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Saving horses from the slaughter

Carolyn Sanders, founder and manager of Sand Stone Farm’s Rescue Effort, cares for Mouse (left) and Minnie, two horses purchased from a man in Kentucky who buys and sells horses, but doesn’t feed them. Photos by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 27, 2011 - Carolyn Sanders knows she can't save every horse out there from the slaughterhouse, but she tries her best to rescue as many as she can.

"Over 100,000 horses a year are slaughtered because of people who can't afford them or neglect them," said the 37-year-old Pontiac resident who founded and manages the Oxford-based Sand Stone Farm's Rescue Effort. "Many of them are pregnant horses. Many of them are perfectly fine horses, young and healthy, with a full life ahead of them."

Unable to stand idly by while these magnificent creatures are shipped off to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for their meat, Sanders, a lifelong equine enthusiast, founded her horse rescue earlier this year.

"We're just trying to save what we can a few at a time," she said. "We can only take so many. We pick a few we feel we can rehabilitate and find good homes for them."

Although Sand Stone Farm rescues horses of various ages, genders and breeds that are slaughter-bound, abandoned or neglected, it specializes in pregnant mares and mares with foals, which are horses 1-year-old or younger.

"The slaughterhouse won't take the mare if they know it's pregnant, however, if they can't tell or they don't know, they will take it," Sanders said. "If a dealer knows a mare's pregnant, they'll let her have the baby, then send the mare off to slaughter and the baby usually dies."

Located on a leased farm off Baldwin Road, between Oakwood and Davison Lake roads, Sand Stone Farm's Rescue Effort is currently home to six adult horses and two foals.

With the exception of two recent arrivals, Minnie and Mouse, who are still in precarious shape, all of the horses are waiting to be adopted by caring people, who have the time, money and commitment necessary to handle the responsibility of equine ownership.

They can all be viewed by visiting

"They are all sound animals, meaning they don't have any issues that would prevent them from being ridden," Sanders noted.

Horses rescued by Sand Stone Farm come from on-line sales on websites such as Craigslist or live auctions at places like Sugarcreek, Ohio and Shipshewana, Indiana.

Sanders and her associates look for horses that are priced below the price of meat, meaning about $500 and under.

These are the horses that kill-buyers – those who specifically purchase horses for slaughter – are looking for.

Often, when kill-buyers find these underpriced horses, they'll tell the seller they're looking for a "good family horse."

"The seller will send the horse to what they think is a loving home and it's really the end of the road for that horse," Sanders said.

And "the end of the road" isn't pretty.

"There's videos of horse slaughter on YouTube," Sanders said. "It's a very graphic, very inhumane situation. They are killed like cows . . . Many of them will travel up to 60 hours with no feed and no water, stuffed into livestock trailers."

Whenever she can, Sanders tries to educate sellers about the dangers of kill-buyers and pricing their horses too low.

Sand Stone Farm's two most recent additions, Minnie and Mouse, were purchased from a man in Kentucky for $100 each.

"He buys and sells horses and in the meantime, he doesn't feed them," Sanders said. "They came from Kentucky literally starved. The lowest body score usually given is a 1. Zero is fairly dead. The smaller one, Minnie, she was about a 0.5 and the larger one, Mouse, was a 1. Their prognosis is guarded. They have a lot of developmental issues."

Both horses were heavily infested with worms when they arrived. That makes it hard for them to put on weight along with causing a variety of other health issues.

"The most they can gain is a pound a day," Sanders said. "It will take over a year for them to get even remotely close to the average weight for their size."

Sanders admitted they were in such bad shape that "we cried when they arrived."

Amazingly, the man who sold Minne and Mouse is still doing business and mistreating horses.

"Hopefully, there'll be a judgment brought against him," Sanders said. "He's still selling horses on Craigslist in horrible condition."

Ironically, the two main reasons so many horses end up in slaughterhouses could be stopped if people just exercised some common sense.

The first is overbreeding.

"Overbreeding is a huge problem," Sanders said. "It's the reason why there are so many horses. People just breed for fun and then they end up with horses with crooked legs or horses they can't afford."

To avoid this, Sanders urged people to get their male horses castrated.

"If you just throw them all out in a field and they start having babies, what are you going to do with all those babies? That's how horses end up dead from starvation, euthanized or auctioned for slaughter," she said.

The second is a matter of economics.

"People should really consider what they're getting themselves into when they purchase an animal whether it be a dog, a horse, a cat or a rabbit," Sanders said. "They need care, proper feeding, visits to the vet. If you can't afford all of those things, don't get one."

That's why whenever Sand Stone Farm's Rescue Effort adopts out a horse, it requires the new owner to sign a contract outlining the basic necessities that must be met and if it's a mare, that she won't be bred.

"That contract follows the horse for the entirety of its life, so it doesn't end up back in the same place where we saved it," Sanders said. "They are allowed to sell the horse, but we have to approve of where it goes and the contract follows it."

Sand Stone Farm's Rescue Effort does charge adoption fees that vary from horse to horse, however, it's not a money-maker.

"We are nonprofit," Sanders said. "We always put in more than we make on them."

She noted how with Minnie and Mouse alone, the rescue's already invested approximately $1,500 in just a few weeks between the purchase price, veterinary bills, feed, transporting them to the farm and paying workers $20 to $40 per day to help care for them.

"They need round-the-clock care," Sanders said. "The small one (Minnie) can't stand up by herself when she lays down. She's sort of like a beached whale. She has to be flipped over from side to side for her organs and her breathing. We have to have people here every 4-5 hours to ensure she's gotten up and moved. That's costly as well."

Sand Stone Farm's Rescue Effort is always in need of monetary and material donations.

Cash donations can go to the rescue's PayPal account at; the group's veterinarian, Dr. Evan Moore, who can be reached at (248) 628-7004; or the rescue's farrier, Aaron Engler, at (810) 721-8081.

Those wishing to donate hay, feed, medicated shampoos, topical medications, buckets, horse halters, etc. are welcome to do so.

Volunteers are needed at various times each day to feed, water and groom the horses along with turning them out to pasture and bringing them into the barn.

"We desperately could use volunteers," said Sanders, who noted a volunteer's visit needn't last more than an hour.

For more information about Sand Stone Farm's Rescue Effort, visit them on Facebook or at Sanders can be reached at

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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