Last week a furry, 20+ gelding was listed on a website. He was in a DTS pen, and had a week to live. For those who don't know, DTS means Direct to Slaughter. Horses there have been purchased by meat buyers, who will load them up in stock trailers and truck them to slaughter plants in Canada or Mexico.
Because of the efforts of AC4H, a local rescue in PA who has developed a relationship with several of the brokers (they are a touchy lot, and won't let anyone else come near), photos of horses in the DTS pen are put on their website, for a last chance of reprieve. The brokers aren't being nice, they are businessmen. If they can sell a horse for more than they would get for slaughter plus not have to pay to ship it, they will. It's all money in their pocket.
A Morgan breed rescue group, Forever Morgans looked at the furry gelding, and watching his video, spotted a Morgan hiding under all that fur. He was healthy, well trained (walk, trot, back, did everything his rider asked without hesitation) and sound. There was no real reason for him to be in the 'throwaway bin'. Many horse people think a horse over 20 is too old to work. But those who own Morgans know that they will go strong into their 30's or later! Plus it was really morally wrong, that a horse who has obviously worked well all his life for humans, should be tossed aside because of a number, or because someone lost interest in having a horse.
The group decided if a home could be found, he would be saved. Members made phone calls, and a home was found, with a riding instructor who also does therapeutic riding. Donations came in, everyone digging deep into pockets made light by Christmas, hay and grain prices, and other rescues in the last month. But they were determined. This gelding would have a home.
I volunteered to pick the gelding (dubbed Harry) up, and take him to his new home, saving the transport costs, and getting Harry to his new home as soon as possible. All horses run the risk of picking up diseases in the DTS pens, plus having to fight for their food and water. The longer they are there, the more risk to their health.
I set off Monday morning in snow flurries to drive to New Holland. When I got there, Harry's coggins had just been pulled, so I have a 2 hour wait. No problem, Aunt Annie's Pretzels were there so I grabbed a pretzel dog, and went to watch the auction.
To my surprise, the auction was busy. Lots of horses, lots of people. Most of the horses I saw looked good, well kept, and went for well over meat prices. Quite a few no saled because they didn't bring what the buyer wanted. To my MD eye, the prices were very good even for the no saled ones. $1,700 for a well trained sound w/t/c /jump 16.3 draft cross gelding who was gorgeous? He would have been snapped up in my area.
But there was the lower end as well. A lot of weanlings and yearlings going for $25 or less. STB and TB going for $100-125. A gentleman sat next to me and asked about the prices, why they were so low. I explained a bit about over breeding, and the prices of hay and grain. He then asked who was purchasing the horses at that price, and I explained most were going to slaughter. Shocked, he said "But we don't eat horses in America!" I told him about shipping to Canada, Mexico, he whole slaughter pipeline. He commeted that he had plenty of hay and left. I hope he went to get a number. So my time waiting wasn't wasted.
Finally the paperwork was ready, and I went to pick Harry up. Lately, thanks to some of the Forever Morgans folk I have gotten close to some real quality Morgans. When I saw Harry, I could look past the fur and see a beautifully refined face, and excellent conformation. Classic Morgan good looks! He was a total gentleman, loaded right up, and except for some calling and pawing at first, trailered like a champ.
It's good he was calm, as I had quite a challenge getting him to his new home. While I was inside the auction, the snow turned from a few flurries, to a couple inches. Shouldn't be a big deal, but obviously no one was expecting it. Roads weren't plowed, and traffic was at a crawl. I had a couple of scary moments from drivers cutting in front of me. Fortunately I was always able to stop, but a few were sliding sideways stops in the icy conditions. Not good with a horse trailer!
We crawled down the hwy at 10 mph. The trip I made up in 2 hours took over 4 getting back. Once I passed Baltimore, the snow disappeared, and the roads were clear. Harry arrived to a lighted pristine stall, with hay, water, and humans with pockets of carrots to welcome him home. I got a better chance to look him over, and I am even more convinced of his quality. Someone has taken good care of him in the past, has probably shown him. He is very well trained, and trusting of humans.
I am looking forward to photos this spring, because while he arrived in paupers rags, I know hiding underneath is a prince.