December 17, 2012
The Special and Wise Mare
By Laura Bell
I spent a little bit of time outside today with Shelby, the Shasta QH mare who is responsible for all of these rescues.....let me tell you a story:
I work in Fallon a lot on foreclosed homes, so on October 5th this year, I was driving by the sale yard out on the highway and although I hate looking that direction because it upsets me when I see horses there (and I have been there many times rescuing horses, however, I can only rescue so many and still be responsible for the horses we already have at our sanctuary), I did turn my head and that was my first look at what became known as “The Shasta Horses”….wow, were they ever beautiful in those corrals; Paints, Appaloosa’s, palominos, chestnuts, bays, cremellos, perlinos, and buckskins. I drove on, but after 2 miles, I pulled a u-turn and went back and pulled over on the near side of the railroad tracks…..hmm, I have seen some really good looking herds of Reservation Horses, but not with the uniform quality of conformation this herd of horses had….however, larger herds of what were obviously well-bred Quarter Horses, Paint Horses and Appaloosa’s is not “the norm” for the kill sale yard, and neither were the number of obviously well bred horses there either. I had to get to a job, so with another look, I drove off, however, I couldn’t get those horses out of my mind, didn’t sleep well for my typical 3-5 hours a night, and just knew the next morning I had to go back or else it would really bother me if I didn’t.
So 2 days later, a Sunday, when I knew the sale yard would be closed so I could sneak onto the unfenced property across the railroad tracks, I took care of the animal children at our sanctuary that morning, went and worked on a house, and then drove back to Fallon. They were all still there, which didn’t surprise me that they were at the sale yard that has weekly kill sales on Tuesdays, and if these horses were going through a special sale, I would have read about it on Craigslist (and actually, that Sunday night, I did see a short post on CL that mentioned these horses were selling on Tuesday, but it didn’t go into what exceptional horses they were color and conformationally-wise). I parked on the side of the highway and ventured to the other side of the RR tracks and looked down the berm at the horses. I did a short video, took some photos and then decided “well, this is stupid Laura, just go down to the corrals and if someone sees you, scamper away as fast as your 53 year old legs will carry you!”.
So as I venture closer to where some of the horses are eating out of the long feeder, all of the horses see me coming and move away, all except my Shelby-Mare. She continues eating but then stops and comes down the fence line to me like “oh hey, how are you today?”, just like she knows me and was expecting me (and no way that Shelby saw me stopped on the side of the highway 2 days earlier and knew it was me coming back….right, I mean seriously is it possible?). I reached through the fence and began rubbing her cheeks, and then scratched her behind her ears and she closed her eyes like “mmmm, that’s great”. A few of the other horses started to wander back over, checked me out and then began eating again but didn’t want me to touch them……I filmed my video, narrating and talking to myself and the horses like I always do (I know, I sound silly because I talk to the horses like they’re people and I carry on one-sided conversations. I also think out-loud and ramble A LOT too….lol), took some photos, and then I told Shelby, and also one of the babies, that “I might have to come back for you” and climbed back up the steep berm, crossed the railroad tracks, got in my truck and left…..at that point, I was truly thinking that I’d post the video on Craigslist to try and get people to a sale most of them would never attend if it weren’t a special sale because most Northern Nevadan’s never go to the kill sales because they are depressing and ugly even if its cattle and other animals going through besides horses. And even though I say on my video that I will go for free and help evaluate horses for people, I will transport horses for free, etc, I was already really thinking “it will have to be enough Laura that you will go through with the offer to transport horses to their new homes for free, because you are probably not going to be able to handle actually being at the sale watching all these beautiful horses go through and not be able to rescue more than one or two”….I was basically going to chicken out on being at the actual sale, but be there after the sale if someone needed help getting their horse home.
That night, I kept thinking “I can’t do it, I won’t do it” meaning going to the sale, but every time I thought I had made my mind up for sure, I’d think of “MY” Shelby-Mare (and I hadn’t named her yet, and am using that here to identify whom I’m speaking about) and how I’d as much as promised her I’d be back for her, and how she’d walked up to me when all of the other horses at first moved away, and basically said “hey” and I’d think how disappointed she’d be that I wasn’t there to bring her home with me. Another very bad night of waking up, half-way sleeping thinking about letting “my” mare down, and all the other horses too, so the next day, I went through with my plans with my friend Laurie to go back to the sale yard the day before the sale and look at horses.
We went to the sale yard while they were sorting cattle, went into the office and asked if we could go out and look at the horses from the outside of the corrals in the aisle-way. The ladies in the office said to go out and talk to the manager. We found him, and since I do rescue horses sometimes from the Tuesday sale and have done so many times, I think he may have recognized me and was actually sort of friendly, which he has also been with me in the past too. Then he said something that told me these were NICE horses; “we haven’t had so many quality horses from a ranch herd in a long time”….that was confirmation of what I already thought; these horses were special. Laurie and I were told where we could go to avoid being trampled by cattle, so we walked out and started meeting the horses. That is when Laurie’s horse Bella chose HER; she walked past me away from her filly-baby, and straight up to Laurie, put her nose through the fence and pushed her nose into Laurie’s chest……like she was laying claim to Laurie and saying “you’re mine”. We were getting in deeper and deeper with every passing minute it seemed.
After preceding down the aisle-way and looking at the array of beautiful horses who had ended up at this place with the feeling of hopelessness hanging over it, we made our way to a big pen with mare and baby pairs, some solo babies perhaps 4 months old and older, (where were their Mamas?), and assorted yearlings, 2, 3, 4 year old fillies and older solo mares, etc; it was the corral that Shelby was in…..there she was again, in the same area as the day before, still eating. We stood there for 5 minutes or so, admiring all of the horses beauty, color and conformation, and also very over-whelmed and sad that we wouldn’t be able to rescue even a small fraction of them because there were 85-100 of them from this ranch……seriously, I had begun running the Craigslist ads on Saturday after I had seen these horses, trying to rally people to come to a sale most will never come to, the Fallon “kill sale”, because it’s ugly and sad, so maybe a few people would show up and perhaps rescue/buy a horse, but most likely, not many more horses were going to leave the sale yard with their own humans. I called out to a mare closer to me, and then noticed Shelby’s reaction across the corral; she heard my voice, turned her head and looked over her left shoulder directly at me, and then left her hay, and walked across the big corral straight to me like “hey Laura, you’re back”. I stood there scratching behind her ears and told her I was only back because I told her I would be, and not to have come back would be a betrayal. We hung around for another hour or so, trying to decide what horses we could afford, knowing we couldn’t get any of the handsome young stallions in their separate pen because I had no where to put them without mares around. I decided I’d just have to keep flagging myself on Craigslist so I could keep re-running my posts (which go back to the top of the listings for awhile until I flagged myself again and re-ran the ad), about the sale the next day on October 9th and let people know there were some super nice stallions in this mix that would be fabulous geldings…..in other words, I was prepared to plead with people to show up at the sale and that I would do free evaluations, free transport, free lessons when they got their horse or horses home, etc….anything to rescue as many horses as possible on October 9th.
The next day, I got up dreading that sale, just really sad that I was going to be making life and death decisions. I hoped my Craigslist’s ads and also my repeated Facebook pleas on my personal FB page would generate interest and had gotten shared all over. I did receive 3 or 4 phone calls and/or emails of people that had seen my Craigslist’s ads and/or my Facebook postings and they asked if I would be there to help them select a horse if needed….yes, I’ll be there even though it was truly a sad day for most of those horses. So off we went about 11 A.M. to Fallon. We drove over and as we pulled into the big dirt parking lot, I noticed quite a few more people than usual hanging out at the regular pen where the weekly sale horses are kept….normally, there is either nobody by the corrals, or sometimes when I drive by or go to the sale to rescue, there may be a person or two looking at the horses. Just so everyone knows; at these kill sales, you are NOT allowed to go in the pens with the horses, NO horses are ridden through or led through the tiny sale ring….they ALL go through loose just like the cattle do, and just like a wild or untrained horse. They are also in the sale ring usually 30-6- seconds. The horse has to be a horse everyone knows more about and knows that they are trained, has a show record, has a history that the seller that the auctioneer reads, etc, for the horse to be in the sale ring longer and/or for the price to go up a lot higher than kill price.
We got out of my truck and headed over to the first pens with the horses that had just been dropped off that day by the owners (and people who are taking/dumping their horses at the kill sale do not generally hang around and wait to see how much they sell for; since they don’t usually put a “reserve price” on them that has to be met for the horse to sell, no reason to wait around because they won’t be taking their horse home, so they leave and are sent a check for the sale of their horse usually to a kill buyer). This is the pen that had the big grey Quarter Horse mare, now known as Gracee that Linda H. has living in her wonderful farm. She was once again really friendly, which was somewhat unusual for a ranch horse or broodmare. Some people that looked like private party buyers (IOW, not kill buyers) were looking at her, so that gave me hope that perhaps my ads had worked and people were here to look at many of these nice horses in this pen, and also the Shasta Horses. We walked down to the pen with the mares and babies, and solo fillies and mares and I was heartened to see quite a few people checking out the horses. Somehow, they recognized me even though I didn’t know any of them because people began walking up asking if I was Laura Bell. I said yes and then began giving my observations of particular horses that I was seeing for the third time to people that asked. There was a lot of interest in the beautiful, wild colored Appaloosa mare featured in my first video from Sunday, October 7th, and also in a few of the buckskin mares, palominos, the big chestnut mares who looked like adult Mom and daughter, and several other really gorgeous horses that were big, beautiful Quarter Horses, Paint Horses and Appaloosas. I then also noticed a bunch of people looking at the young stallion pen where there was so much color and beautifully conformed horses that it was astonishing these horses had ended up at one of the weekly Fallon kill sales. People were also looking at the mare and baby pairs in separate corrals to keep the smaller foals from being hurt in the pens with the bigger horses.
I felt a bit better about the chances of safe homes for more horses, but still knew that many were going to be bought by the kill buyers and would most likely ship to slaughter because they did not have their registration papers with them (and from their quality, I knew that many were probably registered) and many, probably most of them, were also not halter broke, let alone saddle trained. They had come from a ranch near Shasta, CA where most of the large acreage pasture, and also their grazing allotment range, had burned in the Rush Fire in September. These were ranch breeding program horses, or what I call “range horses”, who are not wild horses, but who “live-out” on the range and large acreage ranches, breed and have babies on the range, and then the horses are brought in for various things such as castrations, branding, saddle training, sold as ranch horses, etc. The mares will be turned back out with the stallion and continue with breeding. During my assessment of these horses and from being in the horse industry as a professional trainer/instructor/judge for nearly 40 years, I saw certain “tells” that indicated some of the mares were most likely saddle trained….to what degree I didn’t know, but definitely saddle trained. This assessment has turned out to be true with 4 of the mares my friends and clients and I bought either at the sale or from the killbuyer.
So I’m hanging around speaking with people about what I think about certain horses based on their expressions, body language, conformation for “use and purpose” that people are interested in doing with a horse they buy, etc, and then my Shelby-Mare sees me from across the corral and strolls up and stands there looking at me (I think she actually tells me what to do telepathically, but that’s a discussion for a different time…..it also seems a bit wacko to some people when I talk about it! Lol). So of course, like the good little human I am that is already owned by her even though I haven’t rescued her yet, I go over and give her scratches and tell her “I told you I’d be back for you”……. About this time, the sale is going to begin in about 20 minutes, I have wonderful people calling me from out-of-area saying they want to send me some money to apply toward rescuing horses (and the stars definitely aligned on this rescue because my husband and I had applied for our 501c3 animal rescue non-profit over a year earlier but still had not gotten back “The Letter” from the IRS confirming our status until just 5 days before I saw these horses!), people are asking me questions before they go to the sale barn, etc, and hurrying down the aisle is a nice lady named Lisa, the self-proclaimed “Soccer Mom” who has no horses at all, but wants to get a horse for herself. She’d called me the day before after much hesitation she said, and told me she wanted to help and also wanted to drive 1 ½ hours from her home out to the cruddy kill sale to try and help. I was on the phone when she walked up, but had already selected what I thought would be a nice horse for her, a beautiful Appaloosa mare with a big baby at her side. I indicated I would be there in a second, so she walked over to the mare pen and the next thing I turn around, there she is stroking the nose and head of the mare I thought would be a good horse for her (and Sadie hadn’t been really letting other people pet her much at all and was not acting overly friendly to anyone until Lisa showed up)…..that mare, who is named Sadie now, walked straight up to Lisa when she walked up, and “chose” Lisa for her own human! There were approx. 35 horses in that pen, and Sadie walked right up to Lisa!
So now we have Shelby choosing me, Bella choosing Laurie, and Sadie choosing Lisa…….are you getting the impression folks that we are all connected in this world if we just keep our minds open to those connections? I get off the phone, walk over and introduce myself and Lisa says “I think this is my horse”, and I reply “I think so too because that is the mare and baby I already chose for you”. Amazing!
Finally, everyone has headed up to the sale barn except for me and a friend of mine. Shelby by now has turned around and is about 15’ away from me facing the other way, so as we start to walk away, I casually say “where’s my mare?” in a sing-song voice and Shelby turns her head to the left looking over her left shoulder and whinnies at me like “here I am Laura”! My friend and I look at one another with our mouths hanging open, and like “wow, what the hell” because there was NO WAY that was a coincidence; Shelby totally understood what I was saying! She turns and comes to the fence and I reassured her I would make sure she was coming home with me and then we headed up to the little sale barn to try and change the futures of some of these horses for the better.
The sale barn was fairly crowded considering that by the time the horses come through the weekly kill sale ring after the cattle, goats, sheep, etc, there are usually very few people there for the horses except for mostly the kill buyers that are there every week. I don’t usually sit down when I’m at this particular sale rescuing horses and often just stand against the wall in the entrance into the sale area. The sale had already begun by then and a few mare/baby pairs had gone through and unfortunately sold to the kill buyer because no one else bid on them. Shoot, there were 85-100 Shasta Herd horses, and then another 8-10 horses that had been dropped off by their owners just that morning, so this was exactly what I was afraid of and why I didn’t want to be there….that dang horse Shelby was the main reason I was there at that point, but I just knew I was going to leave that sale feeling very, very bad later because of all the horses we couldn’t rescue.
As the sale continues, we all notice that while at first the mare/baby pairs were coming through together, suddenly it changed to only the babies who were 4 months or older without their mothers. The babies were frantically looking around for their mothers and crying out, and I could hear the mares outside the sale barn screaming for their babies, but the sale proceeded with them separated and selling solo, with many of the babies never to be reunited with their mothers ever again. I bid on a newly weaned baby and was able to get him (we named him Bucky, but he is in a great home in SoCal now and is called Tugboat now! Lol), and I noticed other people that were there because of my Craigslist ads and postings on Facebook were also bidding too and actually had the winning bids in many cases (I believe when the dust settled at the end of the sale, people that came their because of my ad’s and postings had purchased between 10-15 horses….YAY!). Now however, it’s getting sadder and sadder by the second because many of the horses young and older are going to the 3 or 4 kill buyers who are at the sale. The bidding was somewhat confusing and erratic because some horses coming through were bid on by-the-pound, while others were bid on by the actual price like a regular horse sale. Then the auctioneer did something that sealed the fate for many if not most of the young stallions; he put them through the sale ring in a “lot” of 10-12 horses and where one bidder buys them all for the highest bid…..people stood up in the stands and protested that they were there to buy single horses (and they were also there because of my ads and posts that these stallions were awesome horses, well built and with a lot of potential for various types of riding and would be great GELDINGS), but it didn’t matter and they were run through in the big lot and a kill buyer bought them all…..from what I heard, they all shipped to Canada for slaughter within a few days of the sale.
Now we were all concerned for our chances of rescuing the Appaloosa mare and baby for Lisa, and also Shelby for me if they were now going through in “lots”…..Laurie’s mare Bella had already gone through solo without her filly which Laurie had managed to be the winning bidder on the filly, but because the bidding kept switching back and forth, Laurie missed out on bidding and the mare was bought by a kill buyer…..Laurie was absolutely devastated! Remember everyone, these horses are only in the sale ring loose with no halters for anywhere from 10 seconds to maybe 1 minute usually, so it is very fast paced, the auctioneer is really going right along in the auctioneers sing-song “auctioneer-speak”, its loud, horses are whinnying, etc, so if you get confused, the horse is gone to someone else. I’m really watching for Shelby at this point because Shelby is what I call a “true bay” and she only has a slight feathery white mark on her fore head, (and funny enough, true bays with minimal white are probably my least favorite color of horse, but Shelby was special from the first time I met her, so color didn’t matter one bit), and there were quite a few true bay horses with minimal white, so it could be easy to miss her considering that although the horses have number tags on them, when they are loose in the ring, they are turning around, going back and forth, etc, and it’s hard to sight on the tag and read it, or, if their tag has fallen off before they come into the ring, a new tag called a “ring tag” is slapped on them from the end of a tagging pole and it is not the same number they had before, so now there is more potential confusion. Suddenly, 4 mares come into the ring altogether, and my heart sinks when I see that one of them is Shelby…..damn, I can’t afford all 4 horses, now what? The auctioneer begins, but then stops and asks if anyone wants to bid on any specific horses and I wave my number and say “yes” and indicate Shelby. Wow, this is good, until I realize that when the bidding begins, I obviously have at least 2 people bidding against me and they are both kill buyers as I later found out. So I’m bidding right along but it is getting confusing again on who has the high bid, but then as my friend Laurie later told me and I only vaguely remember, as Shelby was going back and forth with the other 3 mares in the chaos in the tiny ring, she suddenly stopped, stuck her nose through the bars at the top of the sale ring wall, looked straight at me, and whinnied as if to say “help me Laura”…..Laurie went on to say at that point, I guess I stepped forward to the rail, planted my feet, and just held my number up the whole time and indicated I was going to keep bidding and save my girl. It was all over pretty quickly after that, and as the 4 mares left the ring, I called out to Shelby “don’t worry, you’re safe now Girl”…….
After that, mares, yearlings, new weanlings, 2 and 3 year old fillies, colts and mares were coming through arbitrarily in “lots” of anywhere from 2-6 horses and also solo, and unfortunately, Lisa’s Appaloosa mare, whose baby we had already bought separate as Laurie had also done with her Paint mares baby, came through in a lot of 3 mares. We didn’t even bid because the bidding went far too high for us. Now Lisa is standing there with her son who is crying and this has gone very wrong, very quickly because it was already bad enough her son was at the sale (and Lisa had never been to a kill sale before and didn’t know it was so nasty that she should not have brought her 9 year old son…..as it turns out now though, her son has turned into an advocate against horse slaughter and talks to everyone about the kill sale, how bad it is, and why horse slaughter needs to be banned, and in a minute you will read why her son was instrumental in rescuing Sadie), but now they were unable to rescue the baby’s Mama from probably going to slaughter because a kill buyer had bought all 3 mares.
Finally, the sale ends and people are coming up to me asking what they should do if they want to try to buy a horse they want from one of the kill buyers. I indicated that they should go to whatever kill buyer purchased the horse they wanted and speak to them about buying the horse. However, they would have to be expecting to pay more than when they went through the sale; basically there is what I call “kill sale price” and then there is “kill buyer or feedlot price” because unlike a car, for horses that are good candidates for slaughter, their value increases the moment a kill buyer buys them because they are now in “the slaughter pipeline” and it costs more to buy them out of it……horse slaughter is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States alone, so it “costs to rescue” them from that pipeline.
Both Lisa and Laurie approached the kill buyer who had bought both of the mares they wanted….because of that, our story turns from the negative to the positive yet again……Lisa was able to purchase Sadie from the kill buyer that night and a big part of the pricing she got is because the kill buyer has a real soft-spot for children so they didn’t charge nearly what that mare was worth at slaughter pricing, and Laurie was told to call the kill buyer the next day (and Laurie’s mare weighs over 1300#, so a prime candidate for slaughter), but Laurie being a tenacious soul, called the kill buyer right after they left the sale yard, and went and met with them at a restaurant and was able to arrange to buy Bella.
The reason this interaction with Lisa, Laurie and the kill buyer became far more positive is that it put me in touch with the kill buyer and we were able to figure out how to work together on all the horses we wanted to rescue, and because of that, all of the horses found homes with private party homes over a period of a month. We have since then developed a relationship where I am allowed to come on to the feedlot, take photos and videos, and rescue them one-by-one into private party homes, and the kill buyer actually helps us by being their for brand inspections and such…….rescued horses are now, or will be going to, California, Wyoming, South Carolina, Virginia and of course, also Nevada.
Being civil, compromising, working together and not trying to change each others minds in regard to horse slaughter, which could/would just produce bad feelings where we wouldn’t be able to interact anymore, is definitely the reason why well over 100 horses are alive today and in wonderful, loving homes.
Sadie is at my house, where Lisa now keeps the 7 (!) horses she has rescued and has gone from being a horse-less “Soccer Mom” to the horse Guardian of many, and Laurie has her sweet Bella and her beautiful black and white Paint filly….and by-the-way, Bella rides like a dream too!
As for my Shelby-Girl, she is my wise and intelligent friend who I think knows a lot more about what really happened than she is saying……I think a higher power worked through Shelby and I, and we were both connected totally to one another from the moment we met and were able to go forward and help other horses and people to connect in love too.
You can read more about what became known as The Shasta Horse Rescue” on Facebook at “Quarter Horse Rescue" and also on our website at www.thestarlightsanctuary.org (Below)….also, the continuing stories of the Shasta Herd Horses and the Kill Pen 10 + 7 Horses are on Facebook at “(Shasta QH Herd".
For more information on our continuing one-by-one horse rescues into private homes from the feedlot in Fallon, Nevada, please visit us and “Like” us on Facebook at The Starlight Sanctuary. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on my background with horses, please visit my informational Starwood Farm website at www.starwoodfarm.com. The first video I made at the Fallon Livestock Exchange sale yard 2 days before the sale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9f-b5WhboA
Thank you for caring everyone and being the Guardians and advocates for these magnificent creatures that we call horses, and that I think of as the beings that keep humans sane in a sometimes what seems insane world.
On-Going Rescue of the Shasta, CA ranch horses who went through the kill sale at the Fallon Livestock Exchange sale on October 9, 2012:
Any and all donations through PayPal are gratefully accepted, and if someone would rather send a check donation, please email me and I will send my mailing address.
10-15-2012 UPDATE from 10-09-2012 FALLON SALE HORSES:
Two more catagories of pictures have been added and I know Laura is working on a couple of video's that will be added when done.
Yes, we are still working on saving horses from the KB (kill buyer) before they are shipped out on Wednesday 10-17-2012. There are still many nice Mares there; I admit one will haunt me if we cannot find a way to pull her out. Some of these mares are with babies, some without. Out of the five babies and seven horses we have rescued, with the exception of the loud appy mare (bad cut on head), all have had been haltered, lead, brushed, feet handled, and hoofs picked up.
We as well as the KB believe many are broke to ride unfortunately; we have not had the time to test them all.
Some pictures of three older horses were uploaded late last night, showing them being handled sat and stood on all with just baling twine as halters and comments will be added as soon as time avails itself.
Folk’s time is running out and we are out of funds to rescue too many more. Rest assure any funds you donate will go toward theses 10-09-2012 Fallon horse rescue who’s only crime was not having registration papers. Why no papers…
Clock is ticking. This is a great way to buy quality Quarter horse that has been gently handled. If you are not in the market for a horse, any help you can lend will go toward us saving more from this group.
We are heading over to the KB’s within the next half hour to acquire more video and pictures. We will upload tonight or early tomorrow morning. So stay tune.
After this phase is over, we will be working with the KB on trying to sell the foals left behind. The KB is going to work toward getting them halter and lead trained. So keep you eye open for some quality babies in the future.
Thank you – Laura, Rick Bell and Laurie Naumann
PS: Sorry, we have not been able to get more updates out, but work schedules begged for attention and between the two... we need to sleep.
10-12-2012 UPDATE for FALLON SALE HORSES:
Our rescue website has a lot of new photos of horses that we're hoping that some can still be rescued-after-the-sale from the feedlot before they ship to slaughter....the horses in the most imminent danger of shipping as early as next Wednesday 10-17-2012 are the adult mares with weaning age foals at side, and also the adult mares with no foals. I've put captions with the photos so people will know which ones are in jeopardy.....
(The original video shot on 10-08-2012. Why put this back up at the top? Because it contains an dispassionate (don't want to be accused of being "hysterical" by the pro-slaughterists), matter-of-fact description on how horses are slaughtered. )
"A hundred years from now, it will not matter the sort of house I lived in, what my bank account was, or the car I drove... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of animals and the creatures on this earth"
10-11-2012 UPDATE for FALLON SALE HORSES: