How two chestnut Thoroughbreds escaped certain death at a Canadian slaughterhouse after they were sold to a meat buyer Aug. 19 came down to a fluke, a photo, and a frenzy to save them.
The horses— 11-year-old gelding Cool Checkers and 10-year-old mare Nature’s Fancy— were run through the New Holland Auction and purchased by a meat buyer so fast that it was almost a miracle that Thoroughbred advocate Allie Conrad caught a look at them, and better than that, managed to take pictures including their lip tattoos, and put out an alert on Facebook page OTTB Connect.
“I hadn’t been to New Holland in 15 years, not since I bought my horse Phinny there, and started CANTER Mid Atlantic because of my experience,” Conrad says. “The reason I stopped by was that I wanted to see the impact we’ve had” with the widespread Thoroughbred re-homing efforts “because when I got Phinny all those years ago, there were about 40 percent Thoroughbreds at New Holland, racing fit, and wearing their racing plates.”
Dam: Number One Cool
Foal date: Feb. 13, 2003
Sire: Valiant Nature
Dam: Flemish Fancy
Foal date: April 22, 2004 On this return visit, a fluke trip, she walked up and down the aisles and noticed the regal Thoroughbred heads of Cool Checkers and Nature’s Fancy, scared but noble, huddled together.
She approached the frightened horses, flipped their lips, took a picture of their tattoos, and posted it to Facebook. And though it seemed all hope was lost as Conrad snapped that final picture of Nature’s Fancy, who appeared terrified as she was paraded past auctioneers and finally sold, the photos caused an immediate outcry as it made its’ was through social media and beyond.
And to those it reached and touched, the response was overwhelming as they pulled out all stops to save the horses.
“People returned the information immediately!” Conrad says, explaining that as soon as she posted photos of their lip tattoos on Facebook, the horse’s names were found and also posted to Facebook.
Once the names were known, help came out of the woodwork.
Laurie Calhoun, cofounder of Thoroughbred charity Foxie G Foundation, which had actually re-homed the gelding Cool Checkers as a yearling for breeders Joan and Dale Everett, stepped into the fray immediately. Shocked to learn via a phone call from Maryland horseman Andi Puckett that the chestnut gelding, who had a nice home for 10 years, had been sold at New Holland, she hopped on the phone.
First she notified the Everetts, who urged her to “get the horse back at any cost,” she says. Next, she called a local dealer, who has done yeoman’s work tracking horses and obtaining them from kill buyers, for Foxie G.
“This local dealer has done incredible work for us. He made some calls for me, and at one point we had the incorrect hip number, but he eventually found Cool Checkers with the mare. He asked if we wanted her too and I said of course,” she says.
Calhoun adds, “It was really intense. At one point I tried to find out if the horses had shipped to Canada already” and she feared the worst. Then, when the local dealer found the horses alive, and shipped them to her at no profit to him, she let out a deep sigh of relief.
Both horses are now in quarantine at a Foxie G Foundation barn, where they will be assessed and cared for until a decision is made about their futures.
Foxie G recently enacted strict contractual guidelines prohibiting adopters from transferring ownership to anyone, Calhoun says, noting that Foxie G insists on taking back any horse who does not work out, no questions asked.
Calhoun adds that she is eternally grateful that Allie Conrad decided to drop by New Holland Auction that day. And Conrad, who has re-homed many ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds for CANTER Mid Atlantic says the experience of Foxie G and Cool Checkers shows that even the best re-homing situation can go wrong.
“This can happen to any of us,” Conrad says. — This story was originally published on Aug. 29, 2014.