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Slaughterhouse Slums to Polo Fields

Slaughterhouse Slums to Polo Fields

Pamela Flanagan
Pamela Flanagan

Some say, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Often times, this statement proves false, but for one little pony, it could not have been closer to the truth. Stella’s start is unclear, somehow along the road, this precious paint pony was dumped at an auction, picked up by a kill-buyer, and sentence to death.

Stella was found in a kill pen, a holding pen that serves as the intermediary between the auction lot and the slaughterhouses. Kill-buyers attend horse auctions to purchase inexpensive horses being auctioned off for next to nothing. From there, kill-buyers ship their horses to a kill pen where the horses are jammed into small pens with dozens of other horses. Often times, theses horses are ankle deep in feces and mud; their injuries go untreated and wounds unaddressed. It is here, in these dismal conditions, that the horses await their fate. Each miserable moment draws nearer the day the super-sized rig loads them up and ships them off.

Sometimes kill-buyers post photo ads online of the horses that are sound enough to be re-homed. Like any businessman, the kill-buyer is looking to make money. If an individual or rescue organization is willing to pay a few bucks more than the slaughterhouses, then that lucky horse is sold off to the highest bidder. Many argue these practices are motivated by money while others claim it is the genuine desire to give these horses a second chance. Few lucky horses are re-homed for a couple hundred dollar. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen often enough.

horse kill pen

Tossed away and overlooked, Stella and dozens of other horses sat in the kill pen. Each hour that passed was one hour closer to when the super-sized trailer was set to arrive, load up, and ship them to Mexico. Stella would have been one of the many horses set to be slaughtered that day. That is where her story would have ended.

Like most girls, I’m an online shopping addict. Unlike most, I’m addicted to horse shopping. I’m always admiring horse ads that are posted to various Facebook groups, or browsing through equine search engines. I’ll be the first to say that this is not a good idea. When buying horses you should always meet and ride the horse. Be sure to talk to a professional you trust, and have a vet perform a pre-purchase exam to ensure the horse is healthy and sound. Don’t buy a green horse if you don’t have experience or have a professional to help you along the way. Even though online horse shipping is probably never a good idea, a little window-shopping never did any harm.

One night, while lying in bed scrolling through said posts, a black and white paint pony popped up on my feed. When I clicked for more details, I saw this 3-year-old, 14.3 hand mare, sweet, young, broke, and seemingly sound. What was unusual was her price tag. She was for sale for a few hundred dollars. Curiosity kicked in, I picked up my phone and called the number listed on the ad. It was then the sad truth behind her low price was exposed.

Stella Auction Tag

The gruff voice explained she was priced based on her age, health, and weight. Initially confused, I thought to myself, what an unusual way to price a horse. I asked what his connection was to the horse. Was he the owner? The trainer? He responded—the buyer. A kill-buyer.

Before this moment, I had very little knowledge about the horse slaughter industry and how overwhelmingly prevalent it is in the US today. Despite outlawing the operation of slaughterhouses in the US, the export of horses for slaughter is still entirely legal.

Unfamiliar with the ominous term “kill-buyer,” I continued to inquire and in my usual peppy tone, I asked him to elaborate. Without skipping a beat, the now seemingly annoyed, gruff voice explained the slaughter system: go to the auctions, buy cheap horses, give them one week to sell online, if they don’t, no problem, the slaughterhouses buy them up either way. He then kindly mentioned that this little mare, named “Lot 743,” was set to ship on Tuesday.

My heart dropped. I couldn’t believe it. A beautiful little horse was being sentenced to death, due to no fault of her own. I went to bed that Sunday night knowing I had to find a way to help.

Rescue Horse Stella

The first thing the next morning, I reached out to a vet in the area. I scheduled a pre-purchase exam to ensure if “Lot 743” was to be rescued she could live a long, healthy, pain-free life. I explained the urgency and the vet was out that day to do the exam. He called me right away to inform me she passed the vet check with flying colors. The second the call ended, I decided to take a chance. I opened my laptop and transferred the payment. At that moment, “Lot 743” dodged her death sentence.

Within a few hours, the paint pony with the yellow “Lot 743” tag around her skinny neck was on a trailer headed to Dallas, Texas where grass filled pastures welcomed her with open gates. The first day I met her, she was more than I could have imagined. She was sweet, friendly, and calm. I spent three days, morning and night, simply getting to know this little mystery mare.

Stella in Dallas with Pamela Flanagan

She quicky became my shadow. Wherever I walked, she followed closely behind. She learned to love the crunch of an apple and the caress of a curry comb. Although very green, she tacked up and rode off without a hitch. She has a long way to go, but plenty of time to get there.

“Lot 743”, now renamed “Stella,” will have the winter months to rest, relax, and recharge. In March 2017, little Stella will begin her training as a polo pony at the Chicago Polo Club. She will shipped to her forever home in Illinois where her new fate will begin to unfold.

I guess for some forgotten ponies, the grass really is greener on the other side.

Pamela Flanagan with horse
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