"Saving one horse may not change the world, but surely for that one horse, the world will change forever." This quote certainly resonated as we made another trip to the New Holland (PA) auction last week. It was our 4th trip in 2 years, yet it never gets easier to see so many animals facing such an uncertain future. If the auction is chaotic and overwhelming for us, one can only imagine how stressful it must be for the horses and other livestock. The horse auction takes place every single Monday, with often up to 200 horses or more going through the sale. Many of these are purchased for riding, but according to a 2014 article up to 25% are purchased by 'brokers,' and shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.
We usually visit the auction the evening before the sale, as many horses have already arrived in the barns but it is still relatively quiet. Although more animals had arrived by the next morning, the two horses we ultimately chose had both stood out to our group as we made our rounds on Sunday evening.
The first to catch our eye was a very underweight draft cross mare, who was so sweet and strangely put together that we fell in love immediately. She had been dropped off for the auction house to sell, and was grouped with other neglected-looking horses who were lead through the sale in hand. Consequently, all were selling for very low prices, and we have no doubt that this girl would have gone for slaughter. Surprisingly, she came with a coggins which gave us the name and number of her previous owner. We were able to contact the woman, who explained that she had bought the mare 3 months earlier from the auction, had been misinformed as to her age and physical condition, and so had dropped her back off to be resold. The woman was able to confirm that the mare was very quiet, great for easy hacks and a real 'babysitter.' Our dentist called her 'Sweet Pea,' as he was doing her teeth, and the name stuck. At around 16 years old, this lady has likely seen it all, and we have hopes that in time she will make someone a lovely quiet companion.
Our second pick caught the eye with his nice conformation and personable nature. Unlike Sweet Pea, this boy was brought along by a dealer, who confirmed that his horses would all be sold that day. This gelding had reportedly been turned out for the past several years, and this together with his scruffy appearance convinced us that he wasn't very likely to be snapped up as a riding horse. On the other hand, because he was in good weight, there was the unfortunate chance that a 'kill buyer' would look to purchase him. At only about 10 years old, this guy struck us as having lots of potential for a future career, and so we made the decision to bring him home. 'Austin' seemed like an appropriate name for this little quarter horse gelding, and we can't wait to see what he knows once he begins in training.
The last space (in the dressing room!) was reserved for a mini, and the little cutie we're calling 'Jelly Bean' seemed more than happy to join us for the ride back home to Maine. In the past there have been a lot of minis at the auction, but this time around there were only a few, with no donkeys or mini donkeys. 'JB' had no owner present at the auction, but had been left off with a handwritten note which stated that he had been ridden and driven. Time will tell about that, but at only 4 years old and with a very friendly disposition, this little guy is sure to make a great addition to his future family.
As heartbreaking a trip as the auction always is, seeing these three relaxing in the sun down in their quarantine paddocks makes it all worthwhile. Sweet Pea will surely be well on her way to gaining some much-needed weight, as this girl hasn't stopped eating hay since we loaded her onto the trailer! All three will get their feet done this week, and will have follow-up visits from our vet for their shots. We look forward to learning more about all three, and will be eager to incorporate them into the training program at the end of May.