Equine Rescue: Jump and a net will appear.

1958447_10204940586373213_3888301588719769915_nAs I turned into the parking lot at the New Holland Horse auction, I noted a familiar old Ford pickup with a rusty stock trailer in tow.  I know this rig.  It makes my heart sink in a combined moment of sadness, fear and contempt.  It was the “Zoo Guy” from New Jersey.  I was told that he buys horses to feed the lions.  While I understand that lions need to eat too, feeding horses to hungry lions is unconscionable and inhumane euthanasia.  I tried not to look at the two sets of ears that were visible in that rusty stock trailer.  I fought the urge to unload those horses, and steal them away from their fate.  I am not a horse thief, and I can only save what can be saved so I ventured toward the auction house.

It was 11:30am, the auction had been underway since 10:00am.     I had been there early that morning to meet two “Micro Rescuers.”  These two woman had agreed to each take one horse to rehab and rehome.  Equine Rescue Network (ERN) had approved them as qualified rescuers.  At 8:00am, we met to assess the 200+ horses that stood closely together,  tied to cement walls waiting to be auctioned to the highest bidder.  New Holland Auction is held every Monday and attracts all types.  There are private homes, rescue groups, Amish people and killbuyers, who purchase horses to ship to Canada and Mexico.

Any horse that sells for under $325 is in danger of being purchased for slaughter.  Although prices vary depending on size and the principles of supply and demand.  I have been to the auction in January.  There were very few private homes, mostly killbuyers, and the prices were low.  In April, with riding season in bloom, the New Holland Auction will be crowded with private homes looking for a  summer project.  The prices will be high.  In the fall, the number of horses that run through auction will skyrocket as the summer camp horses are dropped off and individuals cull their herds to only those horses worth feeding for the winter.  With more horses than buyers, the prices are low.

ERN had $625 in the “ERN Auction Fund” which should be enough to rescue two horses.  We had carefully coordinated with the two approved “Micro Rescuers” to take the rescued horses. ERN has a formulaic strategy on how to rescue horses from auction.  Part of the strategy involves limiting my time at the auction.  I rarely stick to the “best laid plans” and end up with a sympathy purchase and an extra horse to contend with.  Today was no exception.

I arrived with the sole purpose of paying for the two horses that had been purchased earlier by the micro-rescuers.  Everything was going according to plan until, I rounded the corner to head to the office and saw a familiar face.  The hair on my neck stood up and my stomach turned slightly as my mind processed who that might be.  A slightly balding, red-faced, heavy set man, I had seen him before?  Then it dawned on me; the Arabian yearling filly, a parking lot cash-deal, the rusty trailer.  It was the “Zoo Guy.”  I had bought a little Arabian yearling off his trailer last spring.  Sweet filly, we had found her a nice home in Ohio.KRS9

The “Zoo Guy” stood talking to three younger black men.  In the midst, of their discussion stood a gigantic dark bay gelding with a sweet baby face and kind eye.  The gelding’s head hung low.  He was very tall and very thin.  I immediately knew the topic of their conversation.  Sadly, I knew the end of the story.  It was not the ending you think either.  The story would end with me owning a gigantic bay gelding.  And I HATE when that happens.

I lost complete control, walked purposely over, and injected myself into their conversation.  I asked only one question “How much?”  They younger of the black men, said “$500.”  I pulled $300 cash from my pocket and flipped through the crisp $100 bills.  Acting confident and gangster-like, I replied “I only have $300 in cash.  I will only pay $300 in cash for that horse.  Take it and I take the horse.  Don’t take it and I move on to the next horse.”  I knew how to play that game.  I always carry cash in my pockets at New Holland.  I had more cash hidden in my bra, but wasn’t going to pull that out unless I needed.  Plus I really didn’t want to go digging in my bra in front of these men.  Luckily, the deal was done at $300.  The man grabbed the cash and handed me the lead rope.  The “Zoo Guy” walked away, $300 is more than he likes to pay.

10645225_10204940581453090_6960020874776007876_nThe moment of elation passed quickly.  “Darn It!” (I didn’t actually use those words), now what?  I have no home for this horse.  No trailer.  No plan.  The poor big horse, I hadn’t even looked at him.  His legs were clean, despite a slight swelling in both hind fetlocks.  This was likely caused from spending the night standing on concrete.  He had a large saddle sore on his back.   Taking a quick glimpse at his teeth, I guessed he was 3 years old.  He had a tattoo, so I assumed he raced.

“Jump and a net will appear” – Strangely this has been my experience rescuing horses.  And a net did appear as if there was a guardian angel on my shoulder.  A woman appeared from the maze of horses and people.  She asked if she could flip the gelding’s lip and read his tattoo.  She explained that she works with rehoming racehorses.  I went on to say how I was emotionally incapable of letting the horse go to the “Zoo Guy.”

We found the tattoo number.  She pulled out her cellphone and accessed the Jockey Club tattoo lookup.  We found he had raced at Mountaineer in June, 2014.  We also were able to get the contact information of his owner, trainers, and breeders.   Finding a horse’s identity is a key ingredient to helping horses. Her next move was to call his former owner.  She explained the horse that stood in front of me.  The owner was horrified that his former horse was at New Holland.  He offered to jump in his truck and come pick him up. He was four hours away, but he would leave right away.

Alrighty then, four hours and my problem of this extra horse would be solved.  It was a cold and rainy day in New Holland, Pennsylvania.  I sat holding the horse in the parking lot waiting.  An hour passed, and a very tall woman approached me.  She offered to hold him for an hour so I could warm up.   The big gelding stood so quietly and patiently, I felt comfortable leaving him with a stranger while I went to the bathroom and ran warm water over my hands and sipped warm coffee.

I returned in an hour.  From a distance, I could see the horse’s head hung low as she was gently scratching his ears.   He was almost asleep and obviously enjoying his new friend.  I thanked her for watching him, and sat back down on the trunk of my car.  I thought she would leave.  I assume she must be freezing too, but instead she said “While you were gone, I named him Moose” and she sat down next to me.

1384254_10204940581653095_5094504827162712629_nHer name was Allison.   She had a plan.  She was an experience horse woman from Virginia.  She showed me before and after photos of several horses she had rescued in the past.  She wanted Moose.  When she explained her plan, it seemed logical.   We were waiting in the cold to return this horse to the same owner who was inadvertently responsible for Moose almost being fed to the lions.   If he were returned to his previous owner, he would just be another Off the Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) looking for a home.

Instead, Allison offered to arrange transport for him to her farm in Virginia, pay for all of his veterinary care and nurse him back to good health.  As we sat there in the rain, I called her references, and she showed me pictures of her farm.  I knew that is where Moose belonged.  The adoption paperwork was signed, and off he went to thrive in his new home.

They key to this story was we were able to identify Moose because he was a racing Thoroughbred and therefore, tattooed.   The best way to identify a horses is Microchipping and Registering that horse with the Nationwide Equine Registry.  Learn more at www.EquineRescueNetwork.com.

IF every owner were to microchip and registered their horse, we would be able to help them like we did Moose.

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16 Responses to Equine Rescue: Jump and a net will appear.

  1. Nancy Nyberg-Pennel says:

    Thank you so much for saving that horse from the “Zoo” Made me smile that a wonderful woman saved him again from a fate unknown.

  2. Nancy J. Loudon says:

    Dearest Janine…………….what a wonderful closing chapter to this amazing Equines God knows what life!!!!!! I have been to that place of horror called New Holland twice and I WILL NEVER GO BACK AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD HELP ME BUT IF THAT ROTTEN PLACE WERE EMPTY…IT WOULD NOT BE THERE THE NEXT DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am 63 now and have been on “The Farm” 54 yrs…. my parents rescued anything that had 2 legs or 4….I advocate for animals because they have no voice of their own!!!!! God Bless you for what your heart tells you……..Happy Trails Nancy & Annie(Dutch Harness Mare)

  3. Awanda says:

    GOD BLESS YOU ! You are truly an Angel ! GOD’s speed, grace and lifting hand in what you do!!

  4. jennifer passerini says:

    I wanted to thank you for sharing this story. My rescued OTTB “Moose” has changed my life and I would like to wish the “new Moose” owner the same happiness and inspiration mine has brought. Can’t be a bad coincidence that mine was rescued in Pa after having raced often at Mountaineer Race track also. Best wishes for continued rescue success!

  5. NANCY WATTS says:

    Even if all horses are microchipped, when they are at auction, and someone wants to rescue it from the killbuyers, and contacts the person who shows up on the microchip registry to see if they want to come get their horse, why does that person want to buy the same horse he has gotten rid of in the past? What good does microchipping do other than those that are stolen and found?

    • jjacques says:

      Yes good question. Microchipping provides accountability in the industry. People are less likely to act irresponsibly when rehoming a horse if they know the horse has a microchip. Second, we have done the test – ERN has recover standardbreds & Thoroughbreds using the model of tattoos and freeze brand recover. It does work…..and will work better and better as more people microchip.

  6. Linda Scruton says:

    This story made me cry happy and sad tears. I will share this story with others. All of my dogs a “chipped” why not the horses too?

  7. 3fathorses says:

    i still can’t help but wonder how many microchipped horses are slaughtered every year, my dogs are chipped too, but who check’s for a chip on a horse at an auction, feedlot, or slaughterhouse ?

  8. Diane Symons says:

    The zoo guy is Joe M. of Bravo from New Jersey. I have shut Bravo down page. He is the most abusive SOB in the world to horses. He runs the operation right on his property. He has since I was a kid in 1960’s. He shows no mercy to the horses. He starves them to make them thinner for 6 flags. The Phila zoo will not take horse meat I spoke to them. They are aware of the drugs and lost a cat from horse meat. They were kind enough to check their computers to tell me the exact food they fed them. I work for the Bucks County Aark foundation have for over 30 years the zoo knows us well. We rehabilitate wildlife. Release them. Bravo gets away with killing, starving, torture and I won’t go into the torture of the horses he gets. He gets them from the NJ race track my friend is undercover up there and see’s the Bravo truck. He has a contract with 6 flags where I know the exact road he goes down to deliver and it is not pretty what goes on there either. I live 1 hour from New Holland. I have been going there for many years and rescued many horses. Frank is also up there who runs Sunny Side. Sunny Field Stables were down the street from me. I am well know to the horse community other than FB. New Holland is another place that should be closed down. Kill buyers have fake papers, coggins and other history on the horses. This is a dirty horrible business. On my one google page which I have over 8,000 people following I have a 3 part series of a horse killer who came forward and told his story you don’t want to know what happens to these horses. Also Joe blinds the horses he has trouble with. I think you know how. Thank you from my heart for saving that angel. I have saved many. Some ended up at Franks as hackers the rest of their lives and enjoyed every minute I will say for how low he can go he is good to the horses he has. He is on Swamp Rd. Newtown. ty

  9. sally hibbert says:

    18 month ago i became the owner of the $1 horse. He is an OTTB that was pulled from the NH kill pen by a TB rescue director who read his tattoo and purchased him from the kill buyer. Every day i thank her for doing what she does, casting the net for the unwanted, broken TB. My bright red TB has blossomed and is an awesome partner. Thanks for casting the net.

  10. LYNN WILLIAMS says:

    As if I hadn’t learned enough horrific information this past year, now I learn about the “zoo guy”. He’s been apparently torturing horses for 60 yrs. Is there no way to shut him down???? Also, can any of this information be reprinted so the general public can be made aware – eespecially 1st-hand accounts like Ms. Symons’???

  11. LYNN WILLIAMS" says:

    One other question, for now, about this zoo guy. Does he even kill the horses or does he just turn them into the pens with the lions for “sport”?

  12. Jane carter says:

    I also want to know (as Lynn Williams does) how we can help shut him down, & how to get this info. out to the general public & perhaps to our politicians?

  13. Glee Ballard says:

    I have recently been told of this so called lion guy of NJ. I was shocked to see he really exists to the point of search lion guy of NY and info along with identity comes up. How on earth does he get away with such cruelty for 60 years. Isn’t what he does against the law? He needs to be stopped and jailed. Is there any new information? I think an investigative reporter needs to make this story top news. It has been told he buys little mini ponies, donkeys and sick thin older horses….all cheap. Has anyone approached 6 flags about this? who else does he sell to?

    Thank you for your time and any info

  14. Glee Ballard says:

    I have recently been told of this so called lion guy of NJ. I was shocked to see he really exists to the point of search lion guy of NJ and info along with identity comes up. How on earth does he get away with such cruelty for 60 years? Isn’t what he does against the law? He needs to be stopped and jailed. Is there any new information? I think an investigative reporter needs to make this story top news. It has been told he buys little mini ponies, donkeys and sick thin older horses….all cheap. Has anyone approached 6 flags about this? Who else does he sell to?

    Thank you for your time and any info

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