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?
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.
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