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Rescuing race horses

El Nuki chasing Gracie
El Nuki chasing Gracie
Mimi Pollack

Sixteen race horses have died this season [summer 2014] at the Del Mar Horse Races in Del Mar, CA. Most people don’t know the fate of other horses when they can no longer run or earn money for their owners. Because horseracing is a profitable industry, the dark side is swept under the rug.

Enter Audrey Reynolds and Saving Horses, Inc, a nonprofit organization in San Diego, CA. Audrey founded this organization to find homes for abandoned and forgotten horses.

Many race horses are sold at auctions to people with questionable motives or worse yet, sold for food at different “feed lots”. There is a federal ban on slaughtering horses in the United States, but the US Congress has failed to pass into law the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, so horses are sold abroad in Canada and México.

Reynolds not only rescues race horses, but also other breeds. She wants to give these forgotten horses a second chance. Many of the horses that she has found new homes for or fostered herself have had heartbreaking stories.

El Nuki, a handsome and friendly chestnut thoroughbred was once owned by a southern California family known in the racing world. Once he could not race anymore due to a career ending injury, the family put him in a “claiming race”. Anyone could claim him for $5,000. When his new owners realized how lame he was, they sold him. One of Reynolds’s scouts spotted him at a feed lot. This magnificent racehorse was going to be sold for food. He was with another thoroughbred, and the scout decided the two of them needed a second chance. El Nuki stayed with Reynolds. El Nuki was lucky as Reynolds was able to trace his breeder through his tattoo. This conscientious breeder was concerned and although he has since retired, continues to send funding for El Nuki’s care.

Gracie, a beautiful chestnut quarter horse, has bonded with El Nuki, and the two are inseparable. Gracie is one of those nice horses who rode and jumped her heart out until she developed serious lameness issues and could no longer be ridden. She was found at the same feed lot as El Nuki. She came with another gelding, and both had orders to “disappear”. Gracie could barely walk from her injuries and arthritis. Fortunately, Reynolds and her scout convinced the kill buyer to sell them and promised nobody would know. The gelding was sent to another rescue organization. Gracie now has a good home with Reynolds. Reynolds has had both El Nuki and Gracie for five years.

All of this takes a lot of money, and Saving Horses, Inc holds fundraisers to try to cover all the costs of caring for the horses, do grant writing, and find sources of revenue. However, there is never enough, and many times Reynolds has had to dip into her own pockets to keep the operation going, and rescue as many horses as she can. Please see the website for details.

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