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Inside a Horse Auction: Bidding to Save Loose Horses from Slaughter

By Guest Author Keri Bedeaux, owner and executive director of Healing Hearts & Hooves horse rescue.

Nicole and I were on the road at 10am for a 5-hour drive. The auction started at 9am, but those were the horses that went for thousands of dollars, so no need for us to be there that early.

I spend all morning begging for donations on our Healing Hearts & Hooves Facebook page and SO many people donated and shared!!!

We sit around the auction impatiently waiting for the loose horses to start. (Loose horses are unbroken to ride and literally chased into a ring to be sold to kill buyers.)

8pm rolls around and FINALLY the auction begins.

We bid on a few horses and would lose them, not thinking a kill buyer would pay that much money for them. I look into the eyes of each horse when they come through the auction block, knowing they will “speak” to us when they really need us. Our bay girl with one eye comes in, and we bid and get outbid. Bid, and get outbid. We eventually win her.

A few more horses go through and then...the little Belgian with the crooked face comes in — I WON’T lose this one. Not a chance. I basically go into a daze and just keep bidding. And we win her!!
The little Belgian with the crooked face
The little Belgian with the crooked face

While we were scoping out the horses before the auction started, I fell in love with her. I had to save her. Nicole fell in love with a Belgian who has an injury to his front foot and HORRIBLE feet! He has the saddest eyes. He knows. It was like he had been here before. Like he knew his fate…until Nicole fell in love.

A few more horses come in. And then...Nicole’s horse. The “ONE”. I bid him up to $1000. And we lose him. I look at Nicole and she looks SO sad. I knew we had room for three in our trailer and wasn’t sure how many more horses were left. A cute little paint pony comes in and I see it is blind in one eye. I bid. I get outbid. I bid. I get outbid. He sold for $550.

More horses roll through and then...It’s over. We had saved two. We should be happy with two. But something was missing. I felt defeated. Like we missed out on something.

We go pay for our two and the total was $1780. I ask the woman at the counter if she knows how much “1063” (Nicole’s horse) sold for. She tells me the price. Okay, noted.

We go find our horses in the lot and pick up the health certificates and coggins. We see the blind in one eye pony, and the guy who outbid me asks if we are looking for another horse. I ask him which one and he says he didn’t know the pony was blind in one eye and he’s sending him to slaughter on Thursday because of it.

The blind in one eye pony
The "blind in one eye" pony.

How do people do this?! I call Cindy (from Pony Tales Rescue & Rehab) and ask if she will take him if I donate $200 toward his fee. She agrees.

Then we see a ton of horses being loaded into a few of the horrible trailers. There was nothing we could do. We had a certain amount of money raised and couldn’t responsibly save any more than that. The kill buyer* bought 3 trailer loads FULL of draft horses. THREE. FULL.

There are three girls standing by us who appear to know the man loading the horses. So, I ask them if they know him and if they think he’ll sell me one off the truck. Yup. He would.

And he did. We were able to save Nicole’s favorite today. I cannot explain the difference from when he was waiting to be loaded to when we bought him. I swear to god he knew. He knew he was safe. We saved this guy in honor of Hope, my heart horse.

Nicole's favorite horse
We were able to save Nicole's favorite today.

We saved three horses today. We are so thankful for each and every one of you who shared and donated and who continuously support our rescue. We cannot save them all, and it tears us to shreds. But for the ones we can save, we make them the promise that they will never feel pain again. They will know love for the rest of their lives.

Thank you all again so much! You have no idea how much it means to us. And to them.

* Kill buyers ship them to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. They need to make a profit since that is their only reason for doing it. Like cattle sales, the price is utterly dependent on what they can sell them for. Many horses are slaughtered in Canada and many are shipped live from there to Japan for human consumption. Most non draft horses go to Mexico. The U.S. has no horse slaughter plants and exports about 100,000 a year for slaughter.

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