New Holland Auction Reportby Anne Russek
Monday, Dec. 7, 2008 - I went to the New Holland Auction on 11/23 to search for any thoroughbreds from "No slaughter Policy" racetracks. Since my last visit, the steward at Charlestown Racetrack in West Virginia, Danny Wright, told me that Charlestown does have a "no slaughter policy". The officials had recently conducted an investigation concerning a horse, September Princess, who had been purchased privately after the auction at New Holland, (Nov10) from the owner of the Camelot Auction in N. J. (Frank Carper).
Although the Camelot Auction does have a public auction every Wednesday, it is also known that any horses not purchased privately are at risk to be sent to slaughter in Canada. The officials at Charlestown determined that "clear intent" could not be established in the case of September Princess, but assured me that they had an interest in knowing about any Charlestown horses that were sold at New Holland, or any other facility that sold horses for slaughter.
I arrived at New Holland at 8:30 A.M. It was a cold, cloudy day. The most obvious sounds I heard were the pigs. They were in an area next to the horse auction, and were squealing loudly. It sounded like people screaming.
When I first entered the auction through the unloading area, I noticed there were four grade horses in the "drop pen" that previously had held the thoroughbreds from the Suffolk Downs rescue . (Nov 3). There were fewer horses in the other drop pens. I did notice however that one pen, which was usually reserved for dealers that brought a large number of horses to the auction for sale, was empty. I also noticed that it was very dirty, the straw bedding was heavily trampled and wet with manure and urine. It appeared that many horses had been in this pen fairly recently, but had been moved. I suspected that horses may have arrived at New Holland before Monday, and possibly been moved to Mel Hoovers to be shipped directly to slaughter. I attempted to verify my suspicions by asking one of the Amish employees if the horses that had been in that pen had left the auction. He nodded his head yes. I pressed on and asked if they had gone to Mel Hoovers and he shrugged , then mumbled "maybe". I could not tell if he knew or not, and could not assume anything based on his comment. In my previous visits to New Holland, the staff is very quick to clean the pens as soon as the sale is over, so this dirty , empty pen seemed unusual to me. The pen remained dirty all day, and horses were put in it during the course of the sale.
I wandered over to the long aisleways where horses are tied to railings in front of mangers filled with hay. There were approximately forty to fifty horses at the auction at this time. The doors to the outside were closed, and the auction was comfortably warm. Several of the horses were wearing blankets, I did not immediatley notice any thoroughbreds.
I walked to the back of the auction, where there were a few pens of horses, and lots of cows. There was a large drop pen, with some very tired looking horses, but no thoroughbreds. I also saw a mare and foal in a pen by themselves. It is always gut wrenching to see a foal at a livestock auction like New Holland or Sugarcreek.
I walked back into the other aisleway section and saw several horses , all in good weight, with their tails braided to the ground. I walked over to one mare and flipped her lip. She had a very legible tattoo, and I called it in. I also noticed that she had a swollen right frontleg and a more swollen right rear leg. There was a puncture wound on her front leg, and her back leg appeared to be swollen from a concussion of some sort, possibly a trailer injury.
The tack auction was getting ready to start, and more horses were arriving. I watched the trailers unloading, looking for thoroughbreds, and saw Charlie De Hart arrive . Charlie unloaded a bay mare who was wearing racing plates. He checked her in and she was given Hip #254. He led her into the auction and began to walk her up and down the aisleways looking for a place to tie her. He found a spot and he left to go unload more of his horses. I flipped her lip but she had a very difficult tattoo to read. I wrote it down and phoned it in, but decided to look around some more and then come back and re-read her tattoo.
As I passed by the tack auction I heard a man's voice yelling above the noise shouting, "hey, you, I want to talk to you!".
I glanced over my shoulder and saw Josh McKay (the dealer I had bought the nine thoroughbreds from on Nov. 3) riding over to me atop a horse. I stopped and he rode as close to me as he could yelling, "I thought I told you not to write anything about me selling you those horses." Josh went on to say that he did not appreciate "my lies" about him, and that I had alot of nerve to write about him and post it on the internet.
I replied that I always write about my auction experiences, and that I certainly had not told any lies about him. I explained that I had merely posted the exchange he and I had concerning the price of the horses. Josh said that I had tried to make him look like a jerk, and I said I only reported that I felt he had overcharged me. I never used the word jerk, or any other adjectives to that nature.
Josh continued to call me a liar, and then told me he would never sell me another horse, and that if he had anything to do about it, I would never buy another horse from New Holland.
I said that considering how much money he had made off of me, I felt confident he (Josh) probably would sell me more horses. I also said that I was quite sure that the management of New Holland would also continue to take my money.
By now, a small crowd had gathered and I am sure they were enjoying the entertainment value of our exchange. Josh rode away from me but not before he hollered back, "If I wasn't on this horse, and you weren't a woman, I'd get off and punch you in the mouth."
I responded to Josh that he should not let either one of those two conditions keep him from dismounting and punching me if that was what he really wanted to do. Josh rode away and I walked back to the unloading area.
I looked down an aisleway and saw two horses tied to a railing. One was gray, and one was bay. The gray looked to be a thoroughbred and I walked over to him and checked his lip. His tattoo was very easy to read, and I called it in. As I was checking the bay, a young woman, (Amanda Seiler) came around the corner and asked me if I wanted to buy these two horses. I asked if they were thoroughbreds, and she flooded me with information. She readily told me that both horses were off the track. She told me they had just come up from a racetrack in Florida, they were both turf horses and that they had not been very competitive on the track. She told me that both of them had just been gelded, (they still had open incisions) and that she had the foal papers for both of them. She also suggested that either one of them could still be put back into training and used for racing.
She told me their names, the gray was Le Bron and the bay was Take The Risk. I asked her how much she wanted for them and she said $500.00 per horse. I said I would let her know.
I walked away and Gail called back with information about the two horses. Both horses had not run in two years, (which meant they had not been on a racetrack). Neither horse had on racing plates, in fact Le Bron's feet were quite long and chipped up, he only had one shoe on and that shoe was steel, not aluminum.
Both horses had been bred by Paraneck Stables, (N.Y), but the owner of record who had sent them to New Holland was Amanda's father, Carl Seiler. Both horses had only raced in New York, neither horse had ever run on the turf. I decided to go back and ask Amanda for some clarification. Amanda saw me coming and told me that Le Bron was getting ready to go through the ring if I wanted to bid on him. About this time Gail called me back and I decided to let her talk to Amanda. Amanda told Gail that she had paid $1400.00 for Le Bron. When Gail questioned Amanda as to why she would risk losing money on him at New Holland, Amanda seemed unconcerned. Gail mentioned to Amanda that Le Bron stood the risk of being purchased by a kill buyer and sent to slaughter, and Amanda said she had no control over that.
Amanda handed me the phone, and Gail and I agreed I would bid on him in the ring.
While I was watching for Le Bron to sell, Gail called with fabulous news. The first filly I had identified, was Victory Mirror. She had been off the track for two years, but her owner/breeder (Caroline Stautburg) had been contacted and told Gail to tell me to buy her and that they were sending a private trailer to pick her up and get her out of New Holland. I assured Gail I would bid on her.
While waiting for Le Bron and Victory Mirror to sell, I walked back over to check on the mare that De Hart had brought in. As I walked up the aisle, Josh McKay came over to me, this time on foot. He said he wanted to talk to me, and I told him that it was obvious to me that he liked to talk "at" people, not "to" them. Josh said he really did want to talk. I said "go ahead".
Josh wanted to know who I was, and what I was trying to accomplish.
I told him that I had worked in the thoroughbred industry for over thirty years, and that I was gathering information for the racetracks that had "no slaughter policies", and assisting owners, breeders and trainers who wanted to rescue thoroughbreds from the slaughter pipeline. I asked Josh if he was aware that certain tracks had these policies.
Josh indicated he knew of the policies, but didn't think much of them. Josh wanted to know how long a horse had to be off the track for the trainer to not "get in trouble" for sending the horse to slaughter auctions.
I told him there was no specific time frame, but that I usually focused on those horses who had raced within the last three to four months. I also pointed out to him that at auctions like Sugarcreek, the horses usually had raced within the last ten days before the auction.
None of this information was news to Josh, he then proceeded to tell me that the trainers who gave/sold him horses were not doing anything wrong. Josh felt that if they could not afford to feed their horses, sending them to slaughter was an option.
I told Josh that there was no way the public was ever going to accept thoroughbred racehorses being disposed of through slaughter. I also told him that there were far more people involved in racing who believed in retirement, rehabilitation, and humane euthanasia. I explained to him that it was the "lowest common denominator" within racing that sent their horses to slaughter.
Josh continued to defend the "LCD's" by saying that banning these trainers was not fair because it would cost them their jobs.
I told Josh that most of these trainers couldn't train a horse to eat, much less win a race. I explained to him that training racehorses is expensive, and that many people should have never gotten involved in owning and training in the first place. I told him any trainer who would admit he cannot afford to feed and care for his horse needs to get out of the business, not keep repeating the cycle of racing their non competetitive horses into the ground and then disposing of them through slaughter, only to turn around and "hustle" a new victim. I told him that these trainers could go months on end without winning a race, and that they were not making money , most of them just wanted an excuse to not get a "real job".
I told Josh the trainers who send their horses to slaughter give everyone in racing a bad name. I said that certain racetracks have decided they can do without those individuals who will not responsibly care for their horses when they are finished racing.
Josh continued to defend his clients. Josh said the racetracks should pay these trainers meat price for their horses, or else the track should set up a shelter for these trainers so they could "drop them off" like you do a dog or a cat at the pound.
I reminded Josh that when you take an animal to the pound, no one gives you money. I also told him that rewarding bad behavior does nothing to deter the problem.
Josh then asked me, "what if I say the horse is being sold as a riding horse, the track can't prove he went to slaughter".
I told Josh that the racetracks aren't stupid. We know who the kill buyers are, we know who the slaughter auctions are, and we know who operates the direct to slaughter facilities. I also told him that there are plenty of people on the backstretch, grooms, hotwalkers, farriers, etc. who are more than willing to blow the whistle on the trainers who try and slip their horses into the slaughter pipeline.
I asked Josh what he thought the tracks could do to keep the horses from ending up with the kill buyers. Josh said if the tracks want to stop horses from going to slaughter auctions, the tracks need to stop it at the stable gate. (Last summer I had asked Mel Hoover the same question, and his answer was the same, it has to stop at the stable gate.)
I asked Josh why he and the other dealers worked so hard to keep the rescues from buying horses and returning them to their owners or to new homes. Josh told me that he did not want to "hurt" the trainers who sent their horses to slaughter. I asked him why it was more important to him to help the guy who wanted to slaughter the horse than help the person who wanted to buy and rehome the horse? His answer was simple, "the trainers are repeat customers".
Josh told me that he and the other traders were not doing anything illegal. I agreed with him that shipping horses to slaughter was not illegal, but I reminded him that shipping horses across state lines without coggins and health certificates was.
Josh ended the conversation by reminding me he felt my reports were "unfair" to him and the auctions. I told him that I only reported what I saw, and that I believed that people had a right to know the names of dealers who sent horses to slaughter. The more information that people had, the less likely they would be to lose one of their animals to the pipeline.
Josh walked away and I went over to De Harts mare. I still had trouble reading her tattoo, even though she was incredibly cooperative. I walked back over to the ring and saw that Victory Mirror was about to sell.
Victory was ridden into the ring, which surprised me since as I noted earlier, she had two swollen legs. The auctioneer, Chris, actually acknowledged her injuries, but assured those bidding that the owner guaranteed her soundness. Because she was in very good weight, she quickly went up to $500.00. I could not see who I was bidding against, but I did get her for $625.00.
Immediately after the bidding stopped, a man approached me and asked me what I was going to do with her. I asked him if he was a kill buyer, and he said no. He introduced himself as Russ, and said he was looking for a thoroughbred mare for his wife to ride. He said he thought I might be a dealer and had decided to wait until after the bidding to try and buy her. I explained to him the situation, but offered to let him call the original owner and see if she would let him have her for his own. He thanked me and went to make the call.
Several horses later Le Bron was ridden into the ring. The bidding was low and slow. The auctioneer gave the same wrong information that Amanda had told me. I purchased him for $325.00.
I went to put Le Bron in a safe place and saw Amanda. I asked her what she thought about him selling for $325.00. She was unconcerned, and asked me if I wanted to sell him back to her. I said "no".
I then asked her about Take The Risk. Amanda told me he had been pulled from the sale, she had sold him privately. I saw him tied to a rail with no hay for an hour or so, but I never did see who took him.
While I was busy attending to Le Bron and Victory Mirror, I realized that De Harts mare was in the ring. I ran over but was too late. I caught her as she was leaving the ring, and the last number I had heard was $300.00. I quickly asked an employee who had bought her and was told "she didn't sell, the owner took her back." As I followed her back to where she had been tied, I noticed she had ben run through the ring wearing a western saddle. (I realized then why Josh had asked me how the racetracks could prove an off the track thoroughbred wasn't being sold as a riding horse instead of a salughter horse.)
The dealers had decided if they stuck a saddle on the thoroughbreds, they could help the trainers have an "alibi" if any no slaughter tracks tried to enforce their policies.
I looked at the mares tattoo one more time and then decided to just ask De Hart who she was. I saw Charlie sitting in the stands and went and sat next to him. I told him I was interested in the mare and asked how much he wanted. Charlie told me the owner wanted $400.00. I told Charlie I would like to know her breeding and he said he would call the owner. I left him so he could make the call and when I returned he told me her name was Kathryns Calling. Charlie said he was taking her back to his farm in Shippensburg Pa, and I had until Wednesday to make up my mind.
Kathryns Calling had last raced at Delaware Park on Oct 22, 2008. She was owned and trained by Gilberto Rivera. Before racing at Delaware, the mare had started numerous times at Penn National, and once at Philadelphia Park, all tracks with a "no slaughter policy".
Mrs. Stautberg called me on the phone and said she had talked to Russ and he seemed to be a good match for Victory Mirror. She told me that if things did not work out, Russ would arrange to send the filly back home. Mrs. Stautburg then told me she wanted to help me rescue another horse from the auction. I told her about Le Bron, and she offered to pay for him and bring him to her farm. She said her farm manager, Darin, was already on his way with a trailer.
Russ then came over to me and said he was going home to get his trailer and would be back in an hour. I told him I would wait with both horses until he and Darin arrived.
The auction was almost over, the late prices were very low. I watched as the dealers sorted their horses into pens. I went over to Le Bron and put a new halter on him for his trip home. Someone had tied a chestnut gelding next to him and they were eating hay, muzzle to muzzle. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have been happy for them both. It is devestating to leave horses behind, especially when you know they have been bought by a kill buyer. No one will ever convince me that slaughter auction horses don't know their days are numbered. At the very least, they know they are in an unsafe place.
While I was waiting for Russ and Darin, I sat down and examined the coggins papers that had come with Le Bron. I noticed that his coggins had been drawn at New Holland on Thursday, October 2, 2008 by Dr. Eric Holtz. At the time, the owner listed was Richard Biardi of Ocala, Fl. That meant that Le Bron must have been in a drop pen at New Holland until the auction on Monday, October 6, at which time he was purchased by Amanda's father, Carl Seiler. Once again, I wondered how a horse was shipped from Florida to Pennsylvania without a coggins or health certificate. The only other paperwork was a coggins from 2007. I asked the New Holland vet about the dates. He said he remembered the horse. He said that Le Bron had come to the auction on October 2, had his coggins drawn, been sold, shipped to Florida, and then returned to New Holland to be sold in the Nov. 23 auction.
If that account is accurate, it is difficult to explain how a horse could be sold at New Holland, gelded, shipped to Fla, shipped back to New Holland, and sold for $325.00. And let's not forget that Amanda Seiler told Gail that at some point during all this movement up and down the east coast, she had paid $1400.00 for Le Bron. Go figure.
My phone rang and it was Darin telling me he had arrived and was in the parking lot. I went out to meet him and brought him inside. As I was walking toward Le Bron, he asked me where Victory Mirror was. As I turned to show him, Darin had already spotted her from over fifty feet away. I asked how he knew her from among so many and he said," I would know her anywhere." I couldn't help but tear up as I watched Darin tenderly stroke his filly, all the while telling her how sorry he was she was in this awful place. He turned to me and said, "you know, I once came to this place when I was a kid, I hated it then ....it still has that same feeling of hopelessness." I started to take him to Le Bron as a young girl was being dragged by a very scared horse. She tied him next to Victory Mirror and he immediately began to kick and pull on his rope. His actions caused Victory Mirror to pull and struggle against her rope in an effort to get out of range of his frantic kicking. She broke her rope and fell backwards onto the floor. Darin immediately calmed her and led her by the halter to a quieter section. Darin told me he did not want to load Le Bron and leave until Russ had returned for Victory Mirror. I told him I thought he was one of a kind, and I waited with him.
It wasn't long before Russ arrived and Darin helped him load Victory Mirror. Then we went to get Le Bron.
The chestnut gelding had managed to slip his halter off, but was still standing nose to nose with Le Bron.
As Darin led le Bron down the aisle, the chestnut followed us. Darin asked if we should tie him back up, and I told Darin that he was in no danger and it was the last freedom he would ever know. Darin agreed and we continued to walk to the loading area. The chestnut was stuck to us like glue. I gently pushed his head and neck toward a manger of hay, and for a moment he started to eat. Just as we were leading Le Bron through the last gate, the chestnut gelding trotted back over and did everything he could to try and squeeze through that gate and go with us. Darin and I looked at each other in complete despair. It is torture for me to have to turn my back on a horse that is trying so desperately to save himself.
Darin and I walked silently to his trailer and loaded Le Bron. Darin hung a full hay net for him and we exchanged contact information and said good-bye.
During my long drive home I thought about the difficulty the racetracks will have in enforcing their no slaughter policies. It is apparent that the kill buyers will continue to assist trainers who want to send their horses to slaughter. The kill buyers do not care that there are rescues and programs at the tracks to assist owners and trainers in rehoming these horses. The kill buyers defend their actions as being legal, yet they whine and cry foul when their actions and methods of business are reported. It is very important that people within the equine community know who the kill buyers are, how they obtain their horses, the auctions that they pick up and sell theses horses at, and the racetracks the thoroughbreds are coming from.
It is also important to know the direct to kill facilities, and to insist on getting information at the auctions from the dealers who are trading these horses.
Anyone who knows a trainer that is sending racehorses to slaughter auctions, should contact the General Manager of that racetrack and give them as much information as possible. Patronizing racetracks that promote equine responsibility will send a message to those tracks that have no policies.
Update: The mare Kathryns Calling was still in the possesion of Charlie De Hart as of December 4. With the assistance and combined efforts of the Race Fund, Another Chance 4Horses, and a private donation, Kathryn's Calling was purchased from Charlie De Hart on Dec 8 and transported to safety.
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