Texas Case Reveals Tricky ‘Business’ Of Horse Slaughter Rescue

by | 02.07.2018 | 2:17pm
Mula Run in a photo from the Kaufman Kill Pen Facebook page

Sonny Ellen of Bryan, Texas, is 82, a bail bondsman by trade for nearly a half century, and a lifelong horse owner. Two weeks ago, Ellen said he was blindsided when he got a call from Mindy Willis, his trainer at Sam Houston Race Park, saying track management told her Ellen had been banned for violating the track's anti-slaughter policy. She was given 72 hours to remove Ellen's horses.

“Someone had posted on Facebook that I sold a horse for slaughter,” Ellen said. “I had my first foal at 11. I'm 82 now. Other than when I was in college I've owned and raced horses for over 60 years and I've never sold one to slaughter.”

Ellen had brought five of his horses to the Elkhart Horse Auctions in Elkhart, Texas, on Jan. 20, including Mula Run, an 8-year-old gelding by Mula Gula he'd bred and raced over six seasons. Mula Run had earned $103,941 but failed to hit the board in nine starts in 2017.

Mula Run had brought $975 at the auction, a price Ellen thought was considerably more than anyone would pay if they intended to have the horse shipped to Mexico for slaughter. Ellen, who said he spent more than eight hours at the sale trying to secure buyers for his five horses, was satisfied that all of them brought more than “kill buyers” would pay and be able to turn a profit by selling them by the pound.

The next morning, however, Jill Jensen, who does animal rescue work in Louisiana and monitors many livestock sales, posted on Facebook that Mula Run had been “Sold to kill buyer for $975. Obviously to be resold, little profit in meat. Coming to a kill pen near you soon. Lots of people outbid. But the kill buyer has the cash, thanks to kill pen bailing. Who can keep up?”

Mula Run wound up in the hands of Mike McBarron, who buys and sells horses and ships many of them to Mexico for slaughter. McBarron operates a Facebook page called the Kaufman Kill Pen that puts a price on some of the horses he's purchased to save them from going to a Mexican slaughterhouse. He calls it “bail.”

McBarron wanted $1,350 to spare Mula Run from that fate and posted a notice to that effect on the Kaufman Kill Pen Facebook page on the afternoon of Jan. 21.


Jensen's post, which named Sonny Ellen as the last known owner of Mula Run, was shared 226 times by Facebook accounts. The Kaufman Kill Pen post was shared 489 times.

Among those who saw the Facebook post was Sonny Ellen's granddaughter, who told her grandfather about it and wound up buying all five horses back.

The next day, Jan. 22, Willis informed Ellen of the decision by Sam Houston Race Park management to ban him. He said he called Sam Houston vice president Dwight Berube and director of racing Frank Hopf, asking for a hearing to tell his side of the story, and that both refused to give him that opportunity. “They told me, ‘The decision has been made. There's nothing that can be done,'” Ellen said.

His next call was to attorney Scott Vastine of the Jackson Law Firm in Houston. “He managed to get us a hearing on Jan. 26,” Ellen said of Vastine.

Hopf attended the hearing, as did Donald Ahrens, the track's director of security. “I gave sworn testimony as to what happened,” Ellen said. “I had done nothing wrong.”

Three days later, Ellen said, he got a call from Ahrens, telling him, “The ban has been lifted and you're good to go.”

Ellen isn't happy about how the whole thing went down. He was hurt at some of the names people on Facebook were calling him.

“Everybody who knows me know I'm not an ‘asshole' or ‘slime bag,'” said Ellen, a Texas Thoroughbred Association life member since 1988.

Mula Run and four other horses were purchased back by the Ellen family

“We initially believed the guy (Ellen) knew what he was doing,” said Ahrens. “The (Sam Houston Race Park) policy states selling ‘directly' or ‘indirectly' to slaughter makes someone subject to sanctions. We needed a sounder base for the decision and probably should have just put a hold on his entries while we looked into it.”

If track officials had investigated before taking action, they would have realized two of the horses Ellen sold – a mare and a filly – were offered with a 2018 breeding right to one of his stallions.

“That man was misled by the people who sold the horses for him,” McBarron said of Ellen. “He didn't know they were going to a kill pen.”

McBarron, who deals in a high volume of horses, shipping many of them off to slaughter, defended his business practice, which often finds him out-bidding rescue buyers so he can extract a higher price on his Facebook page. “Bottom line, if I want to lose $300 on a horse, I can,” he said. “Are these horses worth $975 to kill? No.”

McBarron blames what he calls the “tree huggers” and “animal lovers” for driving up the prices at auctions.

“They're trying to go to the auctions and outbid us,” he said. “Them and the fake kill-pen people who are only acting like they'll send a horse to slaughter.

“Bottom line,” he said, “everybody raises hell about horses going to slaughter, but it's been going on for 100 years. It didn't just start with Facebook. These people go crazy when a horse goes to a kill pen, but they ought to be glad someone like me is doing this. I'm not a bad guy. I'm at least giving the horses an opportunity.”

  • bhood

    I never knew there was such a thing as a horse being held hostage at a kill pen for ransom. Crazy stuff.

    • Rachel

      yup, they call it “bail,” but it’s ransom, ‘put up the money, or the nice horsey gets dead’…and next week, there’ll be another group of them

    • BBFan

      Really?
      This has been going on and now is reaching a critical point … I wonder how many other fans and handicappers have no idea what is happening to the poor horses that cannot win or race anymore?

      • bhood

        I had heard about once a rescue group found a horse that someone might make them pay a few hundred to get it back, but I never knew that people had Facebook pages holding them ransom. Sad stuff.

        • BBFan

          The asshats are growing, too.

  • CEOmike

    Bottom line is purse inequity. As long as guys like Baffert, Pletcher, Roman etc run “industrial” barns where horses are bred for running two years for stakes wins then retired there will be thousands of horses with no use and no one willing to pay the thousands per year for 20 plus years to keep the rejects.

    Unless there is more money in the claiming and small track ranks there will be horse slaughter. If it is actually stopped, it will be the end of racing. It is hypocritical for everyone to say they want no slaughter but then celebrate the breeding of more to race only 2 years.

    This is the integrity issue all over, there is none because there is no honesty. We need a national Commissioner to clean things up.

    I don’t want this to sully the argument but almost every country in the world eats horsemeat and has for centuries. Why are Americans so opposed to this? Pigs are smarter than horses, lambs by most people are cuter, and ox which work harder than horses in most countries.

    • JustJoe

      BS. Racing isn’t socialism. If you can’t compete get out of the business.

      • CEOmike

        So I guess you think major league baseball, basketball, football and hockey are a socialist plots. All have salary caps, gate equalization, media revenue sharing and players unions.

        • Bryan Langlois

          They also all have a national overseeing body…so until that does happen, you can’t compare apples to apples in that way.

        • JustJoe

          But you are not major league. You are one of these independent baseball teams where the players have real jobs mowing lawns to eat.

          • CEOmike

            Like baffet, casse, Pletcher et al mow lawns too?

    • Rachel

      pigs & lambs, sadly, are bred to be dead, their fate is known, from the moment they’re (usually artificially) conceived, they’re going to be meat on someone’s plate at some point, horses, at least in the US, aren’t, not at all, they’re bred to be companions, or to be used for sport or work, and they’re medicated accordingly (ever heard an ad for a medication for horses? ‘not for use in animals intended for human consumption’), slaughter is an inhumane & greedy ending for any animal, and, many of us against horse slaughter, are also against the slaughter of other animals, but that fight seems unwinnable, since you’re not going to change people’s eating habits, but there is little mainstream US market for horse meat

      • CEOmike

        Your argument ignored the bulk of my argument. You are advocating the end of horse racing because without slaughter there will be not enough 2 and 3 year olds for stakes races. Forget slaughter for meat, not being wasteful, now in the US probably more horses are simply euthanized and buried or incinerated so they will not cost thousands over decades.

        • Rachel

          I don’t know what post you read, maybe you hit ‘reply’ to the wrong one, but I have never advocated for the end of horse racing, I love horse racing, have for over 30 years, though I do rue the tiny G1 fields being regarded as as much of an accomplishment as they used to be (not to mention the lightweights they carry now, as opposed to decades past)

          and *humane* euthanasia (administered by a vet, with proper medications), not, like, trying to shoot them in the head, is very preferable, in my opinion, to allowing them to languish in a field, uncared for, or turning them loose, or, of course, disreputable auction to slaughter; we need to make humane euthanasia *and disposal of the bodies* cheaper and easier to access (which also involves regulations as to where a horse can be buried)

          “without slaughter there will be not enough 2 and 3 year olds for stakes races. ”
          huh? I don’t even understand this

    • Erin Casseday

      There are those of us that don’t eat those either.

    • BBFan

      No, funding more claiming races will NOT reduce the horses going to slaughter.
      You do nothing but exhibit your rank ignorance.

      • CEOmike

        Why not, explain your opinion in words – how do you think moving money from stakes to claiming – the industrial trainers to the family farms will not reduce slaughter.

        • BBFan

          Because running them year in and year out WEARS THEM DOWN and funding more claiming ranks would only end up with MORE horses unfit for a second career – THOSE are the ones MOST at risk for ending up on the wrong truck
          Glad I could educate you. Again, you express uninformed opinions

    • Cloneylass

      I agree with the integrity issue but you are wrong about the rest of the world eating horse meat, that is a gross over-generalization, the reasons vary but are largely cultural and Americans will never adopt that, any more than we will start eating dogs. In fact in Europe and America the trend is away from all or most meat. Besides horses are not managed as consumables in the U.S. and race horses are full of drugs.

  • Bryan Langlois

    This is an issue that has many levels and no easy fix. I was at a humane education event that the renowned Temple Grandin was taking questions at. Since the issue of horse slaughter was a hot button topic then and methods and all that, I point blank asked her if horse slaughter could be done humanely. She said yes, but with some tweaks to the system as compared to how it was being done in the US (mainly in the fact that there needs to be two people in the “kill box” so they are not walking back and forth startling the horse before it is bolted). I have great respect for Temple so tend to believe her when she said it. Anyone is free to take her opinion for what you feel it is worth. Part of the problem with stopping the funding of the slaughter house inspections but not getting the other half of the deal done that prevented shipping for slaughter was that now horses of course will be subjected to more horrific and longer transport to these plants where there is basically no oversight at all. Now we are seeing a real divide being created in the horse aftercare world of those who think supporting these kill buyers and bailing out horses is wrong and takes away from funds that are desperately needed by established rescues for horses they take off the track, and those who feel there is no choice but to pay the “bail” because they don’t want to see a horse shipped that they can help. It has gotten heated and quite nasty between the two groups. In the end that helps no one.
    In the world of free enterprise that is the US, in some ways you really can’t blame these guys who are looking to make some extra money by doing things in this perfectly legal way. I don’t think it is right, but there is nothing technically illegal in what they are doing. They are trying to make a living the way they know how. The answer to the problem is multi faceted and not as simple as just closing the border to slaughter. There still will be horses that need to be cared for or transferred or given care that are no longer wanted (or who have owners that either cannot or will not provide the necessary care for them anymore). What happens to those horses? There is no proper support system in place for these horses. Part of that support system has to be access to humane euthanasia options that are inexpensive for the owner of these horses (perhaps slaughter that is carried out under properly monitored conditions at local plants that do not require horses spending hours upon hours on inhumane transports is a feasible answer). Much as it pains everyone to have to face the reality of it, a portion of these horses are just going to have to be humanely euthanized in some way. While I know everyone wants to see every horse that is not wanted to live their lives out on some glorious pasture somewhere where their every care is attended to, that is just not the reality of the world we live in at this point in time. It is a great goal to strive for, but you have to have plans in place until that day is reached. It is a problem that goes deeper than just the TB or SB industry, and encompasses all breeds of horses.

    Bottom line is if you want to make these “anti-slaughter” policies tracks put out actually mean something…they have to be better thought out and more than a “window dressing…we feel good about ourselves” type of rule that can be applied arbitrarily when it suits the track. For every case like this one where it was proved there was not “intent” that the track tries to boot off the grounds, there are likely hundreds of others that a track will turn a blind eye to where there was complete intent to sell these horses to “kill buyers”. Those following the social media posts about Delta Downs and the Louisiana Auction lots in the south know this.

    While I do foresee foal crops decreasing a little more in the coming years, they will not decrease to the point where we do not have this issue. The money is in breeding, racing early, and discarding those that don’t make the cut…so they can go back and try again. So it is on the industry, and EVERY SINGLE STAKEHOLDER IN IT, to come together and figure out a solution. I hate to be the bearer of the reality of the situation, but I really don’t hold out much hope for that happening in the near term. I hope I am proved wrong.

    • Billy

      PAY to put your animal down in a RESPECTABLE way instead of trying to get more money out of the horse..
      .havent they done enough…do they not deserve that respect…..give them an honerable death instead of a torturous ending…..it isnt right…..anyone who thinks slaughter is a necessary evil is living in a fantasy world……there is not one good reason slaughter exists except for humans and their lack of compassion and respect

      • CEOmike

        Do you eat meat? what makes you think a steak on your plate is from a cow that was more respected than a horse in slaughter? Horse meat in Europe is a high end steak.

        • Billy

          Yes i do and i know directly where it comes from
          ….i know where that animal lives what he ate and how he was treated so dont give me that garbage and even at that i dont eat much of it red meat just isnt good for you imo ….also i would like to say there is drastic difference between how a cow is slaughtered and how a horse is slaughtered…..i will say if i had to buy meat from the store not knowing anything about it hell no i wouldnt eat it because i feel there should be a certain level of respect there to take a living beings life for you most people just dont feel the way i do

          • Erin Casseday

            Actually the is very little difference between how any of the meat animals are slaughtered. At this point, with what little humane rules that are in place and with little to no policy on following said rules, slaughterhouses are horrendous places for any animal. And that isn’t even taking into account how they are transported to said slaughterhouse.

          • Billy

            The bolt yes i get it….a system was made for cows not saying its any better i dont agree with any of it….but at least it was looked into horses they have no chance….we need food yes but should we or do we have to go about it the way we are people are the problem and all these damn systematic approach to everything

          • whirlaway

            While every one decides on eating meat i have been a vegetarian for 30 years. Was one of the best decisions I have made for MYSELF and I do not tell others what to do. Started with red meat one of the worst health wise and as I never trusted what cattle might be given. I worked down to all meat over time. I am not a kid and I take not one prescription drug not high cholesterol, high blood pressue or anything else.
            As I said for me that worked can’t speak for anyone else. My husband is mostly a salmon fan and I know it is extremely good for humans and I loved it but I just have
            Not missed it. I luckily have farms and people that have chickens for eggs so I buy from farms direct. Egg layers because they moult and lessen their egg produce
            at that time cut the amount available at the farms during those times but I do not buy market eggs. Call me crazy but it works for me.

          • Billy

            I eat very little meat for the exact reason you have stated…..i try my best to just stay away from the store to be honest, it is very hard sometimes but i feel its the best i can do for myself……now i havent always been this way but i have relised my recovery time is better my energy levels are higher all in all i just feel better….dont get sore as often

          • whirlaway

            Especially red meat when I ate meat the red meat I ate was so rare not even fully cooked. We keep no meat in the house and when my husband wants fish or chicken
            We have certain places we buy salmon and already cooked chicken baked in a big oven no fried foods at all. He may only eat
            Meat or fish once a week and if people even cut down beef frequency would help.But all i can do is worry about myself with eating. We are very strict about what we eat. We have one day a week for a breakdown that we eat whatever we want but that is things that if consumed on a regular basis we would gain weight. I could eat a big bake potatoe every day with Lactaid sour cream as my husband is lactose and it really does not taste bad. It gets boring sometimes but the health alternatives are far worse. I am not surprised with some changes you experienced a difference in your health and reactions by your body. Hang in there, you can do it, mine was a gradual change from many things foodwise.

          • MaiyaDay

            What works for you may not work for everyone. My whole family over the last 7 months has switched to a ketogenic low-carb diet, which is almost entirely meat and green vegetables. You cannot do a keto diet as a vegetarian. Everyone has had numerous physical benefits, we’ve lost over 100 pounds combined, and my dad (58)’s bloodwork is better than it has been in decades. Not eating meat is just not viable for everyone.

          • whirlaway

            I agree which is why I stated “I do not tell others what to do.” But many are certainly not showing their bodies much respect. I am a bit older than your Dad and like him just ran my bloodwork and both my husband and I were excellent. Being a vegetarian also does not mean you will have a healthy weight as some think. My husband has been running over 35 yrs and now we call it jogging but some their bodies will not take the wear and tear of that. Each person’s body will react diffrently.
            It is balance and the total picture. We have never smoked, drink alcohol which is a lot of sugar, no soda pop and no
            junk food. At one time in my life I was a junk food person and lots of carbs, that was a time when I lost 50 lbs and kept it off. No matter what choice is made there is no getting around the fact it is discipline and effort. As you probably know as sounds like you went though weight loss it will take dedication but the benefits will be worth it no matter what works for you.

          • Billy

            Ive been on my regime for quite some time now….it originated for kickboxing and being that i work construction also it eventually turned into an everyday kinda deal….most foods i eat i dont even like to be honest but then again thats not really the point of eating imo….whole foods raw foods fresh foods consumed within a timely manner for the benifit of whats inside of them…..milk is my downfall but being it is raw milk from cows that only eat grass im not sold on it being that bad health wise

          • whirlaway

            I commend anyone that gets on a regime no matter which one with good health in mind, most foods I eat I like, especially veggies but some I miss. I love pasta but again can’t do it everyday. Good pastries are a treat and not regular and my real weakness is high quality good bread. I love sandwiches and could eat those every day but i would gain too much weight. In my next life maybe things will be different.

          • Billy

            Sure does beat getting beat up kickboxing or running myself into the ground hanging drywall….and i will add quality exercise is a must nurition is only half the battle

          • whirlaway

            Exercise is important and certainly sounds like you get that, and if older in age find appropriate exercise. My husband is 63 and has run since his late 20’s now he says he jogs but can still do over 5 miles a few times a week Need to get that cardiovascular moving. I usually will walk quickly about 45 mins 4 to 5 times a week
            with the dog. Dogs are also not permitted to get overweight either as bad for them. Even being a 16lb dog ours loves to be out walking and hiking. Always had big breeds this my first smaller but she loves to be out and running. I don’t know how many posters notice some stallions look a bit heavy in retirement and usually will not exercise enough in just paddock time. When it is not breeding season I like farms that will exercise stallions under saddle. Three Chimneys is one farm known to do that. Do not expect them to be racing fit but exercise is important I am sure for them as well for good health especially with horses that retire so young and no reason to just be turned out.

          • Billy

            I worry about the whole gmo deal…..you cant get no gmo seeds anymore they almost dont exist….monsanto and their roundup soybean and all there money have just about cornered that market…..corn soybean fruits veggies all gmo….alot of farmers used to just clean their seeds and replant that process is non existent in america and this has happened in the last 20 years im young at 33 but im no fool….its just the world is almost trying to take the way i wish to live away and its all about money everything is big buissness and we all pay the price for that everyday free america isnt so much the free world hasnt been for a long time

          • whirlaway

            There is always a concern with food look at the recalls we hear about on a fairly regular basis. I don’t know if still true but no mandate in the U. S. to label gmo foods.
            There appears to be many different opinions on this pro/cons. A worry.

          • Erin Casseday

            For me, giving up red meat was not easy as I love a good steak or BBq ribs. But, ethically, I can just no longer justify eating meat that comes from the feedlots to slaughterhouses route. I still eat fresh fish (salmon, springers, steel head, trout, etc) as I have friend that loves to fish and he catches them.

            I too have access to non store bought eggs, so all good there. The area where I am totally bad is cheese, milk and yogurt. I have tried every non-dairy milk on the market and have not been able to find one that truly tastes like real milk. ;(

          • whirlaway

            For me red meat not easy. I was still in California and loved in and out burgers and not unusual I would go to Bob’s Big Boy and for breakfast at 9 or 10am for a combo plate hamburger,fries,salad. So after 50 lbs over weight and I read how bad beef was health wise even in those days I decided to do something about this. Also I always believed especially beef might be given steroids. So I stopped all red meat mainly for health eventually it lead to all meat and I just can’t eat any now even salmon which in New England where I am now is fantastic wild caught sockeye which my husband loves and he says to me how good they are for health and the bears will get them anyway. Because he is also lactose I use soy milk on cereal and
            drink little milk. Drinking enough water is a challenge. Cheese is a weakness but rare
            as it can be too much not good. That is why I need a once a week breakdown for a few thing but not all at once. Yum you have to have some treats but it has to be high
            quality treats/rewards : -)

      • Susan

        While euthanasia sounds like a good answer, how long do you think it would be before the animal rights people put a stop to that? Look at the situation with dogs and cats. Thousands of cats and dogs languish, isolated in concrete runs. Many who are terrified or in pain, yet the people that run these “no kill” shelters refuse to see their suffering.
        Secondly, putting horses to sleep will not be viable for very long. Digging a hole large enough may not be possible. Creamation is very expensive and not available in many areas.
        About 30 years ago, my friend’s just turned 3 year old fell in a freak accident. Hoping the nerve damage as well as the fracture of his shoulder would heal after 6 months of stall rest, it became very clear she had an expensive lawn ornament. She had breed this colt to be her next event horse. For two years, Gus limped around the farm. He was basically three legged, but dragged his front leg causing hoof damage. Every month his feet were orthopedicly shod. He had all preventative vet care. However, as a late 4 year old, Gus got stuck in a fence. Unfortunately, his care added up quickly. Suddenly, my friend realized that this horse would always be in pain and in great danger of getting hurt. And he could easily live to be 25-30. Euthanising him and burying him would be very difficult on this barrier island. At the time there was a slaughter plant about 40 miles away. We had heard that if you made an appointment, they would do it immediately. My friend walked him into the plant. There were no other horses in the plant (there were some out in a field near by), no blood. Gus walked in quite willingly, and my friend tearfully hugged him. The attendent took him away through a door. A few minutes later, he brought the halter back. Within 2 weeks a check arrived. My friend donated it to ths local eventing organization. It was a positive outcome. I wish all slaughter plants worked with this kind of compassion. Since then all of the US plants have closed, and all slaughter horses must take a long, harrowing, dangeerous ride to a plant that we as Americans have no way to enforce a standard of care. This is a sad unexpected consequence of banning horse slaughter in this country. Horse slaughter will always happen, but now our horses’ suffering has become much worse for the horses.

        • Billy

          Would you be ok with yourself being in gus’s spot……Gus walked in quite willingly…..do you see the compassion the trust the willingness of a horse THEY DERSERVE BETTER regardless of anything….when we start doing this to people and the world accepts it maybe i would be more forgiving…..i know plenty of animals that are much better all around then people but for some odd reason human life is more valuable i think not…..its about doing what is best for your animal regardless of anything mam for what they do for us dont they deserve more, better? Slaughter is for the lazy and careless…..just like those cats and dogs you mention why are they in the position they are PEOPLE HUMANS and no other reason irresponsibility is no excuse for anything im sorry ….do you feel what we are doing with the wild horses is also compassion? With a positive outcome no way and its not any different….you have your views and thats fine i just wont accept them

          • Susan

            Yes, rather than be in pain for the next 25+ years. This beloved horse died with kindness and compassion. I wish all slaughter plants were like this. They were not. We had a terrible facility here in New England. They would not allow people to bring their horses in. They only bought at auction meaning a horse had to be hauled to an auction put in a pen with unknown horses, chased through the auction in the dark, the loaded on a stock truck packed with terrifyed horses. And these horses were only hauled for a couple of hourses. Then they were turned out in a huge field mares, stallions, geldings to fatten up with self feeders of high calorie feed. At least this place had large grassy fields. There were horsesalwys limping behind the main group that had terrible injuries. Founder was rampant. Horses with legs dangling clearly broken. This is what we can stop. We can make horse slaughter humane and done with dignity but only if we can control it through regulation.

          • Billy

            No animal or person should suffer i agree….but slaughter is not the answer….it will never be humane imo…..

          • BethK

            There are worse things than an ‘easy death.’ Every community used to have a butcher shop or abbatoir that would euthanize local horses and sell the meat for pet food. Horses walked off the trailer and into the stall, stuck their head in a bucket of grain, and were shot. Instant death. I wish more local butchers accepted horses, but most no longer do. It’s a viable option, especially in areas where you are not allowed to bury a horse, if you don’t have land to do so, or where carcass removal is not an option. Local horsemen are very worried as our landfill no longer accepts horses, it’s illegal to bury, and the rendering truck will also no longer take them. Composting or burning are the only options, both of which require time and land. Ever since this policy came into place, older and lame horses are ending up at auction because owners don’t know how to dispose of them when they die. It’s a growing issue.

          • Billy

            You know im man enough to admit i didnt consider the things you mentioned as far as not being able to bury or where carcass removal is not an option…..im sorry we dont have any issues like that where im from (pa) i see your point and agree it is a growing issue with what you mention…..id shoot my horse and do whatever i could to keep them from going through what auction subjects them too not to mention if the kill buyer gets them….i cant think of an immediate answer but theres no way personally i would subject any animal to any of that….have you considered talking to the authorities where you are see what could be done??? Thats all i have for the moment

          • Minneola

            Why not cremate them, then? Don’t have that facilities in many communities? Well, perhaps, there should be a MAJOR effort to find someone who is willing to set up a business to do just that! And, yes, I have two of them, within a 45-minute drive, and the cost is approx. $1,000. If people cannot afford that, they should rethink their abilities to own horses. Or, set up a gofundme account and see if others would contribute. Convenience for the options that you mentioned are of a bygone era and no longer a valid reason for allowing barbaric methods. Lastly, you do know, do you not, that if a horse is euthanized and its meat is processed for dog food, that it will sicken or threaten the life of dogs that eat that meat?

        • Lehane

          I don’t understand why Gus could not have been humanely euthanased in the paddock where he lived and then buried there?
          Sorry, but to have him dragging one of his front legs around in pain in a paddock for 2 years (despite vet and other treatments) is wrong.

          • Susan

            First since it was nerve damage, he was not in any pain. Secondly, to dig a hole in the tidal region of South Carolina was impossible as the watet table is too high. So you would have had to haul him anyway.

    • Rachel

      I wish I could give you more than just one ‘up vote’
      please read Bryan Langlois’ post above, people, I know it’s long, but it’s well thought-out, and comprehensive, & thoughtful, and well worth your time

    • nancybb

      Excellent points all. I think that the Jockey Club needs to make a better effort to track (now that horses will be ‘chipped’) how horses change hands and especially respecting breeders who make an open offer to take back unwanted horses when their careers are at an end. For those with the opinion that horses are just livestock, I say that no livestock should be subject to ill treatment, even if they have been raised for food. Respect for all creation should extend to ALL creation. I think that is what I appreciated most about Temple Grandin’s approach to slaughterhouses — death is the point, but suffering is not a necessary part.
      One thing that is particularly painful about treating racehorses in such a way is that they are by necessity hand-raised to be trusting of humans. (You have only to indulge in the foal patrol just starting now, with farms posting clips and pictures of the newborns, most involving some human who has become part of the baby’s circle within a few hours of its birth.)
      In the past, if a horse wasn’t fast enough to race, there were plenty of other useful enterprises for it. This was an agrarian country til the turn of the last century and there were horses doing all sorts of jobs. Even my grandfather had a horse who pulled his delivery wagon — she was a prized member of the family. So we need to come to terms with the changed reality that there is not a current use for all the horses that are produced with the hope of getting a runner (especially Quarter horses and T-breds) I’m not sure how, but it seems that each entity that profits from the use of a horse has to kick in a contribution for its safe retirement, the breeder, auctioneer, broker, owner, trainer, race track, ADW, bettor…

    • Bella

      I have to believe even the coldest of hearts would find it impossible to send a horse to death in one of those houses , if they witnessed exactly what inhumane, cruel and horrifying end they suffer. Horses do our bidding, horses lay their lives down every time they step on the track. They put up with abuse, drugging, sore limbs and painful feet and still do their best to please. They deserve the dignity of being peacefully and lovingly laid to rest. I am not relating this to just the thoroughbred race horse, as all breeds and all disciplines have people involved who are also capable of turning their backs and sending horses to the “unknown”.. In the show world I have heard of trainers who would kill a horse for embarrassing them for a bad performance. Until we can change the hearts and minds of people, we must keep trying to make it known what the real truth is and how devastating the lives of horses can be for them.

    • Storm Dancer

      1 – Horses in the US are not raised as a food animal. the FDA classifies them as companion animals which means the drugs and medications not allowed in food producing animals like cattle, sheep and pigs are allowed to be given to equines. Every Equine product on the market from wormers to fly spray to shampoos as well as every medication including vaccines, all state on the label “Not For Use on Horses Intended For Human Consumption”. Most of the horses shipping to slaughter are purchased by kill buyers at auctions with no prior medical history, there is NO traceability for US horses from birth to plate like there is with every cow, sheep and pig. “Bute” (phenylbutazone) is as widely prescribed for horses for pain and inflammation as Tylenol is for humans, it is banned World Wide as well as by both the FDA and USDA from being used in any food producing animal, if a food producing animal receives it, even once in its lifetime, it can never enter the food chain yet kill buyers are signing documents claiming the horses never received this drug in their lifetime .. how does the kill buyer know what drugs or medications the animal received since birth when they only owned it for a few days to a couple weeks?

      2- There is no way to keep US horses from being exposed from the drugs and medications they get in their lifetime, first no self respecting horse owner owns a horse with the expectations that it will one day end up on someone’s dinner plate, not all owners keep a horse from birth to death, many horses switch owners several times in their lifetimes and medical records may or may not be passed from owner to owner, second due to rules and regulations required by the racing and show industry as well as the majority of all states and their animal welfare agencies, all equines are required to have specific vaccines in order to compete, keep diseases from spreading to other equines, to other animal species or humans, keep equines from getting diseases such as rabies or west nile and drugs and medications if and when they become sick or injured. As a responsible horse owner failing or refusing to provide your horse with proper medical care which includes giving drugs and medications not allowed in any food producing animal can and will land you in hot water with animal control, law enforcement and possibly the court system resulting in you having a record for animal abuse/neglect but could get you banned from ever owning a horse or any animal again.

      3 – Horse slaughter is not illegal in the US, it is only illegal to slaughter a horse and sell the flesh to other consumers, but in some states you can still slaughter your own horse as long as it is for your own consumption.

      4 – Lack of funding for USDA inspections stopped horse slaughter on US soil, 2 states banned it to get the last 3 plants shut down, Ill and Tx since then several other states followed suit and banned it as well as they did not want plants opening in their states, they didnt want to deal with the health and environmental issues, the increased crime rates and the property values take a nose dive as was seen with Dallas Crown in Kaufman Texas and the Cavel International plant in Dekalb, Ill, both Belguim owned companies, that to this day, still owe the EPA, county and state $10,000’s in unpaid fines .. the same US regulations in place when our domestic plants were open are still in place today, they haven’t changed and the same agency still oversees it .. there is no way to humanely slaughter an equine because of the bone density of the skull and their fight or flight predatory response .. the method used was not designed for equines, it was designed for cattle, sheep and pigs .. equines heads can not be restrained like cattle, sheep and pigs are because they will break their necks to try and get free, their hearts must be beating for all 8 gallons of their blood to drain during their viseration .. their brains sit further back in the skull, not up front against the forehead like cattle which results in horses receiving 3-11 shots with the captive bolt gun before they are rendered unconscious, this is a direct violation to the Humane Slaughter Act which only allows 1 shot. Over 95% of the horses regain consciousness in less than 1 minute after they are stunned, after they are hung up by 1 back hoof, resulting in equines being awake and fully aware of their own viseration.

      5 – When our domestic plants were open, we still shipped thousands of horses to slaughter in Mexico and Canada. When our domestic plants closed, Mexico and Canada were perfectly willing to take up the slack. We have sent just as many – if not more – horses for slaughter via Mexico and Canada as we slaughtered when our plants were open. The slaughter number follows the MARKET, not how many horses might be available or which country they are actually slaughtered in.

      Even if there were “hundreds of thousands” of “unwanted” horses – which there is NOT – they would go to Mexico and Canada for slaughter unless the market was so down you couldn’t sell them for slaughter anywhere. We’ve had unfettered access to horse slaughter for over 30 years, and we still have “hundreds of thousands” of horses that “need” to be slaughtered? That just PROVES that slaughter is an epic FAIL in population control.

      No, you can’t stop people from mistreating their horses, but you sure can prosecute them to the limit of the law. Abuse is ILLEGAL and in some cases monitored by the FBI, or didn’t you know that? In fact, statistics from Texas, California and Illinois show that horse theft, abuse and neglect INCREASED in the areas around the slaughter plants. Those horses need to be sent to rescues – there is plenty of room – not KILLED!

      If horse slaughter hasnt been able to control the “over population” in 30 years its time to look at putting breeding regulations into place. its not that the horses are not wanted, its the poor economy that crashed in 2008 which isnt recovering as fast as the US government is claiming it is and skyrocketing hay prices in most states west of the Mississippi which is the cause of why so many horses end up at auction as well as the over breeding of horses by the racing industry itself.

      The AQHA averages 100,000 new foals being registered every year, the Jockey Club averages 25,000 new foals per year …. that equals to 125,000 new foals every year just between these 2 breeds alone ( USDA records show an average of 140,000 go to slaughter a year) with 70% of QHs and 19% TB/STB who end up at slaughter every year. The QH industry is one of the main entities pushing for horse slaughter in the US because the QH breeders use the slaughter pipeline as their dumping grounds rather then implement any kind of breeding regulations because they would rather breed for quantity instead of quality.

      • Erin Casseday

        Good post. Thank you for bringing up the Quarter Horse Industry’s part in the over breeding of their horses. They are truly one of the worst for this.

      • Margon49

        Great points! Bottom line…
        Horses are not raised as food animals and their flesh is toxic.
        WHO really thinks it’s okay to eat adulterated and unregulated meat?

        • Rachel

          I’m still waiting, though, for Euros & Asians to start dropping dead from eating US horses’ meat, doesn’t seem like it’s happened yet :(

        • Susan

          When horse slaughter was legal, there were stringent withdrawal times much like cattle, pigs and sheep. Trust me, feedlot cattle, broiler chickens, farmed fish are loaded with chemical especially antibiotics, probably more than horses today.

      • Tom Trosin

        Just for clarification the FDA doesn’t (as far as I know or can sustain or confirm through a reliable source) classify animals

    • Jo-Claire Corcoran

      Since we don’t raise horses for food in this country, we medicate them differently than food animals and therefore they are unsafe for human consumption. Especially racehorses…the plethora of drugs they receive render the meat useless for any for, of consumption. Mike McBarron, and others like him are bottom feeders. Rescues didn’t run up the price at auction, kill buyers ran up the prices.

      We must pass the SAFE Act S 1706 and HR 113. Then Mike McBarron and others will no longer have a job. The TB industry and each track has to do a better job of providing aftercare for horses. No horse is safe at auction. These horses make hundreds of thousands of dollars for owners and trainers and then get tossed aside in the end. There are good trainers and owners out there who work with CANTER and other orgs to ensure their horses get safe landings. I have 7, most came from good people….but the horse which won almost 500,000.00 and had 113 starts…. should never have ended up on a FB page, a rack of bones.

      • Jo-Claire Corcoran

        Oh and Temple Grandin goes further to say, humane horse slaughter will never happen here because of greed. When shown tapes of a 0ant she designed in Canada, and she say horses being hit with the captive penetrating bolt, 10,12,13 times before going down…… she realized what a failure it had been. There is no inhumane way to slaughter a horse because of their physiology, their necks are too long for a head restraint, they are flight animals and extremely sensitive to their surroundings. Dr. Chapman, formerly of UVA and retired has a white paper where she clearly states the differences between cattle and horse slaughter and why mass production horse slaughter does not work.

        But again, I revert back to…. we do not raise horses for food in this country. We do not have a tracking program like they have in the EU. There is a reason the EU has issued such strict regulations against horsemeat coming from Mexico and Canada…because over 69% are US horses.

    • 4violet2

      My understanding as these majestic companions are in fact filmed in the Tijuana slaughterhouse owned by none other than the recently retired director field rep of our USDA with members of the BLM, aren’t bolted as you put it. In fact they are terrorized hit in the head repeatedly by hammers once on the bloody ground of unsanitary and unprofessional killing while actually still alive some mares watch their foals killed brutally before them if they’re the lucky ones beaten to unconsciousness while butchered hap hazardly alive. The profiteers for generations making millions of dollars I didn’t see anything reputable decent humane caring about using our wild horses burros mustangs either the same way. What doesn’t seem to be priority that this great USDA ex rep the thoroughbreds and other equine have been vaccinated throughout the system those vaccinations I was told makes them ineligible as a food source especially for human consumption a concern for animal pet food consumption. Whether Tijuana Canada also treats these well deserving worked for a humans living as garbage piled into crates cruelty separated tossed around and left for days in crates without food water while in cargo containers terrorized on their way to Japan for consumption. Those film footages shows these horses witnessing their fate being cleaned and massaged to be butchered alive the horses filmed literally looking into their camera begging for their lives. Disturbing doesn’t even begin to describe the end of these intelligent creatures lives it’s so horrific illegal and unacceptable

    • JanWindsong

      Windy. Actually, Temple did “design” a humane slaughter plant for horses. Some of the most horrific deaths were filmed there. After review Temple stated that a system can be designed. No human is capable of carrying out humane slaughter over a period of time.

    • Larry sterne

      Thank you for your valued opinion..

    • tqpatbarr

      Bryan Langois very well said! I use to be involved as a volunteer with a horse rescue and whole-heardely agree there is no easy solution.

  • Isabel_NH

    I’m sorry, but if you’re taking your horse to an auction where you have to “spend hours to secure buyers” and then sell them for less than $1000, you know what’s likely going to happen to them. A horse that you bred and raced for 6 years, and you can’t come up with a better retirement plan than running them through an auction? Maybe not a “slimeball” or an “a**hole,” but you might as well put the horse down rather than send them to that fate if you don’t actually have a viable plan for what happens to them when they’re done. Before everyone jumps in with the “horses are expensive” and “it’s a business” comments, that’s fine. Everyone makes their own choices about what they do with their horses. But I don’t get being indignant about getting called out for making the choice to send horses that worked for you for years to an unsavory end. Closer to home, that means I have a semi-retired coming-24 year old mare standing around eating while I spend more money training up her replacement. I can’t afford more than the two I have, and sure wouldn’t be willing to run either of them through the place this gelding and the others ended up. Yes, I would rather put down the 24 year old than subject her to that. As far the other point made in this article- that this whole cycle of kill buyers putting “bail” prices on healthy horses- that problem seems much more intractable and I have seen an uptick in stories like this in racing publications. I can’t pretend I have a solution to address that issue but will be following the conversation.

    • bhood

      The mans logic is sound. The price is low, but well above what a horse that is going to slaughter would be bought for. So you think all the horses in the sale should be euthanized because a few will slip through the cracks? What about all the ones who were sold and found good solid new homes?

      • Isabel_NH

        Personally, I would never see an auction as an option for a horse I own. If I had a riding or breeding sound horse, I would find other sales methods. If I had an elderly, sick, or “untrainable” horse, I would PTS. I’m not sure I agree with your assertion that only a few horses at an auction like that “slip through the cracks”- I think it’s likely the other way around, that only a few avoid that slip. Like I said, everyone can make their own choices. But if you run through an auction like that, you have to know the odds of finding a nice home are exponentially low and not be offended when people associate you with a horse ended up on a kill lot.

        • Dr.Fager

          Agree with you. I have retired dozens of TBs off the track and never sent anything but a broodmare through an auction. Dreadful way to make sure a horse gets a good home. Perfectly normal way to deal with livestock, though, which is what horses are to many owners.

          • debbie

            And That’s the problem ( livestock).. decades ago maybe. NOW they are companion animals, the Majority. We don’t use horses on farms like we did decades ago, they are trail, show, race, even back yard companions …. change the backwards label, oh but then Big Agriculture couldn’t have that could they. Like Big Beef, no no no cause what would be next? BEEF. As they have actually said to me,,,, all about the money….

          • Lehane

            Racehorses are domesticated. I cannot fathom how they can be labelled as livestock.

        • debbie

          I recently had to put one of my beloved horses down, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I did it cause I knew he could not make the long move we had coming up, I then sent my very first horse to a Retirement Farm, where I know he will be taken care of the rest of his life, he will be safe from slaughter, and my beloved palomino will not suffer anymore and is safe in his own way, running with the herd in heaven. They are and we’re part of our family. So any member of my family will be looked after forever. That’s my devotion and love for them AND my responsibility!

          Horse slaughter is just so so cruel, the slim who buy these horses for slaughter are monsters, making millions off the suffering of the innocent. They break the very few laws we do have on the books, with NO consequences. How easy it is for some to just throw away a life.. how ashamed they should be, we all can and should do so much better for these magnificent beauty’s …. Not until we stop horse slaughter will we ever begin to see a difference in the care and prices of our Equines … we owe it to them all… fight for it anyway you can, make a difference for the future of these animals…

      • Erin Casseday

        For all we know, they didn’t actually find good homes. They (the greater majority) slip through the cracks and only the few are more than likely rescued.

        • bhood

          I don’t think any of know for sure how many truly go to slaughter. Would have to be more involved with this sale to get a better idea.

          Just saying he did think this out a bit. Even the guy who bought him said he would lose money if the horse was sent to slaughter, and was only hoping to get the ransom money. So he was right about the selling price on it’s own would prevent straight to slaughter.

          He was trying to recoup some money on horses he no longer needed and he did buy back all horses at a loss. Just don’t think he’s that bad of a guy.

          • BBFan

            We sure do! About 20,000 a year

          • OopsyDaisy3

            He bought them back because he was found out plain flat and simple or else he as a trainer would not have been banned.
            Linda in Texas

          • Lehane

            It seems to me that he bought them back to lift the ban on him.

        • Doolollie

          You are so right. You don’t know. Neither do you know the circumstances yet you’re willing to castigate this man. At some expense to Sonny the horses are now in good situations as was his intent. An 82 year old man who doesn’t know how to turn on a computer and uses a flip phone does not have the knowledge that others do. How sad that some are so quick to judge!!

          • Erin Casseday

            How do you know that he dosen’t have a computer and a smart phone? Because he is 82? My dad is 93 and has an iPad and a computer and knows how to “surf the web”.

          • Doolollie

            Unlike you I know him.

          • BBFan

            So what?
            His $100,000 horse ended up at an auction – shame on him and you for defending the indefensible

          • Erin Casseday

            Well then, you should have been a better friend and helped him with that. You obviously know how to use a computer, so I am guessing that you could have helped him find a better solution for retiring his horses than public auction. There are other options than that.

      • nancybb

        How many do you think are actually going anyplace but a meat market?

      • whirlaway

        Might be sound, but even with many years with horses a bit too trusting at where horses might go at auction. Never know who is lurking about, but very glad Mr. Ellen was able to buy his horses back.

        • bhood

          Yeah I can see that. He is 82 and could be mislead more easily than others. This story only talks about him, but there were many others at the sale. Nobody’s mad at them because they weren’t pointed out.

          • whirlaway

            Actually at 82 he might be wiser.

          • Erin Casseday

            You seem to think this was his first rodeo. At 82, I am sure he has been to many rodeos. This time he just got caught.

      • Erin Casseday

        There are plenty of re-homing facilities across the country and plenty
        of ways to get a hold of one of them. If you are truly caring of your
        horses that you are retiring then you can either offer them for sale
        privately or one can make arrangements with one of the many re-homing
        organizations. The very fact that he was “dumping” a horse that had raced for him for six years and won over $100,000 says a lot about the character of this person. Sorry, no good.

        • BethK

          There are not ‘plenty of rehoming facilities’ nor are there plenty of buyers. The horse market for anything but 100% sound, broke, family-safe horses or top-end performance/show horses isn’t great. OTTB’s are a dime a dozen, and far outstrip the homes available. The US has hundreds of thousands of horses nobody wants. The idea of slaughter is repugnant, but horses are expensive and require knowledge and ability to care for, not to mention land and resources. Until we address the dearth of unwanted horses, we can’t do much about slaughter. Land prices and hay prices keep climbing, population sprawls take over horse properties. The number of people who have the ability to own a horse dwindles each year. This is a problem that is not going away.

          • BBFan

            Not if you DONATE some money when you ask them to take uour horse. Now, where would he find some? Oh, right – the horse earned $100k

        • bhood

          1.) $100,000 over 6 years of racing. With trainer fees, vet bills, shipping cost, taxes, etc. He would be lucky to break even on that horse.

          2.) Trying to sell them one by one can be time consuming and really you’re taking just as much risk that person could do anything with the horse.

          3.) As far as giving them away. Why should he be denied the chance to get some sort of cash back? Owning race horses is expensive and you have to try and get it were you can.

          • Erin Casseday

            If one has to sell their horses and public auction to try and recoup said expenses, then maybe one should not own race horses, or any horse for that matter.

          • Doolollie

            Since your horse racing is done on a FB game and you dont pay a trainer or pay feed bills, dental bills, vet bills, chiropractor bills, farrier bills, etc. I wouldnt expect you to understand.

          • Erin Casseday

            So now, you know me and my history with owning horses? LOL SMH

          • BBFan

            Here’s a thought; if you cannot retire them properly, you shouldn’t be in the game

          • Susan

            Giving them away is no guarantee of safety . Contrary to popular belief, most rescues have limited stall space, nor can many people aford donations of thousands, if not tens of thousands to keep their horse in a retirement facility.

          • Judoon

            Yeah, there’s little doubt that he lost money on that horse that earned 100k. The person who was yammering on about that amount as if it’s profit is clueless.

        • Judoon

          LOL, yeah, those rescues are always just full of empty slots to take in more horses. You clearly know very little about them. And to judge a stranger’s character based on virtually no information says a lot about yours, and it isn’t pleasant.

          • Erin Casseday

            So, it is better to just dump ones horses at public auction then to try and reach out to a rescue facility or try to sell them privately?

            And before you judge my character, maybe you should look in the mirror and not be so hasty to throw stones. Just saying…

      • BBFan

        All the ones? You have a rosey, unrealistic view of what happens

    • hollywasahoodrat

      This.

    • Kerry Metivier

      Well put.

    • Lonestar95

      Agree 100%. God, I wish there was an answer .

    • MaiyaDay

      The thing that got me the most in there was that two horses were sold with a free 2018 breeding to one of his stallions. These horses are so cheap you have to resort to a known kill auction to sell them, spend hours securing non-kill-buyer buyers, and you think that that cheap mare bred to your stallion will produce a foal that will meet any other fate? At the VERY least, you could not contribute to this problem in the next generation.

      • Lehane

        Totally agree.

  • MsMoose

    It is so sad that slaughter has become a big industry, with its disgusting tentacles reaching all areas of the horse world. Because our TBs are so easy to identify, we in the industry get the lion’s share of the blame for this, too. The slaughter itself is disgusting; the whole “bail money” industry is disgusting; the transport in cattle cars is disgusting ….surely, the honchos of the industry could find some people in congress to craft and pass a bill that would end this whole nightmare! our horses deserve better!

    • Bryan Langlois

      True, but also remember that TB’s and SB’s only make up a minority percentage of the horses that end up in these pens and shipped for slaughter. So you need to get pressure from a lot more than just the racing industry folks. Those horses may make more the headlines and stuff, but they are not the lion share of the horses going to slaughter. Again, it is a deeper issue than just stopping the slaughter train.

      • Rachel

        I know, there are also probably plenty of bred-for-racing QHs & AI-produced performance-bred QHs, too….as well as draft horses discarded by the Amish & PMU farm cast-off foals & nurse mare foals…I feel so sorry for these horses, when the heroes there to save TBs & SBs pass them by, because of their breed, and I know the people must feel badly, too, but their funds are so limited, and, I guess, legally, if they’re a charity collecting to rescue TBs, they have to stick to that, right?

        • nancybb

          You are not even counting the ‘wild’ horses collected off the range.

          • Rachel

            you’re right, thank you

      • Billy

        Minority percentage….look into that a bit deeper….i relise your a smart man use some common sense…..look at the numbers mr langlois where are they all going

        • Lehane

          Exactly Billy….the numbers!

          • Billy

            When you figure the tbs sbs quarter horses the arabians and appalousas (sorry for the spelling ) the warmbloods for sporting type events….yes the racing and proformance side has quite a bit of explaining to do……documented shipping papers just dont lie….this practice didnt begin because to many people had to many horses in their back yard its simple common sense

    • David Burris

      Slaughter has not become a big business. It is actually a much smaller business since it has been virtually outlawed in the US and we breed much smaller number of throughbreds each year. 25 years ago this was an accepted practice. Horses were livestock not pets. People today says it’s unthinkable to slaughter a horse all while chewing on a hamburger.

      • CEOmike

        And being outlawed in the US is killing racing. Now we have 3 year old stakes races with only 5 or 6 horses with :industrial” trainers having 3 entries.

    • CEOmike

      You are correct, the problem is in no one wants to stand up and take responsibility for insuring that horses going to slaughter are treated right. Notice I said going to slaughter, the problem is a recent American aversion to eating horse. So if we are to breed all these horses to see if they can run in stakes races for 2 or 3 years and if they can’t then disposing of them, then whether it is for food or simple disposal it should be done right.

      • MsMoose

        Slaughter should NEVER be an option! A racing career is only a half or a third of a horse’s life; he should have second careers, too…..People like Denny Emerson advocate for the TB’s value as an event horse; many – including my buddy – make good pleasure horses; family pets ….it just takes some planning. End slaughter!

        • CEOmike

          even the horse rescues do not take even 20% of the horses applying because many simply are not suitable for anything remotely close to things like family pets. The problem is simply too many horses are bred to race for only one or two years.

      • Cloneylass

        how can “a recent American aversion to eating horse” be the problem when Americans have NEVER been comfortable consuming horse meat, which has never been commercially produced here? Not. Nor is the method of killing the problem, altho we would all want to see it improved. The root problem is that people should not be breeding and owning horses to profit from them without taking responsibility for their futures.

    • nancybb

      The horse slaughtering industry is neither big nor excessively lucrative. What is becoming a big, slimy, lucrative ‘industry’ are the people who bid up the prices of ‘desirable’ animals because the rescue groups will pay more in a secondary market. As far as the use of horses as food goes, who would want to consume the toxic cocktails of medications racehorses are subject to? My gravest reservation about reinstituting horse slaughter in the U.S. is that it will make it easy to decide to eliminate the ‘feralized’ wild horses of the west in order to make the rangeland available to cattle operations (assuming of course that they are not Clive Bundy and unwilling to pay for the privilege of using our common land for their own profit)

  • Really?

    I’m sorry but this guy is full of it. You don’t take horses to an auction with kill buyers and expect anything else. And the racing commission bought it. Basically the no slaughter policy is useless now.

    • Julie Beth Pfeiffer

      The fact of the matter remains that unless you’re at an elite sale, there will be kill buyers present. We have a few sales within a couple hours of us where some really nice (and a lot of mediocre) horses run through and some don’t bring half of what you’d think they would bring. Owners are letting them go for less but higher than kill price to cut their losses and keep their own heads above water. Is it pretty? Not at all and it makes me ill to think about being in that position myself. Regardless of selling price or location, it’s never a guarantee.

      • CEOmike

        The issue is the treatment of horses that are sent for kill not kill itself because if we end the kill we end horse racing, as you yourself said owners trying to cut their losses and keep their heads above water” The alternative with no kill auctions is for these owners is to stop racing. The end of racing.

        • Bella

          I am beginning to think I would like to see the end of racing. The dark side is far darker than I even imagined.

          • BBFan

            Most intelligent people who are savvy to the truths reach that conclusion ;-)
            OThers just look the other way as if it doesnt exist

          • CEOmike

            What we need is a national Commissioner to make it so trainers and owners other than the “industrial” Baffet Pletcher et al can make a living. Lower stakes purses and higher claiming purses.

        • BBFan

          No, genius; we can “ end the kill” by making people be responsible.
          Period.
          IF you cannot afford that, you cant play the game

          • CEOmike

            under the purse structure and other rules now few now can afford to keep horses for the 20 plus years of thier lives when the vast majority bred never make even $10,000

          • BBFan

            Again, for the reading comprehension impaired:
            If you cannot afford to retire them properly, you should leave the game.

      • Flanders

        Keeneland and Fasig Tiption put a $1,000 minimum bid on horses sold at their auctions so that kill buyers wouldn’t go there. Them doing that means that some most likely slipped through the cracks before and that even elite auctions aren’t safe.

    • BBFan

      It sure is.

  • Rachel

    all due respect, I can’t believe Mr. Ellen didn’t know the kind of place he was taking his horses to, to be sold, or the kind of people regularly there to purchase (regardless of whether he intended, or wanted, slaughter to be the fate of his horses)…did he not do any research? visit the auction a couple of times before? see the facilities, how the horses are treated, and how much they go for, and to whom? this isn’t Keeneland or Fasig-Tipton, they have a reputation, pay attention to it

    • Erin Casseday

      I agree. I am sorry, but, anyone that sells their horse at public auction is taking the risk of that horse ending up going to the kill pen and they must know this. I am guessing that since they choose public auction as the quickest and easiest means to unload their horses then they really don’t care where they end up. I would be curious to find out how many other horses Mr. Ellen has sold at these auctions.

    • debbie

      Agree completely, being around these animals all his life and he didn’t know.. Really? I think not.

  • Rachel

    I hope a case like this doesn’t give Delta an excuse to no go forward with banning trainers & owners whose horses have, even just recently, turned up at killer buyer auctions, just days after racing, and with their racing plates still on

  • Loni Stewart

    No sympathy for Ellen. The horse worked hard for you for over 8 years and this is how he’s repaid??? Dumped at auction? A pox on you.

    • CEOmike

      Tens of thousands of horses are slaughtered each year – where do they come from – breeders who bred to make money and buyers of yearlings who want to race them for a couple years for the bettors who only want to see 3 and 4 year old horses run in stakes.

      What percentage of horses end up at slaughter probably well above 50% Ending slaughter means ending racing or radical change at tracks and race purses.

  • anne russek

    Until the racing industry makes a serious effort to uphold their “no slaughter policies” this story will play out over and over again. Until the racetracks are willing to start paying a select group of individuals to go to these livestock auctions and bid on these horses before the kill buyers get hold of them, this story will play out over and over again. Until racing stops promoting low level racing in jurisdictions that consistently funnel horses to slaughter because of their proximity to kill buyer auctions ( the list is large, lets start with Delta Downs who could hold its own direct to slaughter auction) this story will continue to play out over and over again. This problem is not going away, but eventually racing will.

    • BBFan

      Amen!
      NONE of the people who make money off the backs of these horses are there at the auctions and monitor the kill pens – that dirty work is done by a small army of volunteers who get no recompense from the industry. None of the pat-ourselves-on-the-back alphabet soup folks do it either

  • mondatta

    I’m only going to focus on thoroughbreds right now. This makes me sick. Sonny Ellen is at blame here. I’m not sure how he got off so easy. McBarron is even worse. He’s profiting off of ransoming horses. This whole story makes me sick. If you cannot afford to take care of a thoroughbred for his/her entire life, then you should not be owning them. If this kills the sport, so be it. I’m so angry right now.

    • Jake

      I agree if the sport dies cause there aren’t enough RESPONSIBLE owners than so be it!

  • Tres Abagados Stupidos

    I know all three parties. Sonny Ellen, Frank Hopf and Don Ahrens. I will tell you one thing. I hope that if I am ever in a “judgement” situation that has anything to do with horses and their care or after care that Frank Hopf and Don Ahrens are not the two stooges making the ruling to ban Mr. Ellen. Neither one of them have ANY horse racing experience or horse experience period. One started in the marketing department and the other in maintenance. I would hate to have a person who has never even put a halter on a horse make this kind of decision to ban an owner from running at the track. What a joke.

    • BBFan

      Which means nothing

  • GunRunner

    There are bills pending in the House and Senate that would put an end to the export of horses for slaughter. The House bill is HR 113, and the Senate version is S1706. I’ve already contacted my representatives urging their support. Time to put the kill pens out of business.

    • CEOmike

      It will be the end of racing, What is going to happen to all the horses bred and run for 2 years hoping they will make money. For every stakes winner there are probably 50 claimers and 30 who dont run at all.

      • GunRunner

        Racing would be dead already absent slot subsidies. Decoupling is a much bigger threat to the industry than banning the export of horses for slaughter. Most racinos would happily shut down the racing side if they could.

        • Billy

          And they should

  • copperhead

    Sonny Ellen, you sure earned your slimebag label in this Texan’s book. You’re over 80 and doing this for funsies, not to feed your family. So if you can’t find a way to own horses that treats them with more respect, then take up a different hobby that doesn’t involve living creatures that have been raised for centuries to work with and to trust humans. Maybe bingo or slot machines. This horse raced for you for 6 years and earned over a hundred thousand. And instead of putting even a *fraction* of that money aside to give the horse six months for retraining at any new career (or hell even putting in on cheap pasture board and trying to make some phone calls to rehome it for free), Ellen squeezed another $975 bucks from the horse and dumped it like a piece of garbage at an auction. Here in east TX, $2000-$3000 will get you a reasonably safe though not super athletic pleasure horse, so no one is clamoring around an auction for an untrained ex-horse with no transparent medical history, except for people looking for dog food. Everyone knows that.

  • CEOmike

    Slaughter is a primitive treatment for the illness. People should be outraged at slaughter as it is now practiced but to end it will allow the disease to kill the body.

    The industry problem that makes slaughter necessary are too many non-raceable horses being bred.

    Breeders are breeding to fill the demand for horses to run in stakes. Even the best sire has only 50% winners and maybe 5% of those are stakes winners. Plus horses generally race for only 4 to 6 years. So for every horse in a race there are at least 8 that can not be reasonably raced or are no longer racing.

    So the only solution is to dispose of excess stock, the vast majority of horses can not be retrained either because of characteristics or the simple fact there are not enough alternative uses. Slaughter is one solution to the problem, the other is simple kill and bury or incinerate, which is done regularly sometimes just outright and sometimes when an illness is expensive to treat or even just for stable space.

    The fact Americans currently think eating horse is not appetizing is a choice, most of the world does not think the same way, so slaughter is neglected in regulating for good practices. In fact the American aversion to eating horse is fueling the bad practices.

    We need better purses for the claiming levels and a stop to the insanity of outrageously rich stakes that allows for “industrial” trainers and stables like Baffet, Pletcher et al. If you truly love horses and racing a well run claiming race with 10 horses is just as interesting and important as the Pegasus.

    The solution starts with a National Commissioner.

  • Diane H

    Well if the TB Horse Racing Industry had credible, comprehensive aftercare programs that this so-called reputable horseman could take his horses to when their careers were over, this particular incident and many hundreds more like it would not have occurred to begin with. I am tired of saying the same thing over and over again. Start creating programs that address the root problem, create credible programs where racing and breeding stock can go when their careers are over. Properly fund and hold those programs accountable. These veiled attempts at local aftercare programs that run out of money in less than a year, have no infrastructure development to handle demand and restrict which horses can participate are out-dated before they are even implemented. Wake up, this industry will be a thing of the past soon. Taxpayers are starting to realize that their tax dollars are propping up an industry that has had well over 100 years to get this problem corrected and is not even close.

    • Vicki Morgan

      There are two accredited aftercare programs in Texas he could have reached out to for help, but he chose to sell them for whatever they’d bring instead of seeking assistance from an accredited OTTB rehoming organization. All it would have taken was a phone call. Trust me – there was NO phone call.

      • BBFan

        However, you dont lift a finger for them when they get to the KB

        • Vicki Morgan

          You are absolutely correct that the org I volunteer for has a policy of not pulling from kill pens; however you have no idea what I do on my own time behind the scenes. And unlike you, I have no problem posting my thoughts or opinions using my own name.

  • esther

    This is a tough situation, a live stock action for horses does not mean automatically the horse goes for meat. There are plenty of people that go and buy nice ponies and horses there for all kinds of disciplines and uses. I grew up in Europe and jumped at a high level with a pony that came from the weekly auction. The problem here is that people go crazy over “saving” these horses and putting a lot of extra cash in the kill buyers pocket. There were people at the auction present and bidding on this horse, to then be outbid by a kill buyer… how crazy is that! Then the kill buyer creates this web of lies that he will send the horse to slaughter and to “safe” the horse you can bail it for a ridiculous amount…. This particular gelding being sold for $975- to a kill buyer was not in direct danger, if said kill buyer did not get the “safe bail money” he would run the horse back through auction, for the $975- he paid he will do his best to tack and ride the horse through to recoup his money. The horses that really need help are not on these websites for ridiculous amounts of money. If you want to “safe” a horse please go directly to the auction and outbid the kill buyer, there are plenty to safe. This is not only a problem with the race horse industry, but all horse breeds in general . I doubt that many horse owners purposely would sent their horse to slaughter. The option of euthanasia at the farm is expensive, and the removal is expensive and yes sometimes it does make a difference to a family getting that $700 or $1000- for the horse at auction. Not everybody can keep a horses a pet in the pasture for the rest of its life, people that are in the horse business know that horses are expensive pets that can life a long life, so instead of starving in someones backyard, the option sometimes is the auction, which is not always a bad thing, and red flag for saying this but closing the slaughter houses in the USA was not smart, the same amount of horses are getting slaughtered, only their journey and suffering to get there is a 1000x worse.

    • CEOmike

      There are about, a guess from estimates, about 80,000 horses sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico each year. there are about 28,000 TB bred each year and about 25,000 retired. About 40% of bred TB never race, most go straight to slaughter or are destroyed on the farm. So TB make up only a small amount of the slaughter.

      Canadian slaughter is done relatively regulated and orderly, Mexican is not. Twice as many go to Mexico instead of Canada because regulation and safety cost money. The American sales and transport is horrendous with no real regulation or oversight and is a big problem.

      PS: it is “save” the horse, not safe, safe is a place, save is an action.

  • WM

    Beautiful face on Mula Run. I would love to have him on my farm here in KY.

  • TimTamTed

    Great,informative points made below.Bottom line,putting a horse through an auction,is basically giving that horse a death sentence.We can’t control what other countries do,but in America,a law has to be enacted,regarding horse slaughter.It should be banned nation wide,with no exceptions,and serious jail time for those who break that law.With strict enforcements in place,I pray there’s hope for the demise of this inhumane act of animal cruelty.Lord hear my prayer.

    • CEOmike

      To ban slaughter means more on farm euthanizing, burying and incinerating. So legislating a ban should also include laws for disposal otherwise the next “scandal” will be farms digging backhoe holes that horses walk into then are shot in the head and buried.

      The fact remains that 40% of TB bred are not suited for racing and a large percentage not suited for anything else.

      added edit: I should add Canadian slaughter is regulated and as humane as possible, it is American transport and sales rings that are the big problem. Whether you eat horse meat or not is a separate issue.

  • Shelley Shipt

    I am Heartbroken. Shame on these People and the Fuckin Slaughter Houses.
    Makes me Sick.
    A Beautiful Majestic Animal ….Only to be Killed.
    Money is the Root of All EVIL!!!!

  • bhood

    Charges? C’mon that’s over the top. Who says he can’t afford it? He bought back all the horses at a loss. He was just trying to recoup a few thousand dollars. That doesn’t make him a bad guy.

    • Erin Casseday

      He bought them back after the fact, and after he was banned. Now looks like a good guy and ban was lifted. I am guessing he only bought them back to save face. If he had not, more than likely ban would not have been lifted.

      • Lehane

        Spot on.

      • bhood

        You have no idea who this guy is by reading one article on him. You’re assuming he did it to save face, but are totally dismissing that he may have done it because he found out new information.

        I get some you on these sites look at horses as pretty pets, but not everyone is required to feel that way. By law horses are property and can be sold to get some of the expense back. You ladies can be as judgmental as you want, but this guy has spent his time, money, and energy in the racing industry for over 60 years. I’d be willing to bet that’s more than the rest of you combined.

        • Erin Casseday

          He took a horse (well five actually) that he raced for 6 years and won over $100,000 and literally dumped him at an auction for less than $1000. This time he got caught. Chances are, he has been doing this all along and they are just trying to spin the story.

          Again, there are other options available then public auctions.

          • Doolollie

            NEVER before has he sold at an auction! You really need to shut up.

          • Erin Casseday

            Where in the article does it state that he has never sold any horses at a public auction before?

          • Doolollie

            One last comment: Sam Houston Race Park listened, learned and did a thorough investigation and reversed it’s decision. Small minded people’s comments don’t matter. Have a nice day!p

          • Elsa Gaebl

            I have seen this from both sides. This is a very volital subject muddied by people that are not in the industry coming to conclusions that they don’t understand. If you are not one of the chosen ones training right now, the cost is so prohibitive to do the right thing. Stop and think for one minute please before condemning someone. The cost for the little guy in the business suddenly, workman’s comp before you can even have stalls has gotten so high, do you risk offsetting the cost to your owners or God forbid you are running your own. Then if said horses don’t do well and bring home a check, you still have to pay the Feed man, hay, Farrier, Vet, help. With the big guys able to enter multiple horses your horse may not get in. Their is something called conditions to you that don’t know, you just can’t pick a race and run. So your horse doesn’t get in, maybe more than once, when he does finally he is probably now going to need a race with a higher risk of getting hurt due to fitness, remember not everyone has stake horses. In the mean time None of these expenses have stopped! If you need to lay a horse up, has anyone of you stopped to look up what it costs for board? Even on a crappy farm? Most trainers don’t have farms and board for 1 horse can be a mortgage! Now being in the industry TB,s are step children in any show circuit now due to people don’t want to take the time to learn, so WarmBloods are the answer. I walked into a 65 horse thriving show stable last week, only 1 TB because they weren’t allowed to sell it due to a law suit from a lesson accident. So if you did have an OTTB that you bailed out for lets say 1,500. Hundred, your board at said show barn is 1800. Before the required 3 lessons a week at 65. A piece if you don’t mind a group lesson, then farrier and vet, OH and you have an unpopular breed that you really can’t compete on while spending an additional couple of thousand a week at a horse show, trainer fees,braiding, entry fees..oh and you are going to loose because you are on the wrong type horse and being pressured to spend at least 50 thousand to buy a WarmBlood that you CAN win on. So that leaves you on an TB only show circuit that your trainer doesn’t attend! So putting a horse to sleep rather than the kill pen as you guys say is such a better idea..how many people can afford the !,000. To do that over and over? Do you think it is free? No it isn’t, you pay vet fees, the actual drug fees and to haul said dead horse off..it is very expensive for the little guy who is still paying all of the other things I mentioned. There isn’t a black and White answer and rescues and retirement farms can only do so much, especially when they are trying to place horses that are going cost a kings ransom to a select few that can afford it!! Please do your research before condemning someone who is fighting a loosing battle in a sport that has turned on its own! Racing is in BIG trouble and I feel so sorry for the average trainer that is not Baffert or one of the other handful. It is not their fault that everything changed and this is the only way they ever knew how to make a living for most..generations!! It is so easy to sit on a keyboard and criticize..instead use that keyboard to do research and add some constructive alternatives to these people that are breaking themselves to survive!!!

          • Elsa Gaebl

            This post is not responding to Erin..it is a stand alone!

          • BBFan

            Right … and you are the Pope

          • OopsyDaisy3

            Right again, Erin Casseday. And bhood must be a friend of his.

        • BBFan

          And we get that you find a sentient being “ disposable”. You would be dead wrong anout how much the rest of us have spent cleaning up after jackhats like this one.

        • Judoon

          Don’t expect this pack of mutts to listen to reason. They’re too busy yapping and howling and patting themselves on the back.

      • Doolollie

        You’re right again in saying you’re guessing! Facts don’t seem to matter to you.

      • OopsyDaisy3

        Exactly, Erin Casseday.
        Linda in Texas

  • Noelle

    Sounds like an honest mistake by Mr. Ellen, but in that case, without the internet attacks and the ban he’d never have known what happened to his horses. Likely in the years since he was 11 any number of horses he sold at auction went to slaughter (even if he didn’t intend it) because no one was monitoring kill pens.

    • Nathan Drake

      Just because he buries his head in the sand and feigns ignorance about where his horses end up doesn’t relieve him of any responsibility. You take ownership of a horse at any point in its life then it automatically becomes your responsibility to care for that horse or make PROPER arrangements for its care until natural death.

  • Marie Bennett

    Here’s a little something to keep in mind about those buying horses to ship to be slaughtered, something we’ve found to be true in Canada where unfortunately horses are still slaughtered for human consumption. At auctions within Canada we’ve found that many kill buyers have minimums before they can dump a load of horses at a slaughter house, so at times they may buy horses at higher than normal meat prices to be able to haul a full load, and because they’ve paid less for others the average price of horses purchased means they will still profit.

    In my humble opinion selling any horse at an auction, where you do not have control over who buys your horse, is like playing Russian roulette.

    Yes, you read that correctly. Canada allows for the slaughter of horses for human consumption and allows for horses to be shipped from Canada to be slaughtered in Japan for the same purpose. Additionally, the shipping conditions are far from stellar.

  • OopsyDaisy3

    Anyone notice the tiny Shetland Pony in the pen across from Mula Run?
    Saw a Shetland Pony the same size in the back of the well known Muleshoe kill buyer’s trailer headed up Bangs Hill in central Texas a while ago. Head down, old and sick with 2 other horses in the section behind the Shetland’s in about the same condition. All i could think of was what a horrible gut wrenching ride they had to endure on the way to their death. They would never have passed an Agriculture Department Inspection in the U.S. They should have been euthanized long before stepping into that kill buyer’s trailer. Linda in Texas

  • vineyridge

    Keeneland has a minimum price of $1000, which is only $25 more than Mula Run sold for. They set that price because it was well over meat price.

    Just saying.

  • vineyridge

    The Keeneland minimum price for horses is $1000. It was set a few years back and intended to keep meat buyers away. Mula Run sold for just $25 under the Keeneland minimum.

    Just sayin’

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