Several years ago, we learned of a weekly horse auction in New Jersey where people would drop off horses for sale. We subsequently learned that there are similar auctions all over the country, and that buyers from certain auctions go to other auctions, picking up horses cheaply. Folly was one such pony. His journey began at a livestock auction in Kentucky. The buyers from the sales stable in Cranbury, New Jersey purchased him and offered him at their weekly auction. Horses who are not purchased by individuals, or saved by rescue groups ultimately find themselves in what’s called the kill pen, or the “feedlot pen.” This is where the kill buyers take the horses who are left, purchasing them for pennies on the pound. At the New Holland sale in Pennsylvania, kill buyers load eighteen wheelers with horses for the long journey to Mexico or Canada (though horse slaughter has not been banned in the U.S. no slaughterhouses are currently licensed by the U.S.D.A.; thus there is no horse slaughter in the U.S). The trip is a nightmare, with horses crowded into the trailers. The small or sick ones are especially terrified. In some instances, a trailer may arrive in Canada, only to have paperwork rejected as inadequate, resulting in the horses being transported back to the original slaughter auction.
In an investigative report by a Maryland animal advocacy group, the barn in Kentucky where Folly was first auctioned was found to be hot, dusty, at least 90 degrees, holding 300 horses, 15 donkeys and mules and 10 minis. No food or water was provided. All the horses were scared; many were emaciated or injured, and some had foals by their sides.
People sell or consign horses at auction for various reasons. Miniatures often arrive from dismantled petting zoos. Nice riding horses come from summer camps that close for the winter because the owners do not want to incur the cost of care when the camps are closed. Sometimes owners are simply no longer interested in horse ownership, and sometimes, an owner gives a horse away “free to a good home” only to discover later that the person who took the horse never intended to give the horse a home; instead intended all along to sell the horse at auction. The Amish heartlessly off load their work horses at auction when they become unsound or otherwise unable to do their jobs.
We wish we could end horse slaughter and the auction pipeline. While that is impossible under current law, we can at least save some from this terrible ending. At any one time, we have as many as four rescues, either at our home or in foster. We consider foster or adoptive homes under strict guidelines and with our continued monitoring. Any pony or miniature horse rescued by us has a home for life.