Woody Creek woman helps save horses from slaughter
Woody Creek resident Margaret Reckling planned to buy herself a Christmas present — until she browsed the Colorado Slaughterhouse Bound Horses page on Facebook last week.
That’s all it took to rearrange her discretionary spending. Instead of buying an expensive camera lens, she gave three bonded horses a reprieve from a death sentence.
One of the three companion horses she saved is an American paint.
“I had a black-and-white paint when I was a girl,” Reckling said, explaining what caught her eye on the Facebook page. “They just caught me when I was feeling soft and nostalgic.”
Reckling was familiar with Colorado Feedlot Horses, a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2014 to try to save horses that get shipped out from Colorado for slaughter, most often to Mexico. The nonprofit nurtured a relationship with the owner of one of the two horse-slaughter feedlots operating in Colorado. It tries to save as many of the horses as possible in the short window from when they arrive at the feedlot to when they get shipped.
The group posts pictures of the new arrivals that the feedlot owner typically acquires at auctions. For a horse lover, looking at the Facebook page can be torture.
“I unfollowed it last year because it was so sad,” Reckling said. “It’s just heart-wrenching, really. Especially when they come in with mares and their babies.”
She can’t help herself from checking out the Facebook page occasionally. When she saw these three young, healthy horses she felt she had to act.
Reckling isn’t at a residence where she can board and care for horses, but she was willing to bail them out of jail if she could find someone to adopt them. Through networking, she found other women who shared a concern over doomed horses — one to transport them and another to care for them in New Mexico. That sealed the deal.
Reckling paid $855 per horse to remove them from the feedlot. They are now in quarantine to make sure they didn’t pick up any illness or disease from living in close quarters in the feedlot. Once cleared, they will be shipped to their new home in New Mexico. That was expected to happen this weekend.
Reckling said she’s told herself she will need to avoid the page to prevent the urge to save more animals.
“I just try not to look at it for awhile,” she said.
Crystal Brady, president and co-founder of Colorado Feedlot Horses, said most of the horses get saved through the type of networking that enticed Reckling. She said it isn’t unusual to rescue healthy, well-trained horses from the slaughterhouse lot. They were just dumped at an auction house for one reason or another. Some of the horses are near the end of their lives, and the owners hope to make a few bucks through auction rather than pay a veterinarian to put them down.
Colorado Feedlot Horses’ tactics have been criticized by other animal rescue organizations since it was founded in 2014, said Brady, a resident of Morrison. They criticize paying the feedlot owner, who typically sets prices higher than what he would get for slaughter. Foes contend that encourages the feedlot owner to pursue more animals.
Brady counters that the organization has saved 9,500 horses through networking and another 400 through its own rescue program — horses that would otherwise be dead. They aren’t changing the world, she said, but they are saving horses and building awareness of the issue.
“Basically we always said we’d save the ones we can and pray for the ones we can’t,” Brady said.
In some cases, Colorado Feedlot Horses spends funds to save horses and places them in facilities operated by nonprofits it vets. That avoids “horse flipping,” she said. But when an individual such as Reckling becomes aware of and buys a horse, they are on their own for finding an appropriate home.
All funds raised by Colorado Feedlot Horses go toward saving horses. She and two other workers volunteer their time.
“It’s just something we’re very passionate about,” Brady said.
More on the organization can be found at http://www.coloradofeedlothorses.com.
(This story was edited to clarify the vetting process.)
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