A Horse Called Flickers, Part One

The story of an enormous draft horse saved from slaughter by a high school senior.


Flickers the rescued Belgian horse

The cavernous golden nostrils sniffling and snuffling the bars of the dark stall caught my attention. I reached out to touch the horse’s nose and noticed a hand-written note attached to the stall door: “No Treats.”

It seemed like a harsh sentence for a sweet horse with what must be a huge appetite. He appeared to be a huge, thin, quiet Belgian draft horse with a thick butter mane. Later, when he was led out of his stall for a treatment. I noticed a mysterious and small copper plate screwed into to one of his hooves, with a sort of door knob that pulled the little door open. It looked like a little fairy door at the base of a tree. Who was this mystery horse in the barn and what was his story?

Flickers injured hoof


Turns out, he’d been a working horse in Pennsylvania and ended up in a kill pen, slaughter bound after being sidelined from what seemed to have started out as a run-of-the-mill, but untreated, abscessed hoof.

A group of volunteers called the Pennsylvania Kill Pen Rescue Network found him in a kill pen. This group helps find homes for horses owned by a kill buyer – someone who buys the horses intending to sell them for slaughter in Canada or Mexico. The horses are usually on a tight timeline and there are no guarantees regarding health or soundness. The only thing for sure is that the horses need a lifesaver.

That lifesaver happened to be an 18-year old girl who boards at the farm where I do. She and her mom have had a well-loved little herd at the barn for years. Cassidy, a high-school senior, happened to see a picture of the horse on the group’s Facebook page in February. The girl had already decided to save the life of a horse for her senior “quest” project. To complete the big senior project, students at her school must dive deep into something they are passionate about. Saving the life of a horse was “something I felt I could do that would make a clear, distinct and positive impact in the life of an animal,” she says.

When she found a picture of kill-tagged horse #7236, he didn’t have much time left before he’d be put on a trailer to be driven to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Impulse took over. She committed to paying the $600 fee and called a trainer she knew to ask if she could borrow a trailer that the huge horse would fit into. It would be at least six hours round trip to pick up the horse she’d later name Flickers (after a little boy said his coat looked like a “flickering fire.”). She’d wait ‘til the morning to tell her mom the plan.

Find out what happened next in Flickers’ story part two and part three.

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  1. To this gentle soul, you are his savior. Many horses are sent to slaughter on a daily basis, which is a sad reality of our throw away society. I also have saved some from slaughter, but as a an individual I can only save a few. Trust me, the ones saved are forever thankful and they know they are safe. Bless you for doing this!

  2. This girl did nothing to help. His maintenance was kept up at no charge daily by the barn manager and his help.Her mother paid the many vet bills. Eventually this wonderful animal succumbed to his terribly infected hoof and was humanely euthanized.


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