wanted to take a brain-damaged horse who was falling down,” Vandebos recalls. “Then a friend of a friend stepped forward and said, ‘I will help you fix her.’ ”

Greg Fanning admits he took on a project that many expected would fail.

But he never gave up on Diorella. Knowing she could fall at any point, and that it was dangerous work, he babied the filly at every turn.

“I couldn’t turn her loose, and would walk her. Her recovery took little baby steps and lots of elbow grease.”

For months he worked with her in a deep-sand arena and when she became steady on her feet, moved her to an equine exercise machine. Here, she trotted and eventually galloped. The filly stayed with Fanning for approximately six months before being moved to Vandebos’ new farm, where she was reunited with her dam Specific Gravity, purely to enjoy turnout, grazing, and idyllic pasture life.

And oh yes, there was one more little miracle: about three months ago: Diorella and Vandebos went riding!

“We had started placing her in a paddock close so she could see her friends being ridden and worked. Then we started to tack her up, and two weeks after that, I decided very spur-of-the-moment to hop on her,” Vandebos says. “We walked for about 10 minutes and then I asked her for a trot. She remembered all of her cues, and I could tell she was very proud to be a riding horse again.” —This story was originally published on May 16, 2014.