Crippled kill-pen mare & foal take final ride home

Open Zipper enjoys a little TLC after arriving in Massachusetts.

Open Zipper enjoys a little TLC after arriving in Massachusetts.

After escaping certain death in a Mexican slaughterhouse, a crippled broodmare and her young foal were transported last weekend to a permanent sanctuary home in Massachusetts.

Walking awkwardly on legs misshapen by slab fractures and severe calcification, chestnut Thoroughbred Open Zipper calmly loaded onto a four-stall trailer and traveled with her six-week-old foal Faith to take up residency in Sharon, Mass. with longtime horse advocate and registered nurse Christina Sawelsky.

Sawelsky offered the broodmare and her foal permanent a home after following their harrowing story in social media. Zipper’s ordeal unfolded on Feb. 29 when it came to the attention of horse advocates that the heavily pregnant and crippled mare had been purchased at the New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania, and was destined for slaughter.

Zipper was among a band of pregnant Thoroughbreds who turned up at the auction, touching off a widespread rescue effort led by Gerda’s Animal Aid, Inc. of Vermont. (Please see earlier story here:

While animal welfare advocates worked quickly to raise funds and purchase the pregnant mares, Zipper appeared to have slipped through the cracks, as good as dead, when Vermont rescuer operator Gerda Silver tracked her down.

Faith is a picture-perfect foal destined to enjoy all the best that her new family can offer.

Faith is a picture-perfect foal destined to enjoy all the best that her new family can offer.

“I knew there was a crippled, older Thoroughbred, and when I found out she’d slipped through the cracks, I was crushed,” Silver told Off Track in March. “I didn’t want any of them to be lost, for sure. But to lose one and have her possibly endure that kind of trip to Mexico was just too horrible. I had to find her. Finally, our board member Barbara called and found out that the kill buyer’s son had her. She called and asked him to please bring her back, and he said he would, but he wanted $700 for her because he’d have to drive her two hours to bring her back.

“For him to do this, I got to tell you, I was pretty impressed, and so grateful that I cried.”

As Silver published updates about Zipper, Sawelsky read the news with her heart in her throat. The Massachusetts nurse and horse lover followed Zipper’s rescue. And then prayed for her well being after several veterinarians recommended she be destroyed when it appeared her unusual gait, which compensated for her old injuries, was causing her pain.

When the drama died down, and Zipper proved to be comfortable despite her awkward movements, and then later gave birth to a perfect filly, Sawelsky could stand it no more: She stepped up and offered mare and foal a permanent home.

Faith and Open Zipper traveled to Massachusetts last weekend, five months after Zipper narrowly escaped shipping to slaughter while pregnant with her foal.

Faith and Open Zipper traveled to Massachusetts last weekend, five months after Zipper narrowly escaped shipping to slaughter while pregnant with her foal.

“Just the fact that she was dumped at auction, heavily in foal, and barely made it out of the slaughter pipeline was amazing to me,” Sawelsky said in an earlier interview. “It was like a movie. I followed the story. I knew all about them through social media. And when I realized they’d be made available for adoption, I knew I had to help.”

After biding her time to allow the filly to grow a little and Zipper to gain weight, Sawelsky got on the road at 4:30 a.m. last Saturday. Accompanied by her equestrian daughter Elisabeth, her sister Lisa and her niece Nicole, the four drove over 5 hours to Goshen, N.Y.

“We met (horse rescuer) Kay O’Hanlon Myruski, and stayed to meet all her adoptable animals. We almost came home with two blind ponies! Then we loaded Zip and Faith and my sister and her daughter, who’d placed pillows in the gooseneck of the trailer so they could ‘camp out’ with the horses and ride home keeping their eyes on them.”

She had been concerned Zipper’s crippled legs might cause her to fall en route. But mare and foal traveled like champs, with a steady breeze blowing across their faces from large, open windows.

Zipper enjoys a spa day in Massachusetts.

Zipper enjoys a spa day in Massachusetts.

Since arriving in Mass., mother and foal have settled into their new home as plans are being made for their future. Sawelsky intends to have a specialist examine Zipper’s legs to see if anything more can be done for her. “The slab fractures are old and have enormous calcifications causing them to be misshapen,” she says. “Poor Zip was just bred and used as a baby maker in her crippled state. I’m surprised she could withstand the breeding process, never mind carrying foal after foal.”

If there’s a way to help her legs, Sawelsky will do it. If not, the mare will live her life as a “pasture ornament.”

“Her condition will be carefully monitored. And whether she has one year or 10 years left, she has paid her dues and will be given the good life she deserves,” she adds. As for Faith, a “stunningly pretty” filly, Sawelsky’s daughter plans to turn her into her own riding horse, one day.

Christina and Elisabeth Sawelsky, who are both registered nurses, will also push forward with plans to create a program for kids and families with disabilities, incorporating humans in a Thoroughbred sanctuary.

“I thank Gerda Silver and Kay O’Hanlon, from the bottom of my heart, for being there to save Zipper from that final ride. And for being willing to take a chance with her,” Sawelsky says. “I’m honored to be chosen as the one to adopt them, and continue their story.”

23 responses to “Crippled kill-pen mare & foal take final ride home”

  1. Pamela Goldstein

    You and your daughter are truly angels for saving that beautiful mare and her filly. I hope the filly makes a wonderful riding horse and that her Mum will now live a quiet peaceful calm life, where I’m sure she knows
    that she is certainly loved very much. God Bless your Sweet Hearts. Jane 🐴🐎🧑🏻‍🦰

  2. Kathleen Ryan

    Susan Salk. I should add – Tragic Story that happens far too often. In this case – Happy ending. Thank you for the article and all the photos. Very well written. I appreciate all your hard work on behalf of the horses. Thank you.

  3. Kathleen Ryan

    Thank You Susan Salk for writing this story. Tragic story happening far too often.

  4. Sarah

    What an amazing ending! Makes me cry!! I recused an OTTB 1.5 years ago and I hope that I can rescue another one! I can’t wait to follow Zip’s story!

  5. Jay Romig

    who ever raced that poor mare are idiots,she must of had ability,I’ve seen so many like that,I always hated racing against horses like that,an accident waiting to happen that can kill your sound horse in a wreck. We never raced any horse like that, and never crippled one trying to race when we shouldn’t. This wouldn’t happen if horses like this wouldn’t be loaded in the gate.I hope this poor girl and her foal live forever.

  6. Howell

    Great story, but for the love of god do not let your kids (or anyone) ride in a trailer ever again please. In addition to being illegal it is terribly unsafe. There have been a number of stories lately of trailers getting hit by distracted drivers.

  7. Raegan Rothchilde

    My mom was one of the first female trainers on the track in the ’40s. She worked with Hirsch Jacobs. She quit because of what she saw even back then. I have rescued 2 OTTBs. One was a skin & bones 19 year old stallion by Proud Birdie. The mare was foundered. I teach intuitive nutritional healing. I ask all of our rescues what supplements they want/need daily. There is a product I used on Birdie and Sweetie. It is NOT MLM. I don’t get any kick backs from the sale thereof. They really liked it and requested it. It is called Sculacia. It doesn’t work over night. It is a pharmaceutical grade phyto-based product. It takes a month or two to biochemically improve the joints. Remember horses are hypersensitive to supplements, they don’t need horse sized doses. Usually they only need 2 caps a day. I just open the caps and sprinkle them over a small grated carrot so I am sure they get it all. As a natural bodybuilder I have used Biotics products since 1984. They are superb. Do your own research. If you are interested you can order the product yourself. I do have a wholesale account and would be happy to get it for you at my cost. If you wish to pursue this wholistic approach PM me. Thank you so very much for caring and doing something about it.

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    1. Carol Rader

      I rescued a little Arabian last Nov/he arrived home Dec 1, 2015 from Bastrop Kill Pen in La. He had a prior serious injury to his left rear foot. X rays shows degenerative arthritis has set in. He walks and runs fine, but I noticed that he favors it sometimes and when we trim his feet he does not like to put weight on that leg. I have been researching suppliments and various things seem to have helped a little. I just want to thank you for the information- I am ordering Sculacia to see if this helps my sweet boy. I want him to live a long healthy life without complications stemming from when he was starved and mistreated. I appreciate learning of things that may help in this effort. ????

    2. Lisa sisk

      I would be unterested in your product

  8. Gail Davis

    Thank You for saving this Beautiful Mare and Filly! I’m sooo very Happy that they have a FOREVER LOVING home! GOD BLESS YOU ALL! ☺????????????????????

  9. Gail Davis

    Thank You Everyone for Saving this Beautiful Mare and Filly! You are Earth Angels and I am BEYOND THRILLED that they have a FOREVER LOVING home. GOD BLESS YOU ALL. ????????????????????????

  10. Kay

    Thank you so much for your caring and compassion for these two lovely souls….best wishes for them both and I look forward to future updates!

  11. Becky

    Christina please message me on Facebook if you would like to get the foal registered Mad Flatter stood at my farm until his early passing Becky Brok

  12. Mary McLeod

    Thank you to Christina and The Entire Team involved in the rescuing and rehoming of Zipper and Faith. Am happy, Christina, you will keep us informed about them. xoxo to ALL, Mary in Boone

  13. Paula Blanchette

    Love the new beginning for these two. Grateful for all of the efforts to save them and for the love and care now coming their way.

  14. Jon

    Zip has some very good blood lines for being a sport horse. Faith should be able to be a sport horse with her sires lines. Either way, a long healthy life is in order for both.

  15. Michelle Ross

    Thank you for saving this thoroughbred and her foal. I look forward to the updates on both. 🙂

  16. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

    Makes my heart happy again…thank you….

  17. Sharon Mueller

    Thank you for giving me hope that there are enough good people that care about horses that we can turn this current state of affairs around. Some days are so discouraging that it seems hopeless, and then I read about someone like you. Bless you and the mare and baby!

  18. Marlaine Meeker

    Who was the last owner that bred her ? Just terrible. Could we have updates about her leg injuries. is her filly a TB also?

    1. Christina Sawelsky

      Marlaine…the filly is a TB her sire is Mad Flatter…and yes I will update on Zip..:))

      1. Marlaine Meeker

        Thank you Christina for the response.

      2. Raegan Rothchilde

        I hope it helps. You can find Sculacia on eBay, Amazon and several other places.

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