Lily, a white Arabian or Arab-cross mare, made national headlines over the past few months, drawing attention once again to the treatment of so-called unwanted horses. After a tumultuous few months, Lily died in a pasture accident at Tracey and Jon Stewart’s animal sanctuary in New Jersey less than a month after her arrival there.
But Lily wasn’t even checked into New Holland to be sold. She was abandoned in a back stall, ostensibly because of her poor condition, and discovered on Monday, March 14, by a New Holland employee after sales had ended for the day. The horse was underweight and had a serious eye infection. Her white coat was mottled with paint. That detail, along with her apparent soreness and sensitivity to touch, led to reports that she had been shot with paintballs more than 100 times.
Security cameras revealed a man named Phillip Price to be the person who abandoned the horse. He has never been accused of being the person responsible for the condition she was in. However, he was convicted of animal cruelty for transporting Lily while she was unfit for travel, and for abandoning her at the auction. Price had previously been charged with animal cruelty for eight neglected horses in his home state of Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, Lily was put in the care of University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. She had to have one eye removed, but she recovered well and even made a friend, another blind mare named Anita, while they both recovered at a private rehabilitation facility.
Although no one besides Phillip Price has been charged in relation to Lily’s case, Lancaster County SPCA investigator Sue Martin traced Lily’s origins to Smoke Hollow Farm, a lesson and show barn in New Jersey. Farm owner Doreen Weston admitted that she did have an elderly white Arabian mare with eye problems taken away by Phillip Price on March 14. That horse had a paint-stained coat—not from paintballs, but from a child’s birthday party during which the horse had been painted with non-toxic finger paint. Photos on the farm’s Facebook page document this. Nevertheless, Weston has expressed doubt that Lily was the same horse as the one who left her farm that day.
While Lily’s beginnings may never be confirmed, we do know the end of her story. Lily and Anita were both adopted by former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart and his wife, writer/activist Tracey Stewart, who operate a farm animal sanctuary in New Jersey.
On Monday, June 20, the sanctuary posted a Facebook update stating that Lily had stumbled and fallen on her neck, causing a break. Reports vary, but Lily’s age was said to be anywhere from mid-twenties to mid-thirties. The final month of that life, at least, was spent in a quiet, kind place.