“I would like to share this story of tragedy with everyone I can because I know there is power in knowledge and with this power, we can change things. There are many heroes who put their souls on the line to make people aware of what’s going on. Anne Russek, is one of those heroes. I am honored to know her. What she has done will have the most meaning if you share this with everyone you know so her work and sacrifice can motivate people to take the necessary action that will end this needless suffering.
There were many others involved in this story out and they are also heroes, but the real heroes are the horses. At the end of Anne’s writing there are descriptions of those who made it through. If you can’t bear to read this entire story, please go to the end of this page to meet the horses who were saved.” ~Kimberly Godwin Clark
Please read the behind the scenes story of No Day Off and the HBO documentary.
How Luck and a Village Saved the Sugarcreek Six
written and survived by Anne Russek
The following is my account of how the Sugarcreek Six were saved from slaughter. It is a difficult story to tell, but all of you who helped contribute that day, and afterwards, deserve to know what a wonderful thing you did.
Several weeks ago I was contacted by an assistant producer of HBO who was considering doing a documentary showing the pipeline from the racetrack to slaughter. I offered to help in any way I could, and a tentative time frame was established. The project was focused on following specific horses from the track, to Sugarcreek Auction, and then to the border for transport to slaughter. The most difficult aspect of this investigation was that I did not know if I could endure the pain of documenting these horses knowing that I could not intervene in their rescue.
I drove to Mountaineer Park on Wednesday from my home in Virginia. I left at 2 AM so that I would arrive at Mountaineer during training hours on Thursday morning. Once I arrived, I was notified by phone that HBO had changed the schedule, and could not come, but since I was already there, I decided to conduct a trial run.
It is a well-known fact at Mountaineer Park that Dick Rudibaugh is the “meat man” and picks horses up on Wednesday or Thursday. I arrived at the track around 8:30, which is break time, and spotted Rudibaughs truck and trailer parked outside of the stable area. I knew it was his rig because Becky Care, a former groom at the track, had given me lots of valuable information regarding the track to auction pipeline. I kept an eye on his truck while I wandered through the stable area, blending in with the morning training activities.
I feel it is important to note that the Mountaineer Park stable area is a dump. The barns are very long, with plastic nailed to the windows to keep out the winter air. The entire stable area is wall to wall asphalt, not a blade of grass anywhere. The horses actually cross a paved parking lot to get to the track. The barns are all in various stages of disrepair, broken windows, sagging roofs, makeshift “bridges” over drainage ditches so the help can get into the barns. The barns are long and the further you walk down the shed-row, the darker they are. The horses in the inner stalls have no view of the outside, and I imagine very poor ventilation. Most of the horses appear small because their stalls have not had any new dirt added to them in years , and the horses are standing in holes. The barns are cluttered with bales of hay and straw, and since several trainers share a barn, it is, for the most part, organized chaos.
Most of the horses I saw look very stressed. They are thin, dull coats, poorly groomed, and have the appearance of being over-raced. I feel qualified to offer this opinion because I have worked on the racetrack for over thirty years. The horses at Mountaineer are not indicative of horses at the better tracks. The lack of care and inept horsemanship is obvious everywhere. This is especially ironic because Mountaineer is a racetrack that has gaming. The slots and casino provide the horseman with increased purses, but it is obvious that management has spent no revenue from the gaming enterprise to improve the conditions for the horses or horsemen. It is also apparent that many trainers who are benefiting from increased purses are not spending any additional money on the care of their horses.
Around 9 AM I saw Rudibaugh get into his truck and pull around to the stable gate to enter the backside. There was no guard at the gate, and so Rudibaugh merely got out of his truck and opened the gate himself so that he could drive his truck and trailer in. Once inside, he slowly weaved his way between the barns to his first stop. He parked his rig and entered a barn. Shortly afterwards, he appeared following a groom who was leading a bay horse. (Cinema Star) Rudibaugh opened the back door of his step up stock trailer, and the horse loaded quite easily. Once inside the trailer, the horse appeared nervous because the stock trailer was very loud. Rudibaugh tied him sideways in the trailer.
Rudibaugh then drove to another barn and parked. This time he took longer. I heard pieces of his conversation with a groom. It seemed that there was some discussion about which horse was supposed to be picked up. The trainer had not bothered to show up to load the horse, and Rudibaugh said he knew it was a mare and that she had a fleece noseband on her halter. Rudibaugh and the groom entered into a barn, and came out leading a bay mare. (Elegant River) They loaded her onto the trailer with the gelding, once again the sound of her hooves on the metal floor was very loud. The gelding nickered at her nervously. Rudibaugh then drove out of the stable area and left. (I had been told he keeps the horses at his farm overnight and then takes them to the auction on Friday, but that proved to not be the case. I did not learn that until my next trip one week later.)
I learned the identity of the two horses Rudibaugh had picked up by going to the stable gate and looking at the sign out sheet that every trailer driver must complete. Next to Rudibaughs name were the names of the two horses he had picked up. I called Gail Vacca, gave her the names, and she later phoned back with their race records and tatoo numbers. Cinema Star had been a very good racehorse. He had been claimed and reclaimed over ten times in his career, which means that he was a very popular horse. Elegant River was not fast at all, in fact she had never won a race. Horses that are too slow are usually sound because they don’t run fast enough to hurt themselves.
Gail also told me at that time that she had been contacted by a trainer at Mountaineer Park who knew of a seven year old horse that another trainer had made arrangements for to be sent to Sugarcreek. His name was Kannapolis, and was supposedly a barn favorite with the nickname “Lurch” because he was so big. Gail told the trainer we would try and find him at the auction and rescue him if we were able.
I was very tired the night before the auction, but it was not easy to fall asleep. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I worried about finding Cinema, River and Kannapolis at the auction the next day.
At 6 am Becky met me and we drove her truck and trailer to the Sugarcreek Livestock Auction in Ohio. Becky wanted to arrive early so we would have plenty of time to see every horse as it arrived. We already knew that Leroy Baker( auction owner and known kill buyer) had a son who would be bringing the horses to the auction sometime before the sale started. This was when I figured out that Rudibaugh takes the horses directly from Mountaineer to Bakers farm which is about twenty miles from the racetrack, and 40 to fifty miles from the auction.
We arrived at Sugarcreek at around 8:30. The first thing I noticed was the double deck trailer owned by Baker parked in a corner of the empty lot. There were two or three Amish men sitting around the unloading area waiting for the horses to arrive. Becky and I passed by them to go into the auction, they didn’t acknowledge us and I was more than happy to ignore them.
Before we went to see the handful of horses already there, Becky showed me the layout of the facility. The auction ring itself is very small. The horses are herded in one small door, a quick step or two past the auctioneer booth, and then a step or two out another door back into the holding pen area. A row of bleachers, amphitheater style, surrounds the ring. You can enter the auction ring area from the pens, or from the top row of bleachers.
There is an office area for registering to bid, you only need to show a drivers license. If you leave the office to go into the pen area, you are on a catwalk that runs the length of the holding pens. From the catwalk, you can see every pen. Becky and I walked the catwalk and then went downstairs to start looking at horses. It took me a while to figure out why certain horses were in certain pens. Any private horses, usually sound riding horses, were placed in private pens. All others were randomly distributed throughout the auction. There was no method to the madness. Some pens, as the day went on, would be packed with horses so tightly they could barely move. Other pens would have only a few horses in them. Some pens had hay and water, other pens had nothing. Even in the pens with hay, very few horses were eating. The main reason was that dominant horses refused to let any others near the mangers. Many of the horses appeared too shell shocked to even attempt to eat. I couldn’t help but notice the way certain horses would group together as if they had formed a temporary herd to offer each other comfort. One group of yearlings was especially tragic. There were four of them, all chestnut, all very thin and with various degrees of snotty noses. They stood side by side, sometimes one of them would rest their head on the back of the other. They were so young, and so scared and I began to realize the hopelessness of how this day was destined to turn out. Their images, and the image of so many other horses that day, were permanently implanted into my memory.
Early on in the day, the weaker and sicker horses were very noticeable. There were many horses who obviously should never have been brought here. Some were very, very old. Others were very thin and very weak. It was impossible to imagine them being loaded onto a trailer and shipped thousands of miles to either Canada or Mexico. whoever had brought these horses to Sugarcreek, should have been charged with animal abuse.
The worse part of the day was the constant sounds of dominant horses kicking weaker horses. The Amish would put mares in heat in pens with geldings which would incite many battles. Any attempt by us to separate the fighting horses was useless because the Amish kept moving horses from pen to pen. Once off the catwalk, you must be very careful because at any moment, the Amish will open a gate and drive a herd of horses at you to get them to another area. The Amish do not” herd” the horses but rather they “run” them down the slippery aisle-ways into the pens.
Throughout the day I witnessed young Amish boys beating the horses with long whips, and kicking the horses repeatedly in the legs and stomachs if they showed the slightest hesitancy. This was especially apparent when they were trying to squeeze horses into already overcrowded pens. One young Amish boy was very aggressive with his feet. I had followed him while he was leading a horse to a pen, and when he attempted to put it in a corral that was already full, he proceeded to slap and kick the horse trying to force him in. The horse absolutely could not fit. I walked up to the boy while he was still kicking the horse and I asked him, ” Were you born mean or did working in this place make you mean?”. He stopped for a moment and gave me a blank stare, but he did take that horse back down the aisle to another pen with less horses.
The draft horses are very sad to see. For the most part, they appear to be in very good health with good weight. They truly are “gentle giants”. They also seem to be targets of abuse from the Amish. I never noticed any of the drafts being anything but compliant, and yet they were smacked , yelled at, pushed and beaten into too small corrals. It was incredulous to see three giant drafts in a pen that measured maybe 10 X12.
Once when I was at the unloading area, a stock trailer pulled up with five drafts on it. They were all chestnuts with flaxen manes. They were truly beautiful. When the trailer door was opened, one of the Amish men would poke a lunge whip through the side slats of the trailer and start poking and hitting the horses to unload them. The drafts would not budge, it was as if they knew that their safety depended on them not leaving that trailer. The racket from their giant feet scrambling in the stock trailer was unbelievable.
The longer they delayed leaving the trailer, the more the Amish yelled, whistled and jeered. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there is a sadistic look of pleasure on the faces of these men. Tormenting these animals is their pleasure. Finally one draft leaped off the trailer, followed by the others. They were driven down a short alleyway and then herded into a longer aisle-way that was gated at both ends. Then they were separated and placed into smaller corrals with other horses.
The ponies are another pitiful sight. For some reason I could never figure out, the trailers that arrived with the most horses crammed into them, always had the ponies stuffed in the front. Just when you would think that there was no way any more horses could possibly be on a certain trailer, one or two ponies would come running off. The ponies would be crammed into one pen, unless it was a stud pony.
These poor animals get the absolute worse of the auction experience. They are placed into very small, very tight, straight stalls. They absolutely cannot move. They may as well already be dead and packed as processed meat. They stand in these stalls for hours. It is impossible not to see the torment they are enduring in their eyes. I had the great misfortune of watching an Amish man kneel down next to one of the straight stalls, reach his hand through the board slats, grab hold of one ponies testicles and make a joke about their size to another Amish man.
As the day progressed, more trailers arrived. I spent quite a bit of time watching the offloading process. Trailers would pull up, the driver would walk to the head Amish attendant who would write down his name, ask him how many horses he had, what type, and if he had any colts. Then he would hand the driver a yellow slip of paper. The horses would get off the trailer. As they exited the trailer, one of the Amish would slap a hip numbers on each side of the horses rump.
If they had halters, the vet, Melissa Reddick, would draw their coggins immediately. If they did not have halters, the Amish would drive them into the long aisle-way corridors I described before. Since several different trailer loads of horses would be crammed into these aisle-ways, horses were constantly kicking each other and scrambling to find a safe place to stand. It is unnerving to watch this hour after hour.
It became apparent to me very quickly that most of the horses that got off the trailers did not have halters. This is because these horses are destined for slaughter. Without a halter, there is no way for a buyer to examine or look at that horse. Sugarcreek is not an auction for horses to find new homes, it is set up for the convenience of the kill buyer.
The next time someone from the pro slaughter side tells you that these are unwanted horses, don’t believe them. These horses never have a chance to be re-homed. It is almost impossible to keep tabs on a horse once they come off the trailer. The Amish go out of their way to keep the horses moving so you cannot inspect them. Once they are in a loaded pen, you truly are at risk if you attempt to enter that pen.
After a few hours, Becky and I were focused on trying to find the three horses from Mountaineer. I was confident that Cinema Star and Elegant River had not arrived by 12 pm, but we had no way of knowing when Kannapolis may have arrived. All we knew was that a man named Langley would be bringing him. Becky and I went from pen to pen trying to identify the horses we thought looked like thoroughbreds. At one large crowded pen, I spotted a large bay that looked the part. Becky and I went into the pen, cautiously sliding between horses, anxious about getting our brains kicked in, until we reached the bay. Fortunately for us, he stood still and allowed us to lift his lip to read his tattoo. While in the pen, we read the tattoos of a few other horses. This is no easy job since the pens are quite dark. Becky read off a number while I wrote it down. We squeezed back through the horses and climbed out of the pen.
Once we were safe, I called Gail on my cell and gave her the numbers. About twenty minutes later Gail called back. She was very excited, ” You found him, she shouted, you found Kannapolis!”. Gail was surprised that I hadn’t already known that since I had his tattoo number with me. The only explanation I can offer is that my mind was not functioning the way I am familiar with. The horror that was all around me was numbing.
There wasn’t a single horse that wasn’t experiencing their worse nightmare that day. The atmosphere was one of complete despair and sadness. Every horse I looked at reminded me of my past. The ponies reminded me of the time my father took me for my first pony ride. The grade horses reminded me of the many Saturdays I spent at a local “pay to ride” stable. The drafts reminded me of the Super-bowl commercial after 9/11 when the Budweiser horse kneeled in front of the Statue of Liberty. Every horse made me wonder who had loved them first , and who had been the last to betray them. I was in hell.
About the time Gail told us we had found Kannapolis, Rachel Paris and her mother Kathy showed up. Rachel is a beautiful young woman who has saved many horses from Sugarcreek over the years. I was very thankful that she had managed to come today and help us. I know now that without her help, this rescue would not have been possible.
Rachel quickly advised us that we needed to get Kannaplolis out of the crowded pen and move him into a single pen. I wondered how we would accomplish this since he did not have a halter. Rachel simply walked over to a pen and slipped the halter off another horse who still had his. I went back into the pen, haltered Kannapolis, and led him to the gate.( Fortunately he was very close to the gate at the time.) Rachel told us that anytime you found a horse you wanted to buy, you could put them in a smaller pen if you could find one not being used. She said it was common knowledge at the auction that if you found a horse you wanted, you would try and protect it from getting hurt by the other horses.
We placed Kannapolis in a pen by himself and I pulled some hay from a manger and gave it to him. Of course, other horses around him saw the hay so I went back and pulled more and gave it to those horses also. What a pathetic attempt on my part to make amends to these horses for what they were enduring.
Kannapolis was now in a pen that backed up to a pen that held a huge draft. The draft hung his big head into Kannapolis’ pen in an attempt to make friends. Kannapolis was happy to oblige and soon they were grooming each other. It was a bittersweet moment because I knew that Kannapolis had a chance to be rescued, but the draft was doomed.
We continued to await the arrival of Bakers son with the thoroughbreds from Mountaineer. Rachel was convinced that the son would arrive shortly before the start of the horse sales at 1 pm. While we were waiting, we got the tattoos off several other thoroughbreds. One gray in particular was very striking. He was in the same pen that Kannapolis had been in, and he positioned himself in a corner that allowed him to hang his head into the aisle-way we were standing in. His eyes begged us to do something, and we got his tattoo and hip number. One woman actually asked one of the Amish to take him out of the pen so she could look at him and we hoped she would buy him.
We went back to the pen that had the four yearlings, they were still together, and we found several more thoroughbreds. We read their tattoos and phoned Gail. Rachel went to watch the trailers for Bakers son while I continued to pull hay for horses.
There was one pen that had some cows that had been leftover from Monday’s livestock auction. I noticed a small brown calf laying by himself. I went into the pen to have a closer look. I touched him to see if he was alive, and he was barely breathing. I lay my hand on his head for a minute or so. I wanted him to feel the touch of someone who cared, I wanted to let him know I loved him even though he had no idea I was even there. I wanted him to forgive me. I wanted God to forgive me for not being able to stop the cruelty that was all around me. There is nothing more difficult than knowing you can only save a few from so many. I hated myself because I was not rich and could not save the animals that were here. I hated the people who had sent their horses here. I especially hated the pro slaughter groups who continue to fight against the AHSPA who have absolutely no idea how horrific these auctions are.
About this time I heard a lot of commotion coming from one of the aisle-ways packed with horses. I left my dying calf to investigate. I walked up to the noise and I saw Dr. Reddick and the Amish men attempting to draw blood for coggins from the horses that had no halters. The technique they used was absurd. Two Amish men would whip and drive the horses up and down the corridor until they were able to separate a single horse from the herd. Then they would beat that horse to the end of the pen where they would swing the gate around so as to pin the horse between the gate and the wall. Then Dr. Reddick would climb up the fence, reach over, and stick the horse with a needle to draw blood. Needless to say, the horses would either freeze in terror, or else they would try and leap over the gate. The more they struggled, the more they were beaten. Once the coggins was drawn, the horse was let out of that pen and herded into another overcrowded pen. This process in insanity was repeated over and over for fifty or more horses.
Just before the horse auction was about to start, I was back at the unloading area. A trailer pulled in and I immediately noticed that all the horses on the trailer already had hip numbers on. I mentioned this to a man standing next to me and he told me that this trailer belonged to the auction owners son. I now knew our trailer had arrived. The trailer door swung open , but none of the horses came off. An Amish man started poking the horses through the side of the trailer, but they still wouldn’t get off. I walked to the back of the trailer and when I looked in I saw the problem. The trailer was very dirty, covered in cow shit. Although the trailer could easily hold six to eight horses, all of the five horses had been crammed into the front of the trailer behind a gate. The gate had a door opening in the middle, which appeared to be designed for a person to walk through. The Amish were beating the horses to make them go through the opening single file, but because they were packed together so tightly, they could not maneuver themselves to get through the opening. Finally one thoroughbred got through, and then Cinema. When Cinema got to the edge of the drop off, he stopped, and then I saw Elegant River squeeze through the door . When Cinema saw that it was her, they jumped off the trailer together. It was as if they were watching each others back.
Because they had no halters, they were herded into a pen closest to the auction ring. We immediately tried to get their tattoos but they couldn’t stand still because the Amish kept moving them back and forth in the pen. They were absolutely in a panic about where they were. While trying to get their tattoos, another vet I had not seen all day, informed me I needed to get out of the pen because he needed to draw blood. I told him that I needed to get a tattoo. I won. We confirmed that Cinema Star and Elegant River had arrived at Sugarcreek. Shortly after, Cinema Star and Elegant River were forced to endure the “gate” method for drawing coggins. Cinema Star was trying his best not to leave Rivers side but eventually he was beaten into the “gate trap”. After all the blood was drawn, one man put River in one pen and shut the gate before Cinema could get back to her. I was going to intervene but then the Amish man turned his back to Cinema to open the gate for a different horse to get in the pen and Cinema seized the window of opportunity and slipped into the pen with River. It was amazing to witness.
I called Gail and told her that the three horses were here and the auction was ready to start. Gail said that the money was there for Kannapolis, Cinema Star and Elegant River, but she was going to try and get additional funds to rescue a few others. I went into the auction and was surprised that within minutes, the horses brought to the auction by Bakers son were the first ones in the ring. When Cinema Star was being let in, he hesitated at the door. Despite being hit, he refused to come into the ring alone and sure enough, Elegant river bust through the door with him and they were auctioned off at the same time. The bidding process takes less than thirty seconds. Kill buyers rule. They are allowed to stand on the auction floor when the horses pass through, and the auctioneer keeps eye contact with them. Fortunately Rachel was able to bid against the kill buyers, and she purchased both Cinema and River.
At this point I was emotionally and physically finished. I was elated beyond words that Cinema and River were rescued. Gail had called Rachel and told her that an anonymous donor had pledged enough money to save three more horses. I walked outside the auction and called Gail. I thanked her profusely and told her I was going to leave and start my six hour journey home. I did not want to watch the horses being loaded into the trailers of the kill buyers. I had had enough.
About an hour into my trip, Gail called and gave me the good news, six horses had been saved, including the gray gelding. I told Gail she had done a wonderful thing, and that everyone who had pledged would never know what a remarkably wonderful deed they had done. And then I cried. I told Gail that I was completely demoralized. I told her that I was sure I would never recover from this ordeal. I told her that if I had ever really realized what happens at auctions, every week, year after year, I would not tolerate the fact that the AHSPA has not been passed.
I implore all of you who have supported the AHSPA for many years to please find the energy and the resolve to do everything you can to push for the passage of this bill. You must never feel that you have already done enough and that it is out of your hands. We must force our legislators to pass this bill. The pipeline to slaughter that our horses endure is beyond despicable. It is under-regulated and under the radar. The kill buyers operate with total disregard for any federal laws and take pleasure in the abuse of our horses. If you ever wondered about the Serenity prayer and what it meant, trust me, horse slaughter is something you can change, it is not an issue you should accept.
If every horse at every auction across the country had one voice willing to speak up for them, we could pass this bill. Please be that voice for that one horse, standing alone, waiting to be slaughtered.
Sugarcreek Six Postscript
by: Gail Vacca
As Anne established early on in her account of the events at the Sugarcreek Auction on April 11th, thankfully, due to a change in plans on that particular day the initial work scheduled to take place was postponed, which immediately launched us into a frenzied race against time to save as many Thoroughbreds as we had funds and space to save.
The first order of business was to secure the safe purchase of 3 horses that we knew had been taken to the sale via Dick Rudibaugh and Wilson Langley. To that end, I contacted Chris Heyde at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), who then agreed that AWI would facilitate both the purchase and transport of the Mountaineer horses to a foster farm in Virginia that had earlier in the day agreed to care for 3 horses. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to AWI for securing the safety of these beautiful horses.
During the day Anne had also sent me several other lip tattoo numbers which I quickly sent in for identification. It was then that I posted an urgent plea on the Alex Brown Forum asking the Fans of Barbaro (FOB’s) to help us raise the funds needed to secure the purchase of 3 more horses. From there, Lisa Amarino contacted one of our long-time supporters who has long been one of our most generous benefactors, who agreed to put up the funds needed to purchase these very lucky horses! Many thanks to Lisa and our “anonymous” supporter!
Rachael quickly got to work bargaining with the kill buyers to purchase Ollie, Belle, and Yourgie, meanwhile the FOB’s frantically worked their magic raising the necessary funds to get these 3 sweet horses transported to another foster farm in Virginia and also raised enough funds to provide for their follow-up care once we got them home! Our deepest gratitude goes out to the FOB’s for once again stepping up to the plate for horses in need! Without their support, we would not have been able to transport and care for these horses, and we would have had to let them go! We also wish to express our sincere appreciation to Rachael Paris for without her vast experience and knowledge of the “workings” at Sugarcreek, none of this would have been possible. Rachael, thank you for all that you do You are one incredibly amazing lady!
Special thanks is also owed to Bob MacIntosh for literally dropping everything at a moment’s notice to make the 600 mile long round-trip drive from Virginia to Ohio in order to transport our “gang” safely back home to their Virginia foster homes. Bob actually made two trips for us. On Friday he transported Kappy, Ellie, and Star to safety, only to turn right back around the very next morning to make the same long trip once again to bring Ollie, Belle, and Yourgie safely home to Virginia.
Our most profound appreciation is reserved for our wonderful foster families who on a minute’s notice and without hesitation opened their hearts and farms to provide the Sugarcreek Six with love, care, and safe harbor. To Diana McClure and her husband Mike Cooney for taking such wonderful care of Ollie, Belle, and Yourgie and to Sheila, Karl, and, Caleb Kanopa for their incredible generosity and wonderful care of Kappy, Ellie, and Star, we sincerely thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
And now, the answer to the questions that everyone has waited so patiently to learn…”who are the Sugarcreek Six and how did they end up being sold as nothing more than meat on the hoof at Sugarcreek?”
It is with a heavy heart that I mention those we were unable to save on April 11, 2008. May their sweet and gentle souls forever rest in peace. We will always remember you. Please forgive the inhumanity of man and know that you did matter. You were loved……
Miss Fancy Gold – 2004 Dark Bay or Brown Filly. Raced 23 times winning 1 race and earning nearly $18,000. Miss Fancy Gold last raced at Beulah Park for trainer Edward J. Harvey and owner Karen L. Harvey. Miss Fancy Gold last raced on 4-7-08, only 4 days prior to being sold to slaughter.
All Be At Once – 2002 Bay Horse. All Be At Once raced 6 times never winning a race and earned just over $1,000. His last racing start was made at Fairmount Park in Illinois on 6-26-07 for trainer John K. Witthauer and owner Daniel E. Beard.
The killers got their share that day at Sugarcreek, they always do. I hope that the story of the Sugarcreek Six will encourage everyone to work harder than ever to work towards passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503 & S.311) and that folks will give generously of their time and resources to the many wonderful equine rescue groups who are out there in the trenches saving as many lives as they can.
I also hope that responsible trainers, owners, horseracing fans, and everyone who loves horses will let the racing industry know that the slaughter of even one more Thoroughbred racehorse is unacceptable. For far too many years, irresponsible owners and trainers along with lower-end racetracks have been casting a black cloud over the racing industry and have grossly diminished the integrity of the sport. There are many, many good horsemen, and good racetracks who genuinely do care about the welfare of their horses, however, immediate and comprehensive changes must take place in order to protect ALL racehorses from the heinous cruelty of horse slaughter. The dispassionate, greedy, bottom feeders within the industry that are feeding the supply of Thoroughbreds to slaughter must be stopped at once. Racing industry leaders, and the racetracks themselves must immediately take steps to fully fund Thoroughbred retirement programs, and they must make it perfectly clear to owners and trainers who ship their horses off to slaughter, that their callous cruelty will no longer be tolerated. Trainers and owners who send their horses to slaughter should NOT be allotted stalls at racetracks, and should have their licenses immediately suspended. Access to the backstretch by the local “meat-man” must end. The Sport of Kings can and must do better for the horses.
In response to the brutal slaughter of innocent horses, everyone should call their Senator and demand change.
Go to the Animal Welfare Institute website to find your Senator.