There are some times that rescuing is more heartbreaking than you think you can handle. I have seen so many horrible things over the last 13 years that will stay with me the rest of my life. The ones that hurt the most are always victims of the slaughter pipeline. Nice, good horses thrown away like trash, treated like they are already dead, just trying to keep them on their feet until their bodies can be processed for human consumption in Mexico or Canada. I recently experienced something I knew was coming at some point. It was so heart breaking and indescribable, but I will do my best to share it with you.
A slaughter truck loaded with over 40 horses and donkeys pulled over on their route in the slaughter pipeline. The driver realized that one of the horses was down. After standing outside of the trailer and shocking him for several minutes with a cattle prod, he realized it couldn’t get up. He pulled into a yard with an unloading chute for semi-trucks, and I happened to be there. I could tell from the trailer when it pulled in that it was a slaughter truck for horses. My heart sank when I saw them jabbing a cattle prod through the holes. I immediately knew there was a down horse in that trailer. The driver decided he had to unload the horses to try and get the down horse up, and as he walked back to the pens, I ran around the side of the trailer and looked in through the holes. The horses were packed in, heads held low. I moved from one hole to the next, trying to see the down horse.
Finally, I saw him. He looked like he was dead. It was such a sad and horrible sight. His head was laying flat on the floor, surrounded by dozens of sharp hooves from horses doomed to death.
I tried to move to another position to get a better look, and what I saw looked like something from a horror movie. What this poor horse was enduring absolutely broke my heart.
I moved farther down the trailer and could see him gasping for air. It was very labored. He was covered in sweat, and I could tell he was extremely dehydrated. Horses in the slaughter pipeline go for days without food or water. Most auction yards at the beginning where horses go into the slaughter pipeline don’t have food or water, and horses can easily sit there for 3 days before shipping…
The driver unloaded all the horses that could still walk off the trailer, then he took the cattle prod and started shocking the down horse again. The poor horse tried his best to get up, but his body was spent. I had to do something.
We told the driver that we would try to help him get the horse up. When we walked into the trailer, the horse laid there in fear, scared we would shock him again. He raised his head, and from the look in his eyes, we knew it was hopeless. His entire face, ears and eyes were covered in manure. In some areas of the trailer, there was 6 inches of manure that was dry and dusty.
We put a strap on and tried to get this poor boy up, but there was no strength in his body to help. There was no way to get him up.
The driver thanked us for our helping try and get him up. I was not going to leave this dying horse’s side. The driver moved the trailer and planned on pulling him out and dropping him on the ground 4 feet below. I convinced him to back up to a sawdust pile and we could pull him out there where the landing would be soft. The driver agreed to give him to us since he was obviously going to die.
He was pulled onto the sawdust pile, and when his body was in the sun and the soft shavings under him, he gave his last breath. He died from shock the veterinarian believes and he was very dehydration. It was so unnecessary, so horrible, yet I know this happens constantly in the slaughter pipeline. We named him Pegasus. He was a 15-years old gelding, freshly trimmed, up to weight, and had many good years left if only he hasn’t been sent to slaughter. Horses like Pegasus find homes very quickly at our shelter. He had a freeze brand on his right hip, J/S, and was obviously well taken care of before he ended up in the slaughter pipeline. Pegasus is a victim of the horrific cruelty of the slaughter pipeline. Over 100,000 horses just like Pegasus are shipped out of the United States for slaughter every year. If healthy, middle aged horses like Pegasus cannot make the trip, do you think kill buyers are wanting to fill their trailers with old, skinny, lame horses? No. They will just to get a load, but their focus is on young, healthy horses that can survive the trip long enough to be slaughtered. The other horses on the trailer were doomed, and there was nothing we could do for them. Some of the horses had braids in their manes and tails. You could tell they were someone’s pet before being thrown away into the slaughter pipeline.
I sat by Pegasus’ side, wishing his future could be different, but in some ways, this was probably more merciful than making the trip to Mexico or Canada.
The only thing that could be done for poor Pegasus was take him back to our property and give his body a proper burial. When we do auction rescues, every horse we save is saved from this fate. This is the reality of the slaughter pipeline, do not listen to the propaganda spread by those who are either profiting from the slaughter industry or want to make a few last dollars on their horse when they want to throw it away. ~ Tawnee Preisner