A doe-eyed gray filly lives, her savior fights on

A gray filly sustained a cut to the bone

The deep gash oozing so darkly across the angelic pale face of the nameless filly, riveted Mindy Lovell’s attention the way a red flag might a bull.

In the five years she’d spent rescuing Thoroughbreds from slaughter, Lovell had seen things, unimaginable things: She’d witnessed horses arriving dead in shipping trucks, trampled by other terrified horses; Pregnant mares laboring through spontaneous abortions in transport, and injuries so horrible that once regal Thoroughbreds hobbled like cripples.

But on this day as she witnessed the dappled-gray filly with the bludgeoned face, it seemed to crystallize all that she’d seen before, chasing after Thoroughbreds, who themselves, were racing hopelessly down.

One more beautiful horse, like something out of a child’s fantasy, bleeding profusely from the battering she took en-route to slaughter.

“I saw that filly as soon as I got out of the car, and I knew I would pull her out,” Lovell says. “It wasn’t even really a decision. She needed emergency veterinary care; she needed to be stitched up before it was too late!”

In a way, the gray filly she saved on Aug. 27 is every horse.

Just one of so many, shipped in open trailers with aluminum floors made slippery by feces and urine. The animals kick and fight, and sometimes fall, injuring themselves as badly, or worse, than this one.

Stitched up and healing

But unlike the ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds so easily identified by lip tattoos and physical appearance, this frightened animal was just a face in the crowd.

Until she started to bleed.

That’s when Lovell decided to jump in yet one more time.

Having already taken three other off-track Thoroughbreds, and not needing another to add to her herd of 47 horses, Lovell did not hesitate to claim the trembling animal.

“I asked a local livestock hauler … to bring them all over to my farm, and I had already called my vet to let them know I would have an emergency later,” she says. “They joked with me that it was the first time they’d received a ‘heads up’ on an emergency! So I said they should stick with me because I really know how to have fun.

“I won’t get into the part where the vet nearly passed out onto the floor over the sight of the filly’s face.”

Lovell has been in the trenches of horse rescue for five years now. Some days she feels like giving up, or at least buying stock in Kleenex, she says. But, then the anger kicks in, and she returns again and again to look for more desperate souls.

A potential show horse

“There was a time, years ago, when you only saw Thoroughbreds running through a kill auction if they were completely crippled,” says the longtime equestrian and riding instructor. “But everything changed. Thoroughbreds became less popular as riding horses and so you started seeing many, many sound, useful horses going to auction.”

Lovell, who owns Spring Hill Farm and runs the Transitions Thoroughbred Program, to re-train ex-racehorses, was happily enjoying her life as competitive rider, coach and trainer when, she says, her involvement with the horse world’s ugly side came about.

“I’d been managing and running a boarding facility and doing a lot of teaching. And I started to acquire more Thoroughbreds to retrain for a second career,” she says. “It naturally evolved that I started looking at slaughter-bound horses.

“So, I’d be looking at these horses, even if they were emaciated. I have a really good eye, and I’d think, ‘Wow, this horse has a lot of potential.’ And then I’d think, ‘What the hell is this horse doing here?’ ” And she knew that too many fine-quality horses were being slaughtered.

Of her herd of 47, approximately 80 percent were pulled from slaughter pens. Of those, fewer than 10 have minor soundness issues; the rest are perfectly sound.

For many years, Lovell pulled horses from kill pens, re-trained and re-sold them. She always kept a low profile. Few were even aware she was doing it.

Horses frolick on the farm

But in the past year or so, Lovell started working on some high-profile horse-slaughter stories, including that of Deputy Broad, who was slaughtered, and the well-known OTTBs Cactus Cafe and Canuki, who were eventually saved from the slaughter pipeline.

She has also heavily lobbied Canadian slaughterhouses to ban imports of American Thoroughbreds, arguing that most American racehorses have been treated with medications and substances that are banned in foods consumed by humans.

It’s exhausting work. It’s invigorating work. Sometimes it “pushes her over the edge.”

“It’s outrageous to me that it is the industry of horse racing that is making money off these horses, yet most of the people who try to help them are people who can’t really afford it.

“I know an exercise rider and her mother who solicited donations to help a horse I recently pulled. They can’t afford it,” she says. “Yet, the industry itself has yet to really step up.”

Always wrestling with the decision of who to save, the reward of saving some, keeps her outlook mostly positive.

Lullaby, a six-year-old TB mare

The gray filly is recuperating in body and spirit. The wound on her face has closed, and the fear in her heart seems to be easing. She also has a name now—it’s Glenye, named for journalist Glenye Oakford, who wrote the articles about Cactus Cafe and Canuki for the Daily Racing Form.

She no longer runs to the back of her stall when people approach, wincing as though she’d done something wrong. She has filled out nicely and looks to be a Warmblood-type mover, Lovell says.

But she is still a scared horse, and Lovell will take it very slowly as she trains her to become potentially, a show horse. A once bludgeoned and battered, no-name gray in the show ring!

These are the stories that sustain Lovell through her heartbreaking work.

“We can’t save them all,” Lovell says. “And I don’t know what the answer is or where it’s going to end. I just know I have to try.”

Off-TrackThoroughbreds thanks the 1,400 readers (so far!) who have checked in with the blog today!

35 responses to “A doe-eyed gray filly lives, her savior fights on”

  1. ann fox

    Latest horse death statistics fuel more debate


    California horse racing reported more racehorse deaths over the previous two years, 645, than any other reported two-year period, according to data released yesterday in the annual report by the California….

    It just goes on & on …track after track…article after article…I use to love this sport but the sport of horse racing does not love the horses any more…serious rules need changing to benefit horses …not owners & trainers.ect

    1. georgielin

      Nice site – nice misinformation too. Do you always believe what is on the internet?

    2. georgielin

      u win – I quit – i have no more time for horse racing hating fanatics. Enjoy your life of misinformation, mud throwing, and hate mongering. Bet you have never worked a day in yr life with racehorses in training or at the track and dont have a clue. It shows…

  2. ann fox


    905 deaths in 2095 days & this is just in England. Why can’t rules of racing change in ways that would actually benefit the horses.

  3. ann fox

    As long as the racing industry continues to race babies & continues to support big stake races for babies there will always be an never ending supply of thoroughbreds ending up at slaughter. For every well built Zenyatta there are thousands of under-developed babies carrying far too much weight to early in their lives. How many caring trainers & owners are waiting till their thoroughbreds are full grown? Most are on their babies backs at 1 yr..plenty of stake races for 2 yr olds. Tell me again how much the racing industries cares about the Eight Bells of this world…how many tracks are looking at this problem?

    1. georgielin

      Sorry I hate talking to fanatics like you. You are anti racing obviously, and that shows in everything you said. Better to have 4-10 yr old horses, unbroken and useless that go for slaughter I guess. At least TB’s get trained and rideable and have a use. 8 bells was a freaky accident. And if you knew anything about racing you would know this. As for 2 yrs old racing, I have no problem with it when it is done lightly and properly. As in everything those that go to excess abuse. Those that TRAIN properly do not. Horses are broken young 1-1/2 yrs old is usually when first saddled, as it is safer for people and for the horse to break them before they are too big and strong and have a mind of their own. They are more malleable at that age and wont be hurt by 45 days of being ridden and taught some lessons. Then most are put away till later in the spring where they are picked up for the start of their careers. Some are able to do well, some not. Depends who has them in their care. Regretably Not all end up with good horsemen. And you are very wrong – the tracks really do care about the horses and what happens at their tracks. To not care would be bad for their business which is public entertainment and gambling. If a horse breaks down in front of everyone this is bad for business. As usual you are a fanatic, fulled with hate and misinformation, and just want to lash out with this.

      1. ann fox

        Fanatic? Only compared to some! Break them before they are too big & strong & have a mind of their own? lol I rest my case!

  4. Leslie M. Kuretzky

    Bless you for saving this filly. I wish all the horses were so lucky

  5. georgielin

    Thanks JO….I will go to my barn now and tell a bunch of them they are going….because they have not made me any money in years and I am a racehorse person. Boy have you got the wrong end of the stick on this one.The majority of horses going to slaughter are riding horses. You need to go on line and learn a lot of what the Industry does for Xracehorses. Stop slamming a segement of the horse industry when you dont really know and have all the facts. Most racetrackers are adamant lovers of their horses and go above and beyond or them. Unfortunitely the bad apples get all the press and attention. The good ones silently do good asking for nothing and no recognition. You can go to any racetrack and tucked away on the backside are any number of retirees and only some are being used as pony horses. They just hang around – like mine. I have a 30 yr old who has hung around all these years. Many many more like this than the opposite. I have seen far worse going on in riding establishments.

  6. linda badham


    1. Mary Johnson

      Linda, I agree with what you have said. Mindy is a special person. However, she needs funding in order to continue being a special person. Please reach out to friends who really care about these horses and ask them to donate to Transitions Thoroughbreds. I have financially supported Mindy over the last year so I am not asking you, or others, to do something that I haven’t done. If you want her to continue with her operations, then funding is a necessity.

  7. Jo

    To my knowledge it is illegal to transport horses in double deckers so the next time you see one call the police.
    and so many horses going to killers because of irresponsible breeding and ownership. and the tb, not making the owner money, out the door it goes. they should be made accountable for each and every horse they have on the ground and made to pay to maintain the horse to guarantee it’s safety
    and the blm. new phone number to call so the horses are not tormented by that helicoptor again, yes get rid of salazar.

  8. Jobless woman rescues Point Given’s son | Canadian Horse Defence Coalition's Blog

    […] Orchard Point was 250lbs underweight and was about a day away from shipping from the New Holland livestock auction to a Mexican slaughterhouse, when Smith spotted his photograph and an appeal by horse rescuer Mindy Lovell. […]

  9. A doe-eyed gray filly lives, her saviour fights on | Canadian Horse Defence Coalition's Blog

    […] continue reading here Share this:FacebookTwitterStumbleUponLinkedInGoogle +1Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  10. ann fox

    Ditto again….Well said Mary Johnson…..

    1. jo

      Ditto again and again and again…..

      My opinion is that as long as horse slaughter is legal in Canada, Woodbine will never enforce a no kill policy… there’s too many people over there making money off of it.
      Sure would love to be wrong though!

  11. Partnership

    Suffolk Downs in East Boston MA has done something about the trainers that dump their horses for slaughter. You do it there.. you get fined and banned from racing there. Granted it’s not Churchill Downs. But it is a track where a lot of TBs potentially could end up bound for the auction house and slaughter plant.
    So the industry is stepping it up. To say otherwise is just being uninformed.

    1. Mary Johnson

      Partnership, I know that Suffolk Downs is a track that is trying to help the horses that race at that track. Sam Elliott actually paid the bail on a horse that was pulled from Sugarcreek a couple of years ago. I fostered Premier Tea for two weeks until she went into the TRF program. I was NOT reimbursed for hauling or fostering Tea until she was sent to the TRF. However, Suffolk is one of the few tracks that ENFORCE a no horse to slaughter policy. In fact, they may be the only one.

      I am NOT uninformed. So sorry to disappoint you on that issue. When I found out that Deputy Broad had been slaughtered, I called Rosemary Williams, Racing Director at Mountaineer, and told her that Mountaineer horses were still being sent to slaughter. She said she had no evidence of that and denied that it was happening! I then asked her if she remembered No Day Off, the TB that last raced at Mountaineer and was followed to a slaughterhouse in Canada. Williams then said that she didn’t remember that story nor anything about the HBO special that was televised across the country. It was because of that documentary that Mountaineer developed a no horse to slaughter policy. Therefore, Williams lied to me! Danny R. Bird was never punished for sending Deputy Broad to slaughter. He, and others like him, continue to operate openly at Mountaineer. I know Bird has also raced his horses under his girlfriend’s name, Cindy Bayley.

      I have been involved with horses for over 50 years and currently own 5, including 2 OTTB’s. I galloped racehorses for a friend of my mom’s back in the 1960’s. I have spent a lot of time at Beulah Park as a volunteer for CANTER. I asked Beulah for financial help with Cactus Cafe and Canuki when we needed bail money, but they politely declined because they didn’t have the funds to help out. Our group, which included Mindy, was told that we would have to come up with funding to help these horses that are discarded by the racing industry. There are thousands of horses with nowhere to go and, even if a home can be found for some of them, we need MONEY to help with that. The racing industry has never given me a dime to help these fallen warriors. Even Brett Jones of Airdrie politely declined to help our group with a stallion by the name of Slade. I fostered him for three weeks before he was humanely euthanized due to the injuries incurred at the hands of those that owned and trained him

      The racing industry is doing a little more now than it did a year or two ago. If they are “stepping up”, then it is because they are forced to do so. I have pulled horses out of a kill pen and I know it takes its toll emotionally. Mindy does this on a weekly basis. Her efforts should be applauded and she needs to be thanked for those efforts. However, she needs funding to help with the horses that come into her barn. Why don’t you ask her how much money the multi-billion dollar racing industry has sent her to help with those horses? Why is it her responsibility to always be there to help out? Also, why is it my responsibility to always help out? I’ve never made a cent on these horses that end up in a bad situation. Those who make the money should be the ones that step up to the plate. By the way, the SAME number of TB’s is being slaughtered now as were being slaughtered a year or two ago. To say otherwise is just being uninformed.

      1. jo

        Yes, have to say it again as well. You are absoulutely bang on correct! Time to call the Top Dogs of Racing out! Here in
        Ontario, this means WOODBINE, CTHS, HBPA, ORC, AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST OHRIA (Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association)which of course includes all of the above mentioned away, but more. STANDARDBRED CANADA,etc. along with all the little tracks too. I and others are perfectly aware that many, many race horsesfrom ONTARIO TRACKS CONTINUE TO bottom out completely at commonly used U.S. tracks every year with fail.
        Then they come back over borders to Canada again for steaks.It’s too sick, always has been, always will be. We have to get this damn Bill passed. We have too!jowardn121@rogers.com

  12. DarrellC

    Wow, what a gorgeous filly! Kudos to Mindy! Wish I had the resources to take this beautiful soul in.

    Involvement in equine rescue and welfare efforts and the movement to end the commercial slaughter of U.S. equines for over 10 years has fostered contempt and disgust towards the majority of the equine ‘industry’. Tending to the needs of 21 beautiful equine souls entrusted to my care is the reason I persevere in this sorry world. For someone addicted and obsessed with equines who could ask for more? *smile*

    ~”I respect a horse. We relate; and so when I seek companionship, a really meaningful relationship, I look for a horse.” – from ”Split Infinity” by Piers Anthony~

  13. ann fox

    The racing industry has stepped up…..the amount of horses that go for slaughter in Canada & Mexico….

    1. jo

      Yes, thats exactly how the Ontario race industry (WEG) has stepped up….”the amount of horses that go for slaughter in Canada&Mexico”Yes,more horses there in couple weeks too,I bet! Value4money lol…very sick…horses by the cents per pound…
      GLENYE looks amazing now Mindy,nice job!

  14. georgie lin

    The racing industry in the US has stepped up. Its the industry in Canada that does not give a damn. there are rescue groups in Canada that are associated with the CTHS and HBPA that do rehome and adopt xracehorses. And some owners like Frank Stronach have a huge barn full or retirees that are retrained and sold at below market prices as riding horses – western and english. In the USA it is illegal to sell TB’s at auctions for slaughter. If a trainer/owner/family members or associates gets caught the penalties are very hard and will put them out of business. There are also many rehoming groups down there too and owners, and some of the huge farms in KY take back horses they have bred. And the Jockey Club sponsors shows and programs to rehome them. The pressure was so bad that kill buyers will not buy TB’s in the States at many auctions. And 2 plants in Canada, one in Quebec will no longer take TB’s from the States. Canadian tracks – Woodbine – has no such rules. Why???? So please do not label every one in racing with the same brush strokes. Not fair at all. Canada and its attitude to horses is quite disgusting.

    1. Marilyn

      Georgie Lin – you really believe it is illegal to sell Thoroughbreds at auction to killer buyers? Maybe there is a law, but it is not enforced in California. Just ask the good folks at Horse Plus Humane Society in Northern California. Their website has shown more than one before and after photo — the shiny horse’s racing photo and the 6-month-later photo of the same bone thin horse they’ve pulled from a slaughter auction. I have to believe this is not the exception to the “law.”

      1. jo

        About the Horse Plus Humane Society website showing horse win photo from track, then the 6 month later same horse,bag of bones in killpen….. Hurray to them for doing that! I’m so pleased that somebody with guts posted that shame deserved by the racetrack connections and breeder of that horse(s). I would love to do that here in Ontario and Mindy, Georgie Lin, YEP,DON’T WE KNOW IT. “CANADA’S ATTITUDE TO HORSES OVERALL IS QUITE DISGUSTING”. Even GTA and around Caledon and Orangeville, many empty pastures and fields now.
        Why? Greedy farm owners,uncaring horsepeople sent them to auction killbuyers!

        1. georgielin

          You need to learn how to read . So please do so more carefully.
          I did not say it was illegal to sell a TB from the track to auction and meat. Legal and Illegal is policed by our society and government. I said that there are sanctions and major repercussions for Licensed Trainers and Licenses Owners. If a TB was sold at auction, could be Properly (paper trail) traced back in a certain time period to a Licensed Trainer or Licensed Owner at a track that has agreed, after due process by the Stewards to sanction their licensed people. That is if the Track has this program in place. I dont think any of the California tracks have these sanctions and they are owned by many diff organizations. Magna has Hollywood and Santa Anita, a development company has another, and then you have all the smaller tracks. Each indiv track does has its own rules and regulations.
          I suggested if this horse was raced at a Magna Track, (look at his racing form) then some contact with them might help, or contact Magna and their rescue operation up her in Aurora, Ontario, Canada . Or I believe I was told this was a Point Given horse, so contact Three Chimneys farm in Lexington, KY. They do have a program in place for horses bred by them, or those that have been to their farm, etc…
          Regretably not every track has these sanctions for Owners and Trainers that do this . Penn National who owns and runs tracks out east has this policy. Mountaineer and Charlestown racetracks also. Not sure about other.
          So please dont be so anxious to condemn a whole industry in one swipe. I see a lot more drafts and riding horses going to auction and meat daily and where are their owners? Prob out riding another horse down the trail…..

  15. Lisa Melone

    As Ann Fox said–DITTO all the above. I don’t know how Mindy does it–she’s amazing. I can’t stop the emotions seeing this all online, let alone seeing those horse at auction in the flesh. I would be hard-pressed to pick and choose who to save; like picking people from a concentration camp line and knowing the rest are headed to the “showers”. Mindy will definitely be on my yearly donations list!

  16. Morona Madsen

    I drove behind one of those double decker transports loaded with horses going to slaughter. I could smell the fear blowing behind that truck. I glimpsed one that was an Iceland pony. Why in God’s name do these people think they have the RIGHT, against the will of most of the American population to send these animals to slaughter for profit. This must stop. Oh, and President Obama, if y6ou don’t get rid of Salazar and the redefine the BLM, I’m going to go for impeachment of the so called man.

  17. Lisa Suphan

    What a wonderful story about an amazing person! Mindy really puts the “H” in heart and if it weren’t for her heart, dedication and bravery, so many more innocent lives would be lost. Definitely looking forward to updates on the doe -eyed gray so appropriately named! Susan, as always, your stories really hit home.

  18. ann fox

    DITTO…..to all the comments here….

  19. Mary Johnson

    I have two Standardbreds that I pulled from the Shipshewana kill auction and they have been with me for almost five years. Mindy and I worked together to “save” Cactus Cafe and Canuki and I fostered both horses for 6 weeks until they entered Remember Me Rescue in Texas. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Mindy and she is in the trenches day in and day out in order to save as many TB’s as she can from a grisly fate. However, I am disgusted with the racing industry’s lack of support for her endeavors. The horses that Mindy has taken into her barn are the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands more just like them. Why is it up to Mindy and others like her to continually step up to the plate and pick up the broken bodies that others have thrown away? Why can’t the racing industry offer to help us out financially? Mindy has many horses in her barn and anyone who knows anything about horses knows how costly that can be. Please support her program, Transitions Thoroughbreds, because, without financial support, Mindy can’t continue to help these horses that have been “dumped” at death’s door. Also, it is time to demand that the racing industry step up to the plate and implement a plan to help these gifted atheletes when their racing days are over. Keep in mind that without these horses, the racing industry wouldn’t exist. The horses should be the “main” players and should be treated accordingly when their racing days are over.

  20. Lynda Urice

    God Bless you for your work and I wish I had the land, energy and resources to help them as well. I thank God everyday for people like you. People like you are what makes this world a great place. I wish more people would help. If I wasn’t struggling myself I would definitely donate. I just hope people wasting money everyday could stop and help a little. Love what you do.

  21. Fran

    I have 3 OTTB’s- 2 saved from slaughter- and I also foster 2 from a GFAS accredited rescue. Luckily I can afford to do this and it is my “way” of giving back. For those that cannot afford to do it one “free” way to really help out is to educate the public (yes those that are not horsie) about horse slaughter.. honestly explain (without all of the emotion if possible) Make it factual info. I find this gets their attention and they will make the effort to help. KUDOS to Mindy. Wish we could clone her over and over! We need more folks like her on the “front line”!

  22. TBDancer

    I know myself and I know I will not go to an auction because I’d be like Mindy Lovell and have them all delivered to my house. That is not a good thing for them because I have neither the time nor the treasure (not to mention the space–we have ordinances to follow here for the number of horses per acre and that sort of thing) to do what she is doing.

    However, I support as best I can with the time and treasure I can free up after paying my bills and making sure my critters have food. (I can do the peanut butter and crackers thing when there’s too much month at the end of my money. The horse and my dogs wouldn’t understand that at all).

    I remember reading a poem about the old man who jumps out of his son’s car in the rain to scoop little frogs off the highway so they don’t get run over. His son thinks his father is a bit loony and urges him to stop, saying his efforts aren’t making a difference. His father deposits a frog on the side of the road and says, “It’s made a difference for that one” or something like that.

    Mindy is right–she cannot save them all. But for the ones she does rescue and retrain/rehome, she is making a very big difference.

    Blogs with stories like these make a big difference, too. Hats off to Mindy and Susan!!

  23. Kim Alexander

    Wow. What a courageous woman. And a great story, not only for that grey filly, but for all the others she has snatched from the jaws of the killers. I know we have a lot to do, but I am starting to believe that thoroughbred lovers are the most dedicated horse people that I have ever become associated with.
    Hat’s off to Mindy, and everyone who is involved in this movement.

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