Our Luna's (aka River) Story

Luna's Original Posting:

Posted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 12:29 AM Post subject: Luna $625, 15 - 25 yr old, 15h, liver chestnut mare. This mare has a great eye and rode great. She walked, trotted and cantered without issue and our rider had lots of fun riding her. Waving and riding with no hands was the highlight.

The post included several pictures (taken by Samantha Milbredt) of the rider assessing Luna. The picture of the rider where he is running Luna in a snow storm with both of his hands waving in the air stirred my heart.

Each week Samantha, with the help of a young rider, assesses the horses and takes many pictures of them. This is so people can get a sense of the condition of the horses. Because we see their faces and spend nearly every day trying to save them, we become very attached to each of them.

Every day I kept thinking that someone would buy Luna. I would look at her face and see the sadness and as always my heart would ache. Here she was a well broke, sweet horse and the slaughter truck was going to take her if no one helped her. It is not unusual for my heart to ache every day when reviewing all of the pictures of the horses as I would post and repost them. Each week with new arrivals my grief would rise as the list of horses grew. And, these were only the horses that passed the assessment, hundreds do not even have a chance to be saved.

All of us who do this work suffer knowing how many horses never get that last chance. We all know the possibility the horses we work to place may not get saved. And as the truck date draws near and the desperation heightens it only serves to push us all to try even harder. When we lose one (or more) it is absolutely devastating. The courage of my fellow advocates is amazing. It would be so much easier not to do what we do and pretend that it doesn't happen, that it isn't a bad death, make a logical explanation for it, but we know the truth about it. How can we not do something?

Most horses become traumatized, depressed, and disoriented when they reach the feedlots or kill pens.

It was in the clutches of winter and Thanksgiving in the states was on everyone's minds. With Christmas around the corner I could not blame anyone for choosing not to think about the ugliness of horse slaughter. Still, I kept hoping that Luna was going to be saved. Not one inquiry had been made about her and time was running out.

The truck came and "our" horses, including Luna had escaped being put on the truck because it had a full load. Often our horses we are trying to find homes for are kept back unless the truck has room and they need bodies to fill it. It is then that no matter what, our horses are loaded along with the rest. We had 17 or 18 (maybe more there were so many) horses we were trying to find homes for. But there were only a four people trying to raise funds to save 4 different horses including this cute little pinto pony named Noah. We would feel a measure of safety for these horses because normally funds would be raised in time and at least we could feel that some would get a home.

Another truck came. Again our horses were saved, but now it was because many of them were showing signs of Strangles. Due to the obvious signs of illness they would not be able to be shipped. It was both a blessing as Luna was one of them who were sick, and a curse because the illness is so painful. (See below for links on information on Strangles.)

Even the horses that did not show signs, had been exposed and would likely develop Strangles. Even though these horses may have contracted Strangles they would be shipped if there was room on the next truck. I would like to point that importation of horses across state lines, much less between the US and Canada is very strict. It requires vet certificates ensuring they are healthy. This is NOT the case for the slaughter trucks hauling horses (even for human consumption.)

The November 30th truck arrived and had room to spare. The feedlot owner loaded all the horses on the lot which he could fit onto the truck that did not look sick. He wanted to ship them as quickly as possible before they showed signs of Strangles. The word was that our horses were among them. We were absolutely devastated and impatiently waited for the list of horses that remained so we could see which of our horses were on the truck. Crying and fearful of what I might learn, I scanned the list to see who had shipped. I read the list: Bebe, Bubba, Gemma and Noah, the pinto pony had been shipped. We were all sickened at the loss (and the losses since then) of the faces we had grown to love and fight for, especially knowing their horrendous fates. Now all we could do was pray for quick and painless deaths that we knew would be the best thing for them. It isn't just the killing of the horses that we are against but more so HOW they die and the terror they experience a long the way. To read more on this: FOIA Request Uncovers Unprecedented Evidence Horse Slaughter is Inhumane [Warning: Graphic]

In the case of Noah getting shipped there was extreme anger. The feedlot owner knew Noah had a home and funds were in the process of being raised to save him. Noah was a small horse and I highly doubt the feedlot owner would have been able to get anything close to the $650 price he'd put on Noah's head verses the price per pound he'd receive for Noah from the meat packing plant. Sending Noah to his death seemed like a scheme to spur all of us to work that much harder to sell his horses for such inflated prices. We hadn't been able to find homes and sell hardly any horses for weeks due to the time of year. What better a way for him to control us then to send a few horses to their deaths?

It was at that point we decided that Luna just could not go to slaughter. Our hearts could not take it. Neither Nancy nor I are good at asking for help, much less money but on December 2nd we began asking for donations to help us get Luna off the feedlot. We began posting on Another Sunrise, Rebels, and our Facebook pages asking people to help us save Luna. We emailed all of our friends and families asking for any help they could financially provide. We posted and reposted asking for help. We were not set up for horses, much less a very sick one that could not come into Canada from Washington State. We had no idea as to what transport fees would be and who would be willing to haul a contagious horse for us. We didn't have a quarantine (QT) facility organized or someone to look after her. But we were damned sure she was not going on the slaughter truck.

By December 4th we had raised $455 raised ($448.14 after PayPal fees) of the $650.00 bail. Most of the donations came from wonderful people we have never met. Donna from Another Sunrise (who we did not know at the time) offered to QT Luna at her home even if it took months. Another gal stepped up and offered to transport Luna to the QT area for $200. In the end we had a good chunk of Luna's bail and we made up the remainder. We had a way to get her to a place that would take care of her for months while she recuperated. And, we had someone who would give her the intense care she needed to get better. The extra costs of it all came from the addition we had planned to make to our 400 square foot cabin. The saving of Luna has been completely worth the trade.

On December 5th Nancy took the many hour drive down to the states to purchase a money order and send it next day air to make the payment for Luna. She was paid for and the next day headed to the safety of the foster home for quarantine.

Donna sent these pictures (taken Dec. 7th)

Luna was never her real name. Usually we do not know the real names of the horses on the lot. We give them names so that they have an identity and so that we can refer to them other than saying "the sorrel or chestnut". We have several friends named Luna so set out to find Luna's "real" name. I asked Donna the foster mom if she might ask Luna what her name is. The other end of the phone went silent. Then I laughed and she laughed too (sort of). The following day she called and reported that Luna's real name was Trixie. My first words were "No, it isn't, not unless she is a pole dancer". I wasn't too keen on it but said that if Trixie really insisted on being called that I say it to her face, but to the rest of the world she would have another name. I then asked if the gal would try calling her Birdie. This time Donna really did laugh and sweetly declined. Finally, I asked her to see if Trixie wouldn't mind being called River. All of us: Me, Nancy, Luna's wonderful caretaker and especially Luna liked the name so River it is.

If you look closely at her cheek you can see the visible Strangles abscess that had yet to break open.

Links on Strangles:
Information on Strangles
Information on Strangles [Graphic pictures]
Strangles Vaccine Information
How to Treat Strangles

Donna sent these pictures (taken Jan. 11th, 2012)