Thoroughbred goes from feed lot to Bermuda

Cam and Esther take beach walk

Last April, the tired-looking chestnut gelding appeared to have reached the end of the line as he stood, meekly waiting, in a New Jersey feedlot.

Shaggy and unkempt, his mane grew in scraggly strands down his neck. And, about the only thing that looked clean on the ex-racehorse was his hip sticker. Bright green, it identified him not by his race name, Whippany, but as Hip No. 699; he was now a horse to be bid on and either sold to meat buyers who would ship him to slaughter, or perhaps by bidders with a more charitable intent.

As fate would have it, his destiny would hinge on a photograph. One that captured asoulful depth in his eye, and became an unshakable image that ultimately compelled a Bermuda riding instructor to intercede on his behalf.

“When I first looked through the photos of available horses at the Camelot Feed Lot, I didn’t see him,” says Esther Douglas.

But when she looked a second time, a new picture had been added to the album. This time, she saw the dainty face and kind expression that compelled her to buy the feedlot horse.

So on April 28, 2011, Whippany’s path in life changed in an instant, veering away from the bloodstained floors of a kill chute and toward pink-sand Race name: Whippany
New name: Cam
Registered name: What a Deal
Sire: Private Interview
Dam: Fairy Dust
Foal date: 2006
beaches and the island country of Bermuda.

Loaded into a cargo container outfitted with stalls and piled high with bedding, hay, and constantly refreshed water buckets, he sailed for three days over the choppy Atlantic to reach his new home.

Waiting on the dock, Douglas watched with awed fascination as a giant crane lifted the container from the ship, and set it down gently; curious horses poking their heads out and contemplating all the commotion.

“When we went to get him out of the container, he whinnied when we first opened the door,” Douglas says. “He was great. He backed right out, and then when he figured out he had to get on a van, he gave a great sigh, and walked right on.”

Cam leaves container, arrives in Bermuda

An hour later, Whippany, who is now called Cam, arrived at Spicelands Equestrian Center and was invited to chill out at the last riding academy on the island.

After being quarantined for several months at a barn in New Jersey, and sailing for three days, the ordinarily sure-footed Thoroughbred took his first wobbly steps around his new paddock.

“Horses tend to get wobbly when they travel by sea, like people do, so we gave him time to recover his land legs,” Douglas says. “He just floated across the paddock! He was gorgeous, and obviously so happy to be able to move around.”

After which, Cam received a sudsy bath before being led to a warm stall,  where he promptly laid down for a four-hour nap.

As Douglas got to know her horse, the first she’d ever owned outright, she grew more and more impressed with his gentle demeanor and willing-to-work mindset.

“His personality was amazing. He was super quiet and when I rode him, it felt like he was looking after me, making sure I was okay,” she says. “He has such a huge heart and all he wants to do is try for you.”

Douglas hugs her dream horse

And Douglas, in turn, did everything she could to make his transition to his new life as a riding-school as smooth as possible.

When her farrier discovered that Cam was suffering from abscesses in all four feet, they went to great lengths to heal his soreness.  Because his hoof condition prevented the smithy from nailing on traditional shoes, a special glue-on shoe, which is often used with Thoroughbreds, was fitted to his sensitive feet.

“In a sense, what we’ve done is given him a pair of Dr. Sholls,” she says, chuckling.

Today, Cam is really doing well. He has adapted beautifully to the island life, taking walks to the ocean, and beginning work as a lesson horse for older children.

And beyond that, he’s more than a little fond of galloping across beaches, and plunging into water.  Or just for taking lazy hacks and cuddling with at the end of a long day.

“I think about it all the time, about how he could have wound up at a meat-packing plant,” she says, “but instead, he came to Bermuda to be my dream horse.”

47 responses to “Thoroughbred goes from feed lot to Bermuda”

  1. Nuala Galbari

    Susan,

    If you mean the OTTB saddle pads, you can order them (available now) from:

    Caitlin Taylor

    e-mail: caitlin@ottbdesigns.com

    or call: 978-590-2935

    http://www.ottbdesigns.com

    The hunter/jumper saddle pads are currently available in
    Forest Green
    Royal Purple
    (with gold piping and logo)

    For dressage: You will have to ask Caitlin about colors, usually black and white.

    Best wishes,

    Nuala

  2. Diane Langdon

    I just LOVE LOVE LOVE hearing success stories. Hearing of feedlots and animals (especially horses) off to slaughter breaks my heart. I currently have 5 horses and wish I had the finances to save so many more! I am also happy to hear that there are so many people out there trying to make a difference and indeed are making a difference!

  3. Esther Douglas

    Hi all. This story was just re-posted on the Camelot Horse Weekly Face book page, So I thought I would have a re-read of the comments. Your kind words brought tears to my eyes. Thank you all and a very big thank you again to Susan for writing Cams story so well. Big HUGS to you all.
    Xox Esther and Cam.

    1. Nuala Galbari

      Esther,

      Good evening,

      I would love to keep up with your news of Cam. How is he doing in the riding program? How much is he ridden weekly? Do you have any photographs you can send me of you both?

      I am still working with Captain Jack, however it has been so hot and bug filled for the past few weeks, we have just let the horses enjoy leisure in the pastures (14 acres) and they are having fun. When it cools a little — it’s improving this week — we plan to return to the arena for short workouts.

      Today, I was working around the barn and Jack was taking a snooze in the stall where I had just placed fresh bedding.
      His head was out of the stall, his eyes were closed and his mouth was hanging open. It was so funny, but I did not have a camera with me — unfortunately. Last night, just before dusk, I went out to the pasture to bring both boys in (Jack, and Strider the Hanoverian). I had no halters. When Jack saw me, he cantered down into the little ravine, jumped the stream, cantered uphill, and then circled around me, about eight feet away, doing small little airs above the ground. It just seemed like a joyful dance. Then, he slowed to a walk and came over, pushing his nose gently against my arm. While the Hanoverian trotted on himself, Jack walked quietly beside me with his head lowered a little, toward the barn. Walking next to this beautiful thoroughbred at dusk, I just felt the sheer joy of being with him. They have such amazing hearts and they respond so readily to love and care.

      Take care of that beautiful boy of yours. I hope you can send some photographs.

      reginaldcorvus@yahoo.com

      With love,

      Nuala

  4. Esther Douglas

    Hi everyone. Thankyu for all of the wonderful comments. Cam isdoing great and gets lots of visiters everyday. sometimes irerrad this story and these comments just to remind my self how lucky I am to come across such a wonderful horse. When Im at work i just go out to his stall and take him all in. . Life is good for the both of us. And next year I hope to be competing with him in low level dressage and the low hunters. He has taken to both with such a good work ethic I thought why npt both.
    ours bests to you all

    1. Nuala Galbari

      Esther,

      It’s lovely to hear from you. I wish you the very best with your horse and bless you for giving him a wonderful home.

      I have just adopted a 19-year-old Hanoverian gelding who has been retired from the hunter/jumper classes and has some lame issues. He’s a beauty and now lives in lush pastures with his Arabian friends and one thoroughbred.

      He will be fussed over, loved, and cared for in his retirement, with no more arena work, but just a little light hack now and then, if he’s feeling up to it. He’s a very happy horse now.

      Best wishes to your both.

      Love, Nuala

    2. Nuala Galbari

      Esther,

      It’s lovely to hear from you. I wish you the very best with your horse and bless you for giving him a wonderful home.

      I have just adopted a 19-year-old Hanoverian gelding who has been retired from the hunter/jumper classes and has some lame issues. He’s a beauty and now lives in lush pastures with his Arabian friends and one thoroughbred.

      He will be fussed over, loved, and cared for in his retirement, with no more arena work, but just a little light hack now and then, if he’s feeling up to it. He’s a very happy horse now.

      Best wishes to your both.

      Love, Nuala
      Gloucester, Virginia

  5. Nuala Galbari

    Esther, thank you for being an angel on this Earth. Susan, thank you for the excellent story of Cam. I just purchased an OTTB myself, from Powhatan, VA. Captain Jack Sparrow raced on the Maryland track for just over a year and was not very competitive — fortunately for him. He was sold to two U.S. Army Majors who retrained him. Jack is only 5-3/4 years of age and last week I took him on his first trail ride (we are also doing a little light dressage). He was incredible and absolutely loved the ride with his small Arabian herd. Heavens, I would love to bring him to Bermuda and ride on those magnificent beaches! Dearest, dearest Cam — his angel sent Esther to incercede and what a life he will enjoy now. Jack had an abscess which healed nicely. The soft sands will be excellent for Cam’s feet. The best thing is to leave Cam shoe free, if you can and give him as much turnout as possible — ideally 24/7. Blessings to all three of you and a wonderful new career, but more importantly, plenty of love to Cam!

    With warm wishes,
    Nuala
    Wicomico, VA

  6. louise martin

    What a wonderful HAPPY ending!! Thank you Susan! It does my heart good….:)

  7. charles taylor

    Many thanks for saving a great horse

  8. Gail Watson

    What a lucky and lovely lad with a real kind eye – its great to hear stories like this and it does make you want to go and instantly hug my horse!
    Best wishes to you and to all that care for our fantastic equine friends x

  9. Cathy Ann Savino-Kedzierski

    “….like everyone else here, this story is pulling on my heart-strings! My own TB, taken from a bottom-of-the-barrel fairground race track, was skin and bones upon arrival and now, like your TB, he’s healthy and happy. The only words coming to mind right now is that this union, of you and your horse, was meant to be and I am so happy for what’s not accurately a happy ending (although it is just that for Cam) but more correctly, a beginning of a beautiful life together!”

  10. Heather

    What a truly wonderful story. Thanks for the happy ending.

    I have shed so many tears and have nightmares at night thinking of all the horses that are slaughtered. This story is proving, once again, that not all horses being sent to slaughter are old or dying as some of the pro slaughter advocates would have you believe. To all the wonderful people who rescue horses from slaughter, thank you so much.

  11. Laureen Godin

    You are such an angel (as I sit here with tears in my eyes)! He looks just like my thoroughbred, identical in size, colour and markings. She was taken off the race track because she did not do well. I have another horse that was abandoned in a field with several others. Today, my thoroughbred and paint are very close buddies. Who knows what would have happened to either?

  12. A Human Angel « Donkey Whisperer Farm Blog

    […] my time trying to encourage others to step up and be a human angel for another human or animal.  Here is a human angel who stepped up and saved a horse from slaughter get your tissues ready if you love horses you will […]

  13. Melody Johnson

    Loved this blog so refreshing to finally hear some good news! Thank you for sharing. :}

  14. L. Melone

    Thanks for such a happy story. What a wonderful way for Cam to spend the rest of his days. Makes me want to go out the barn and hug our 3 OTTB’s, thankful we have them.

  15. BermudaOnion

    I’ve met Cam since he came to Bermuda – a very lucky boy! Spiceland’s Riding Center in Bermuda is home to a number of rescue horses and ponies…some of them are kicking butt in the local horseshows this season – putting all the ‘pricey’ ponies to shame in the ring!!

  16. Cinyu

    This is just how we acquired our Daniel (Lively Danz) he was in a killer pen at New Holland, PA. He had a kind eye, and has now been in his forever home with us for 10 years.

  17. Annette

    I just loved reading this story and how you saved him from being slaughtered. For horses that have, by a miracle, been saved from the feedlothey know how lucky they are. They seem to be forever grateful to the ones that performed the miracle.

  18. kim kelly

    What an amazing story. So nice to see one with a happy ending. I love my Saddlebred rescue horse. He too was saved from slaughter.

  19. Marilyn Austin

    Simply one of the best story that I’ve come across. I have owned several ottb
    All have been so womderful! It sounds like an awesome partnership tja
    you and Cam share. I can imagine what great fun it is to gallop on the beach.
    Warm wishes for many happy rides.

  20. Kitster

    I remember that horse in the sale. I contacted his breeder. The were very upset he was in the sale. By the time they got back to me with the $$ to bail him out, Douglas had already bought him. The breeder was happy he got a home. I must send this story to them, they would love it!!!

  21. Leslie from Newmarket, On. Canada

    What a wonderful story 🙂

  22. Caitlin

    My favorite story so far – an absolute fairy tale! Best of luck to them both during their beautiful partnership 🙂

  23. Cynthia

    Susan, what a wonderful story as always. I cried when I read this one because your writing actually takes you to the feed lot and what could have been. I’m thrilled for Cam and his new family. Hope all is well.

  24. Michele

    What a lucky horse to be able to live out his days being loved and cherished on the beautiful island of Bermuda! He hit the lottery when you found him! Best wishes to you both!

  25. Cathy in Virginia

    No better feeling than to know there are wonderful people who go to great lengths to do great things for those in unfortunate circumstances. Reading stories like this help to restore my faith in humanity in this harsh world.Thank you Ester for jumping into action to save this once great horse. You have proven that every living thing is worth something to somebody. Thank you Susan for this story and proving that no horse is deserving the fate of slaughter. One life saved, another life enriched.

  26. Lisa at Helping Hearts

    It’s wonderful to read such uplifting follow-ups to “our” Feed Lot horses. Cam is one of approx 2800 horses that have been re-directed from the slaughter pipeline via the Camelot Horse Weekly Effort since Nov., 2009.

    Congratulations and Enjoy your lives together Cam and Esther!!

  27. Kate Mangano

    Such an amazing story! My husband is a longshoreman in NJ and saw that bunch get on the container. He called to tell me he personally made sure they each got a pet and some potato chips for their journey! Such a happy tear jerker hearing these stories! Enjoy your new boy!

  28. Nancy in Kentucky

    Wow – what could be better? A beautiful horse now living in a beautiful country with a beautiful owner who loves him! Lots of love and luck to all involved in saving this horse’s life!

  29. Deborah Tiffin

    Thanks so much for this story – I too needed this boost today. Here’s to a long, happy life for Cam, and eventually for them all.

  30. Michelle

    What an absolute wonderful story!!! I too, THANK YOU for sharing! Too many sad stories now a days…These success stories help keep everyone fighting for these noble creatures! Wishing them nothing but the best!!

  31. AlexandraInspired

    so glad to hear a happy story like this. bless you, Esther Douglas, for having a heart for horses and saving this handsome boy.

  32. Jill Mora

    AWWWW, the horse and new owner both won the Mega Love LOTTERY! I love hearing about the “Happy Ever After” stories, it helps soften the pain of the ones that didn’t make it! Thanks for sharing and all of your hard work to save these sweet babies!

  33. Thoroughbred goes from feed lot to Bermuda | Canadian Horse Defence Coalition's Blog

    […] http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2012/02/03/thoroughbred-goes-from-feed-lot-to-bermuda/ Cam takin' in the rays Share this:FacebookStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← EWA Press Release Feb 3, 2012 – ASPCA Poll […]

  34. Nina Eckhoff

    I believe that I saw photos, months ago, of your horse shortly after being loaded into his shipboard stall. It was an amazing sight, and when I saw that he was headed for Bermuda, I really understood the scope of horse rescue. It was a defining moment. I believe my mare came from the same place, same feedlot (though leftover from a different auction)… and almost suffered the same heartabreaking fate. But ours are the lucky ones. And I know Cam trusts you deeply, as my mare does with me. Thank you for the wonderful follow-up story. Many years of happiness to you!

  35. Debra

    This is a beautiful story that brings tears of joy rather than tears of pain and outrage. I too have so many images of the latter, that it IS true, so nice to see the good things as well. Thanks for sharing the love! Now I think I’ll go outside and hug a few horses. 🙂

  36. Kate

    Talk about a major upgrade!

  37. Fran

    All morning I have been dealing with horrid horse stories..Sue, your stories are like a warm fireplace on a snowy night with a cup of hot cocoa..thank you for making a crazy Friday less crazy.. we are on the losing end of so many of these horses..I continue to be proud of the people who step up for them. I am grateful daily for my 2 tb rescues…..Thank you!!:)

  38. Cheryl Ann

    I LOVE stories like this! Thank you! It’s a joy to read a story of a horse who was spared the horror of slaughter. I have 5 myself! 🙂

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