The Jersey Girls

Every Wednesday evening in an auction barn’s kill pen in Cranbury, New Jersey, USA there is any number of horses (last week there were 47) awaiting their fate … a fate which could quite literally be death.

On March 6, 2010, four of these beautiful horses travelled to Nova Scotia, courtesy of Dave. They arrived somewhat traumatized but otherwise safe and sound, after being given a new lease on life – the happy ending of a journey that could have been so different for these horses.

Three found homes elsewhere and the fourth horse, a beautiful 15 year old Belgium mare, known only as #310, came “home” to Seaweed and Sod Farm.

Horses of all kinds end up in the New Jersey auction. Many are not purchased during the auction and end up in the hands of the kill buyer, destined for a Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouse where they will be killed for human consumption for foreign markets, mainly Europe and Japan.

They are horses of all breeds, ages, and sizes. There are foals too young to be separated from their mothers, the products of the PMU industry and the nurse mare market, riding horses and racehorses that didn’t run fast enough in their last race. There are draft horses who worked hard pulling families on sleigh rides, or working the fields pulling plows or carriages in New York’s Central Park. These horses are all callously discarded. In the kill pen, their names are discarded too. There they are only known by the slaughter tag number pasted on their hindquarters.

Some however are fortunate enough to be rescued from a fate unimaginable to most people in North America.

Thanks to caring people and a network of horse rescue organizations, instead of becoming someone’s dinner, these horses, have a chance to live their lives, with new names and new owners and can begin to bring happiness to countless people.

Horse slaughter was banned in the United States in 2007, but the transport of US horses for slaughter was not. As a result, in 2009, more than 100,000 American horses were brought to Canada for slaughter, in addition to countless Canadian horses, and were killed in foreign owned abattoirs, the largest located in Ft. McLeod, Alberta. Smaller facilities exist in Ontario and Quebec.

Although the barn is not quite ready for horses Dave turned around and drove back to New Jersey to pick up three more – two for a friend and another beautiful Belgium draft mare for us.

We nicknamed our Belgium mares “The Jersey Girls”.

#310 from the Feb 25 sale decided that she likes the name Buttercup. She is slowly settling in. She is very wary and nervous. I can only imagine what kind of life she has had.

#355, from the March 4 sale, has become Daisy. She is gentle, kind, scarred and badly underweight.

Hopefully the Jersey Girls will be happy pulling wagon loads of kids through the fields and woods and maybe helping me plow the garden or skid the occasional log out of the bush. First, I need to help them learn to trust again and in the process they will teach me patience. After we get all that sorted out I’m hoping that they will teach me how to harness and drive a team.

So welcome to the Jersey Girls. And Grandpa, we have drafts again. One more thing – Dave, there are a bunch of happy horses and three grateful women because you drove to New Jersey twice in one week (that’s 1,733 km one way). Thanks honey … you made it possible. You can take next week off!

March 2011 – It has become apparent that these girls will never again be hitched or ridden. Buttercup suffers from chronic founder (which means her feet are messed up) and Daisy is struggling to put and keep weight on. I chatted with the girls today and told them they are officially retired. They will get to live out the rest of their days being spoiled here at Seaweed and Sod Farm. And for the record, I’m pretty sure that they saved me … not the other way around.

April 7, 2011 – Sadly, we lost Daisy today. RIP my sweet girl. You will be missed.

April 2012 – Buttercup soldiers on. Lady and Beauty (the Percheron mares) keep her company and give her incentive to get outside. It breaks my heart to watch her walk but she is alert and eating and seems to be content so we let her be. She will tell me when she’s had enough. Until then I will continue to spoil her to bits.

May 14 2012 – Buttercup has been feeling a lot better. We have her some new meds that are helping her to feel better. Now we can spend some more time (and money) getting her feet into better shape. I am thrilled to report that in the past week Buttercup has trotted and even broke into a short gallop. That was a beautiful sight to see!

December 21 2012 – Today we said good-bye to Buttercup. She was ready. She’d had enough.

The Jersey Girls now run free and unafraid. I thank them for letting me be part of their journey. We took a chance on each other and, although I cannot speak for them, I for one have no regrets.

Run free and wild Buttercup and Daisy. You will live on in my heart and your hooves will beat with the thunder!

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