Horrible Hairy Hog, a dark bay gelding named for fictitious equines once ridden by sinister-looking masters, was rescued this week by a team of kindly friends, some who remembered him from his racing days gone by. They couldn’t bear the thought of such a fine horse becoming a casualty of the slaughter pipeline.
As Hairy Hog stood in a Pennsylvania lot waiting for the nod that would either send him to the slaughterhouse or a horse rescue facility, his fate was soon decided by advocates throughout New York, and from the backside of Saratoga Springs.
As advocates tried to raise funds to save him from slaughter, and send him to live at Our Farm Equine Rescue in New York, Thoroughbred advocates Lorita Lindemann, who has trained horses there for the August meet, and Diana Pikulski, of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, met and planned to lend support to an ongoing effort to save the 17-year-old ex-racehorse.
Horrible Hairy Hog
Sire: Blushing Stage
Dam: Doc’s Hope
Foal date: March 6, 1998Pikulski first learned of Hairy Hog’s predicament when she received an email earlier this week from a rescue group seeking help. Though she didn’t recognize the horse’s name, quick research revealed that Pikulski and the horse might share a friend in longtime Thoroughbred advocate and race trainer Lorita Lindemann.
Once a Jockey Club records search revealed Hairy Hog had raced years ago at Suffolk Downs, Rockingham Park and Northampton, where Lindemann had also worked, Pikulski sought out Lindemann for help with the horse’s future.
“Lorita and I worked together in the past, when the TRF rescued many horses from Northampton Fairgrounds, and once I saw where this horse had raced, I knew to call her,” she says. “Once I saw her name, and also the names of (Hairy Hog’s) Past connections, and knew these were people who would care about this horse, we were able to” move pretty quickly on a rescue plan.
Pikulski only had to tell Lindemann the first word of the quirky race name before Lindemann finished her sentence, and picked up the phone to call the perfect person for the job: the gelding’s original breeder Alan Bornell.
Says Lindemann: “I’ve known Dr. Bornell since I was first on the racetrack. He was my vet the whole time, and I knew he’d want to know. So I called him and explained the situation and that Horrible Hairy Hog was standing in a kill pen in Pennsylvania. He immediately offered to send the money.”
Bornell, who is recuperating from hip surgery in the hospital, says that nobody wants to get a call like this, and that he was happy to be in a position to help.
He and his wife Sandra had named the horse after a calendar depicting mythical creatures and horrible hairy hogs, and though it’s been over a decade since the gelding stopped racing and went on to be a child’s riding horse, he still remembers him well.
“We offered to take him back,” Bornell says, noting that he was shocked to learn that not only did the animal end up in a kill pen in the slaughter pipeline after all these years, but that Horrible Hairy Hog was literally standing only a few miles from where the veterinarian now lives, in Pennsylvania.
“So I’ve driven past that place on my way to work, and I had no idea he was there,” he says.
With all the intrigue and drama behind them, Hairy Hog is now recuperating at Our Farm Equine Rescue in New York, where he has been offered a home by farm owner Sharon Kress.
In a thank you the many people who helped out, Our Farm Equine Rescue offered kind words to all involved: “We want to give a huge thank you to Alice Fulton and Dawn Deams for reaching out to us, their endless hours throughout last week and dedication to orchestrating the fundraising to ensure a safe haven for both of these horses. And a especial and heartfelt thank you to Paul Umbrello, the kind man who immediately stepped up to donate to save Harry, along with Gregg Rose, the Mass. Thoroughbred Breeder’s Association (MTBA), the New England HBTA, and Dr. Bonnell.”
It couldn’t have been a better ending for the horse with the funny name, Pikulski says.
“When a horse at that age ends up in a situation like this, it just breaks my heart,” she says. “Luckily, in this situation, I knew a lot of people cared about this horse.”