Similar organizations, some larger and some smaller, have the same goal: to save as many horses as possible. Combined, the groups resurrect a fraction of the roughly 100,000 horses that are expected to be shipped across the border to Mexico and Canada this year and ultimately fed to other animals or to humans who consider horse meat a delicacy.
About 15 percent of the American horses slaughtered, horse advocates said, are thoroughbreds. Many are only a few years old but considered too broken to race and, therefore, to live.
“But there is a lot of life left,” the ReRun president, Laurie Condurso-Lane, said. Horses can live to 30 years or longer. “They are young. So why not find them new jobs?”
The spotlight that shines on horse racing during the Triple Crown events each spring rarely illuminates the shadows. The sport is usually painted with bright, pastoral backdrops. Winners of the biggest races become royalty, revered by people and seemingly destined for a pampered life doing little but producing more runners like them.
But most racehorses run a far different route — downward, slipping from rung to rung in the sport’s hierarchy. Some are traded a dozen or more times as their earnings fade, until someone decides that the horse is no longer worth the time and money to keep it.
It even happened to Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, who reportedly was slaughtered in Japan for pet food a few years ago.
There are a couple of obvious options for the owners of such horses, besides the one increasingly urged: donating them to charity. They can spend money to euthanize the animal. Or they can sell the animal for a few hundred dollars, to someone who will gladly take the horse off their hands. They can tell themselves that the horse may live to see better days, but they know it is probably headed straight to a truck pointed toward the border.”
“At LumberJack Farm, most of the horses were donated, a tax write-off for their owners. ReRun pays eight farms (two in New Jersey, two in New York and four in Kentucky) about $250 a month, per horse, to care for the animals. ReRun has 42 horses now. LumberJack has 12 of them.
Koebel regulates their diet, assesses their behavioral idiosyncrasies, and slowly assimilates them into a herd, something that most thoroughbreds have not been part of since before they began racing. On occasion, Condurso-Lane said, a pair of horses standing in the field together will appear to nudge one another, then dart off together in a straight line, as if reliving their past.”