They Deserve Better

graceHeading to a new future • Megan Parks PhotographyOn Tuesday, May 19, at 5:18 p.m., I was sitting in my office when I got a text message. By 5:55 p.m., still sitting in my office, I owned a horse.

After two years of not owning a horse, it wasn’t the way I expected to dive back into horse ownership. For starters, I generally like to figure out what, exactly, I want to do with a horse before I start looking for one. I set a budget, then I start shopping. I’ve driven across the state of Texas to look at horses and spent too much money on pre-purchase exams that ended up being cheap compared to the veterinary problems I would have dealt with had I bought the horse. I’ve passed on horses I should have bought, and bought horses when I should have passed.

But I’ve never bought a horse sight unseen off the Internet. And I’ve never rescued a horse out of the kill pens…until now.

My friend Megan Parks, who has rescued several mustangs, sent me a text message that went something like this: “$750! OMG this is so sad! Earnings $66,107; ran at Remington Park (OK) and Lone Star (TX). Had at least 1 foal, who earned $63k. Any ideas for this mare who raced in Texas?”

My interest was piqued. I’ve got a huge soft spot for racehorses, and the thought of one this good dying in an unregulated Mexican slaughter plant was just not sitting well with me. Having offered to help Megan rescue horses before, I offered up a brief, “How much do you need?”

Instead of a response, I got pictures and a short video. She looked foundered in one picture, and like she was missing a tooth in another. After being reassured the mare was not foundered, I conceded, “She’s pretty, and I don’t even like Thoroughbreds.”

That was all it took. The offer came, “Wanna go half?” And I said yes.

Had I known Megan was texting me from a dentist’s chair, where she was high on nitrous oxide gas, I might have rethought my offer. Instead, I got on Paypal and paid $375 for a horse that, for all I knew, could be crippled, sick or dying. The only thing I knew for certain was that she would not die that day, and not in Mexico. She was hours away from getting shipped when our life-saving payment brought her home.

The most ironic thing about this whole situation, to me, is that I’m not opposed to horse slaughter. I believe it plays an important role in the equine industry. But I know that it’s absence in the United States has resulted in many more horses suffering unnecessarily and facing far crueler fates in Mexico than they would have in a well-regulated and humane U.S. processing plant.

One group that is lobbying to bring horse slaughter back to the U.S. is Protect The Harvest. I had the privilege of interviewing Protect The Harvest founder Forrest Lucas, of Lucas Oil, at the National Cutting Horse Association Super Stakes. You can read more about his mission starting on page 54.

But back to “Bevie.” I had looked her up online, and knew she won six of 25 starts in the mid-2000s. She was an allowance winner who was outclassed in stakes company and preferred running on the turf. Though her bloodlines are old-school and definitely not fashionable, she did produce one foal in 2008. After that, there is a gap of several years during which nothing is known of Bevie’s life or whereabouts until she ended up in the feedlots in Oklahoma. This was a nice mare, who obviously had a lot of heart to finish in the top three in more than half of her races. Someone once thought enough of her to breed her, and she repaid them with a foal who earned $63,000 on the track. Combined, she and her foal earned more than $125,000. This is a mare who did not deserve to die – at least not like that.

I’m not going to lie – I cried when she stepped off the trailer. The smile came as I took the lead rope and walked her toward her new life – one filled with hope and love.

I don’t know what Bevie’s future holds. I’d like to think we’ll be able to ride her one day. But even if we can’t, I know she’ll have a home for the rest of her life, no matter how long that turns out to be.

Do I feel like I just cleaned up someone else’s mess? Absolutely. We in the Western performance horse industry are lucky in that most of our horses are entirely suitable for second careers and can usually be sold for a decent price tag when they don’t make it in the cutting, reining or cow horse pen. They are ranch horses and rope horses and barrel horses and trail horses. They rarely need rescued. But sometimes they do. Sometimes they get old and stop producing, or they get lame and can no longer be ridden. If there isn’t a plan in place for those horses, they can easily become part of the unwanted masses and end up in a kill pen on the way to Mexico or neglected and starving in a field. They deserve better.

Bevie deserved better, and thanks to Megan’s big heart and a text message, she got it. Welcome home, girl.