As the thin gray mare stood tied among other slaughter-bound livestock, Ingrid Messineo flipped the obliging animal’s lip to confirm she was indeed a tattooed ex-racehorse. Then carefully, and one by one, picked up all four feet.
Nice horse, she mused, as she patted the gentle animal’s neck and whispered, “I hope you find a good home.”
Turning her back, she walked away as the sad-looking creature’s eyes followed her. A moment later, before Messineo disappeared from view, the mare let out a mournful whinny.
“She seemed to look at me as if she was saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to leave me here.’ So I went back, patted her some more, and my heart felt like it broke.”
That’s when she rushed back out of the holding area of the Unadilla Auction, grabbed her friend Kay O’Hanlan, a seasoned horse rescuer who was trying to save four other horses, and asked her to please make room for one more.
Race name: All My Robyns
Barn name: Diamond
Sire: Robyn Dancer
Dam: East of Allemont, by Far Out East
Foal date: April 6, 1997
O’Hanlan agreed, and quickly raised the $130 “bail” money from horse advocates John R. Murell of Texas and Deb Jones of California to purchase ex-racehorse All My Robyns, she adds.
“Kay contacted Deb Jones in California and John Murrell in Texas to make sure she had funding, and then she bid against the meat buyers to buy her,” she says. “And after we had her, a friend who had brought her trailer was able to load her with four other horses.”
All My Robyns was transported two hours to O’Hanlan’s farm, and almost instantly, she seemed to regain her equilibrium and her form.
“She was so easy to put weight on, and gained it so quickly, that I had the vet come out to make sure she wasn’t pregnant!” Messineo says. “She’s eating a pellet grain and hay, and it turns out she’s just an easy keeper.”
And the mare quickly identified Messineo as “her person.”
She will only load on a trailer for her savior, not anyone else, and she proved more than willing to retrain for her new friend. “When I first started riding her, the only thing she knew was that if you got on her back, she wanted to run,” she says. “And she could pick up her left lead, but not her right.”
Catching on quickly, the mare easily learned to collect her gaits, and to execute her walk, trot and canter with such aplomb she was able to show off at her first horse show —only six weeks after leaving the kill pen!
At the Ulster County Fair in New York, the sweet-tempered lady, who isn’t “mareish” at all, picked up two 5th place ribbons in walk-trot and walk-trot-pole classes. “For me, who hasn’t been in the show ring for 28 years, it was a tremendous accomplishment,” Messineo says. “And for a mare who knew nothing, who was bound for slaughter, it was amazing.”
The snow-white mare’s timing couldn’t have been better. She arrived in Messineo’s life days before her prized 22-year-old gelding died of EPM, a rare and debilitating disease that attacks the nervous system.
“She came into my life at the right time, and I can tell you that she really knows I am her human,” she says. “One day my sister tried to load her on the trailer for me, and she refused. So I took the lead line and she walked right on. My sister said, ‘This is your horse.’ ”
How good it was that Messineo took a second look at the underweight disheveled mare when there were few friends to be had for a horse nearly out of time.