OTTBs are Awesome. OTTBS are Disposable.

Two big stories in OTTB land broke today, one awesome, and one awful.

First, the awesome:  Boyd Martin’s OTTB Neville Bardos was voted USEF Horse of the Year.  This amazing creature was a failed race horse, and was headed for the slaughterhouse.  However, Boyd scooped him up, and now the horse is a favorite to make the US Olympic 3 Day team.  As if that wasn’t enough, Neville Bardos also made a dramatic recovery from serious injuries sustained in a barn fire.  If that isn’t thoroughbred heart, I don’t know what is.

Here they are, running XC:

Now for the awful.

More than 100 thoroughbreds never got a fair shot at a second career, despite the fact that the young woman who took them from the track promised their owners she would find them good homes.  She posed as a rescuer, handing out promotional items stamped with slogans promoting second careers for race horses, but turned around and sent the horses straight to slaughter, even after accepting money and feed given by the owners to help her efforts.

“Those crazy people don’t have to look for their horse anymore because he is in a box in a freezer and thanks for the money and the feed.”

At only 23, Kelsey Lefever has managed to achieve several lifetimes’ worth of evil.  You can read the full extent of her crimes (she’s been charged with multiple felonies) on the Paulick Report: Every One of Them is Dead.

Kelsey Lefever, kill buyer, and charged with fraud and multiple felonies

Kelsey Lefever, kill buyer, and charged with fraud and multiple felonies

She doesn’t look evil, or untrustworthy.  This isn’t the face you’d ever imagine on a person that would take an animal you care about, for which you’re trying to find a home, and send it immediately to a grisly death.

But you can’t judge a book by its cover.

“I killed every one of those f—ing horses, over 120 of them, if they only knew. I only have five left and the ones that you have. Every one of them is dead. I don’t even know their names and there wasn’t a goddamn thing they could do about it because they gave me those horses.”

– Kelsey Lefever.

Finally, I leave you with an impassioned plea, and some very good points, from Allie Conrad, a tireless CANTER volunteer and long time rescuer of and advocate for ex-racehorses:

I wish we could nail all of the people stealing horses from our racetracks under false pretenses and selling them direct to slaughter for a measly 300$ in profit per horse with widespread articles, shares on Twitter and Facebook and photos of their faces.  Unfortunately, we usually can’t unless there is a public record of their absolutely soulless transgressions.

Thankfully in regards to a case that occupied a lot of my free time this past spring, someone pressed charges on this vile creature, Kelsey Lefevre, so her name could be publicized. Remember this face! Remember that for every horse you give away, no matter how pretty the girl who shows up is, no matter how sweet they seem, no matter if they have kids in tow, no matter if they say they are a grandmother looking for a horse for their grandchild–NO MATTER WHAT, you MUST check references and you must be prepared to listen to your gut and just say no if you feel uneasy.  You are better off putting an animal down humanely before trusting that it will land on it’s feet with someone who you do not trust.  Checking references means asking people for their vet or practice name, and obtaining the phone number yourself after checking the validity of the identity of the person who wants to give your horse a home.  It means calling and speaking to the vet and asking questions like “how long has X been a client? How many horses does X have? How would you rate X’s fencing? Would you give her a horse of yours?”.  You may get answers that require you to read between the lines, but if you’ve existed with any success long enough to have horses, you certainly have a “gut instinct”.  Follow it! Your horses’ life may depend on it.

We have heard every vile story in the book over the past 15 years.

We have had women who borrow disabled children from neighbors to obtain “therapy horses”, only to sell them to New Holland or straight to slaughter.

We have had countless people show up asking for “4H horses”.  (I, for one, have never met a 4H’er looking for a horse)

We’ve heard the “camp horse” angle.

We’ve heard the sick daughter angle and her dying wish is a horse of her own.

We’ve heard the “we’re really broke but will give him a great home!” angle.

We’ve just heard it all, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everybody has.  Please tell any person you know at the track, any person you know with horses, that these people are out there, and they are out there in droves.  They WANT TO TAKE YOUR HORSES AND KILL THEM FOR A PROFIT.  Remember that.  Kelsey’s head has been cut off, but three more will spring up in her place, and they will have t-shirts and coffee mugs, and brochures to convince you that their dimpled smile would NEVER let anything bad happen to your horses.  They are liars and they are laughing every time they take a horse that you help load on their trailer so they can deliver it straight to it’s very cruel death. 

Want to protect your horses in the best way you can? Keep them for life.  For lots of folks, they can’t pull this off.  But they can pull off developing a relationship with a verifiable, well-reputed Non-Profit working near you, setting aside money to care for your horse and donating it, and 1 year worth of expenses to that group.

No doubt that lots of folks knew exactly what Kelsey was up to.  Those are the folks that were looking for a cheap, fast way to dump problem animals (problems because they simply existed and weren’t fast enough) and wash their hands (and consciences!) of it.  But, there were lots of folks who thought they were doing the right thing.  They trusted a cute brunette who handed them a mug and a magnet touting her amazing skills in finding homes for horses, and those people are no doubt reeling from the fact that their animals–the animals who trusted them–are dead from a violent death. I cannot imagine their fury, because if it’s anything like mine, they are physically ill and ready to kill.

“You are responsible forever, for those you have tamed”– St. Exupery

Protect your animals, you are all they have.


About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital business executive and strategist with a long track record of success in team leadership, employee development, marketing and business development.

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