In many rural communities in Texas and various parts of our country, horse auctions are common events on a Saturday night. Auctions are places where horse owners go to buy and sell personal horses. They are where county-seized horses go to be sold after an 18 day waiting period. They are also where kill buyers go to buy large quantities of horses for cheap, horses that may be shipped directly to the border or that may be sent to lots where they are marketed for rescuers to “bail” at easily twice the cost they were purchased at auction. Horses that are not rescued within a set amount of time are loaded by the dozens for the horrendous trip to the border, following countless others to slaughter houses. The cruelty these horses experience at every step of the way is unspeakable. For most, the first stop of this terrible journey began at the local auction.
This Saturday evening, I attended one such auction to learn more about this environment. What kind of horse would be there? What condition would they be in, and how would they be represented? What would their fate be?
The answers to these questions were resoundingly heartbreaking. Of the 30+ horses for sale, nearly half of them were county seizures. These are horses that have already been abused or neglected, and are once again in a terrifying environment that places no value in their well-being. There were registered Quarterhorses, off-the-track Thoroughbreds, a mustang mare and her colt, a panicked miniature stud, dangerously thin horses, nice riding horses, a pair of gorgeous riding and driving Haflingers, lame horses, 2 year olds and 20+ year olds, and more. While a few owners were present, most horses had been left by the people responsible for them, to whatever future resulted from the sale. The two horses in the worst shape had the lowest possible score for body condition, and yet they were friendly, seeking comfort and connection from people walking by. I spent a few hours visiting with various horses, soothing them, and hoping they understood that in that moment they were loved.
Once the sale started, horses were purchased anywhere from $200 to several hundred dollars, some more. Some went to families, and many were purchased by a few individual gentlemen that had obvious connections with the auctioneer. While it was hard to tell who the purchaser was for many of the horses, I was relieved to see one of the horses in the worst condition going to a young woman who I had spoken to. That horse, a sweet 10 year old Thoroughbred with a racing tattoo, has a chance at a future.
Through the course of the evening I was overcome with strong emotions, starting with shock and horror, then heartbreak, personal frustration, anger, and resignation. The only difference between these horses and those I love at home is the absence of an owner taking unwavering responsibility for their well-being. I was certain my ride home would include a torrent of tears to accompany my heartbreak, and will not soon forget the kind, confused faces of each horse I came to know in that short period of time.
And yet, I also felt something else. I felt Resolve. This, we can help. We can make a difference, for as many horses as we can. No horse should endure the suffering that I saw, and none should have their fate sealed by the bid of a greedy, heartless industry. While I can only hope for positive outcomes for the horses I saw this evening, I am resolved to go back and change the fate of those I can. With Ruby’s Home for Good facility soon established and an army of veterans and community supporters behind us, we will be back. That day will be the first step in a journey to healing, hope and wellness. That day, and many days after, our herd will grow with the addition of beautiful horses that have been let down by people in the most severe of ways. Horses that will never again want for their basic needs, kindness, or safety.
We can all do something to help an animal in need. What will you do?
~ Erin Malia, Co-Founder and President of Ruby’s Home for Good