A dirty dappled grey mare is tethered to the wall with a frayed red lead rope. Her head droops a little too low, for she is clearly exhausted. She has travelled from some unknown location and ends up at the weekly Horse Auction. Her name is Cami.

If you are a horse, you wouldn’t want to wind up anywhere near the Horse Auction. This is a place where all the neglected, rejected, and unwanted horses land. A horse may be here because after years of faithful service, he’s just too old and not useful to his owner anymore. Or maybe a horse is here because she experienced abuse and as a result becomes untrusting and difficult to handle. Or perhaps the horse has a lameness or injury that causes unsoundness. And of course, there are the horses that are here simply because they are unlucky.

The people who go to the Horse Auction are there for different reasons. You can buy the horses at a very low price and many of them can make great horses for lessons and private ownership. But what happens to the horses that remain unsold and unwanted? They go to the “Kill Pen” and are purchased by the slaughter houses for their meat.

The auction is over and nobody looks at Cami, the sweet grey mare. If someone had bothered to look under the layers of dirt that cover her body, they would have seen a gentle horse that moves with elegance and dignity. They would see long lean legs of a thoroughbred and deep brown intelligent eyes. Underneath her top lip there is a tattoo which means that somewhere in her history she has raced. But nobody looks at Cami.

A man takes hold of her old red lead rope and she sweetly follows him into the “Kill Pen”. It is just another Sunday night at the auction, and early Monday morning all the unwanted horses in the “Kill Pen”, will be brought to Canada and slaughtered for meat.

It is also Sunday night in Suffern, N.Y. Val, an instructor at Stonehedge Farm, looks at her computer and finds a picture of the horses are in the “Kill Pen” at that same auction. Her heart is drawn to the photo of a sweet looking grey mare. Val feels there is something special about her, maybe it is her beautiful conformation that is hidden under the layers of grime, or maybe it is her intelligent expression. She quickly prints out a picture of this horse before she leaves her house for dinner. She is meeting Scott, the owner of Stonehedge Farm, as well as Lisa and Cindy who both board horses there.

As they sit down to dinner Val shows Scott, Lisa, and Cindy the picture of Cami. Val says “This beautiful horse is going to slaughter tomorrow.” They all look at her picture, and decide that they will try to rescue her. They pool their money together and collect the $450 plus tax and shipping needed to spare her life. The man from the auction is called and they say “We want to will buy her. Is it too late? Can we save her?”

Hope. There is always a chance that things will turn around. In the darkest darkness, the light of hope exists. It may be hidden, but it is always there. At the very last moment, something shifts. Even slightly. And the expected outcome changes. For good. As long as you have one breath left in your body, you still have hope.

Are you wondering what happens to Cami? Well, she was saved that night by that generous group of people. She now lives upstate on many grassy (now snowy) acres. Cami spends her days galloping around and playing with her herd-mates. I hear she is in “love” with a large handsome black and white gelding named Marquis and they even like to share the same large stall when they come in from turnout!

by Dana Mase

Dana Mase is the founder and executive director of Ride Kind Therapeutic Riding, and equestrian director for The Ranch at Bethel, a therapeutic boarding school for girls. Dana’s column, called “Horse Time,” teaches inspirational life lessons learned from working with horses and people.“ Horse Time” is featured in numerous worldwide publications. Dana can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 845-356-1464.