Thoroughbred Owner Races to Save Mares from Slaughter

Carol Brown and her husband Don own a small Thoroughbred farm in Kentucky. Her horses may never earn a garland of roses at Churchill Downs, but she’d hoped, at least, to give them a rosy future and a green pasture retirement when she sent several of them this past January to a nearby riding camp for kids.

Two of her mares, however—Royal Glowing and Toolern Vale—found themselves not toting kids but bound instead for a Canadian slaughterhouse. The camp owners had sold them to a “killer buyer,” a middleman who purchased the horses to transport across the border and sell for meat. Only the efforts of rescuers, who discovered the mares at a livestock auction in Ohio, identified them based on lip tattoos, and alerted Brown of their impending fate, prevented the rosy retirement Brown envisioned from turning a darker shade of red.

Although some horses are sold into slaughter by irresponsible owners fully aware of what awaits them on the other side of the sale, many come from owners kept in the dark concerning the buyer’s intent. Some have discovered the awful truth and tried to reclaim their horses, only to find it is too late—their horses have already been slaughtered. For a well-intentioned former owner who thought she was doing the right thing by giving her horses a nice retirement or a second career, this knowledge can be devastating.

Carol Brown and her horses were lucky. Once alerted, Brown quickly repurchased her mares and even adopted two more the rescuers found that day—one of them pregnant. They arrived back at her farm bearing marks of their ill treatment; the head of one scraped badly enough to expose the bone.

Since her ordeal, Brown has become active in educating others about the hidden world of horse slaughter. Recently, she traveled to Tennessee to meet with state legislators and speak out against a bill introduced for the purpose of establishing a licensing scheme for horse slaughter facilities in the state. Many others, including long-time AWI supporters Willie Nelson, his daughter Amy, and granddaughter Raelyn Nelson also voiced strong opposition to the proposal. In the end, the bill was withdrawn and the issue sent by the legislature to a summer study committee (which may include Brown and the Nelsons).

Royal Glowing and Toolern Vale (Brown’s “girls,” as she affectionately calls them), as well as the two newcomers, now reside back on her farm under her watchful—if more jaded—eye. Cocoa, the pregnant mare, foaled and mother and baby are doing well. Meanwhile, Brown plans to continue sharing her story and pushing for change in the hopes that her horses’ harrowing journey will not have been in vain.