Their Last Ride

Even though this essay is from many years ago these dismal journeys continue today.

While you’re reading this horses could be passing by your town on their last ride to an inhumane and cruel death.

 If you’re lucky enough to be owned by a horse, go to them, whisper into that soft, warm neck and tell them “You’re safe.  This will never happen to you.”

Their Last Ride

By: Sarah Atlas

The call came. It was time to go. My friend, who drove the 18 wheeler didn’t know that I was there as a witness, just companionship and a spare hand at the wheel, he thought.

“Meet me at the local truck stop,” he said. “Here’s your chance to drive the big rig”.

I never asked him where we were going, I just grabbed an overnight bag and took off for Newburgh, New York to meet him midway on his journey.

After we exchanged greetings, I was shocked to see a double-decker stock trailer filled with horses rolling to the death house.

Huddled together in tin coffins meant for cattle, these horses were en route to a wretched fate – a Canadian slaughterhouse to meet their death in a horrible way.

There was a host of breeds and colors.

A blaze, a star, an Appaloosa, a few Thoroughbreds, a couple of Standardbreds, some once loved child’s pony.


All with one thing in common, they did not know that hours from now they’d get an air-gun-launched bullet between the eyes.  If they were lucky they would be dead on the first shot. 

Eight hours into the haul (six for me) we were in Quebec.

We were there now, but three hours too early. The Killers wouldn’t arrive until 6 a.m. and the slaughterhouse was as lifeless as the horses shortly would be. They were herded tightly on board, standing in manure and urine seeming to sense their reprieve and acted relieved. It gave me time to ask him some questions and think back on the trip.

Earlier, prior to loading, the horses had, for the most part, been kept in holding pens at the dealers after they arrived from a number of sales.

The kill pens are very quiet with the commotion of the auction over. A very sad day after, they seem to have accepted their fate and I believe their souls have been taken away at this point to spare them the loading and their final journey, at least I pray their souls are taken before the terror of the journey.

Some came directly from notable yearling venues. Others were mules, donkeys or old used-up draft and workhorses.












Along the highway they had no water or hay – but they did receive provisions earlier this day – although I was told that this wasn’t the usual procedure.

Why feed a dead horse, right!  That also applied to the brood mares, heavy in foal.

As I remember the ride, we stopped just before we reached the Canadian border. We pulled over to make sure the inmates were standing. The one thing that’s not allowed by Customs officers or Federal veterinary official is a downed animal, or the load gets turned away.

Just in case one was down, he could plug them in with a cattle prod. All preparations were in place. Thank God, all of these were standing, and I didn’t have to watch anything more shocking than what was already happening. So, down the road a piece, when the inspectors looked in with a flashlight and sealed the trailer with a tag, they handed over the necessary paper work – and the trip continued.

It was frosty cold that night, I thought during the drive. How those poor, abused, arthritic horses must have been feeling.

I wondered how they felt going past well cared for horses grazing peacefully in well tended pastures.


Do they call out to those well cared for horses saying “TRUST NO ONE!  FOR THIS COULD VERY WELL BE YOU ONE DAY.”

At daybreak, we still awaited the Killers. I got out of the truck to stretch and I came across a horse’s hoof and leg from another load.

It’s like I, stood lifeless, between the sun’s glory and cruelty. I cried. But I realize at I wasn’t crying for that limb lying near the brush.

Nor for the 40 some odd on board the trailer. The tears were for the millions more that would arrive. I knew then, seven years ago, I had to do something to stop the flow.

The killers arrived. With bull whips and cattle prods with hoots and hollers they pushed them down the manure covered ramps, as I watched them slip and fall losing their footing.

Some that couldn’t get out of the way were trampled to death – right then and there.

And out of this mess, like the messiah, was this beautiful quarter horse. A mare, maybe seven or eight. Age didn’t matter now as she faced the Eternal. But she stopped to look at me.


Mane freshly pulled, new shoes, and a coat that into gleamed into the Universe, showing of a far-away groom who shared love with sweet feed and a currycomb. She didn’t just look at me. She stared. And I’m not sure, her asking, “How did this happen to me?”

I thought, “What can I do?” But did nothing. I probably should have haltered her right then and stopping this insanity single handedly. Like a tourist on the streets of Munich, in 1942, I stood mute and still pay for that moment.

 Lined up and cold-bloodily assassinated – every day in this nation.

Every county. Every breed. It’s a long ride from New Jersey to Quebec. But years later that mare still lives in my heart, in my hopes. She lives if we give her life, if we let her play in our fields.

If we ride her, pet her and groom her. And if we can’t do that, we can do Something. If we stand together and love her then she still lives. What happened that night? Why didn’t I do something to stop it! Won’t you help me now, to ensure this doesn’t have to continue!

There are things that you can do.

You can provide homes.

You can provide temporary (foster care) shelter.

You can volunteer time.

You can provide contributions to rescue or to bail a horse out from auction.

You can spread the word, instead of passing the buck. Network like crazy.

You can hold a local fundraiser, (car wash, bake sale).

And if things are so bad that you have to give the old girl away, don’t sell her like cattle to the butcher or to some stranger who is the highest bidder.

 Sarah’s story is dedicated to the following horses who took their last ride. Sarah personally worked with some of these mares on a breeding farm. What wonderful mares they were. Could not homes he found for them? The average purchase price for these horses was $350.00:
  • Wolfs Or, bm 14 – – Jurgy Hanover-Classy Carlisle
  • Verna T Adios, bm 19 – – Henry T Adios-Hills Verna
  • Boarder Laine, bm 7 – – Chairmanoftheboard-Flolaine
  • Wilo-ken, bm 16 – – Kenny Hanover-Wilocrest
  • OB’S Alma Rae, bm 16 – – Falcon Almahurst-Fair Rachel
  • Mary Reth S, bm 17 – Bret Hanover-Good Time Love
  • Stray Lady, bm 16 – – Most Happy Fella-Swift Kitty
  • Doris K, bm 13 – – Albatross-Keystone Samba
  • Witsend’s Magic, brm 12 – – Precious Fella-Miss Almahurst
  • Bretha Liza, bm 12 – – Cool Wind-HT Emily
  • Tutzing. bm 18 – – Shadow Don Time-Bye Bye Jolene
  • Sweet N Light, bm 17 – – Floris-Maura
  • Maura’s Flora, bm 20 – – Albatross-Marion Lobell
  • Marion Albatross, bm 21 – – Green Speed- I’ll Be The One
  • Roz’s Reward, bm 13 – – Flying Bret-Number Two Fuel
  • Flying Fuel, bm 10 – – Slapstick-Kay A
  • Versatile Kay A, blm 12 – – Romeo Hanover-Bye Bye Time
  • Hilarious Ginna, bm 25 – – Silent Majority-High Protein

Thanks to Sarah Atlas for this story.


  1. Mary Trafford · ·

    This was a difficult article to read and heart-wrenching photos to see. But I made myself read it. Recently, I made the decision to have my 31-year-old mare humanely euthanized. I had bred and raised her, sold her, but I kept track of her, and made sure she came back to me in her retirement. The last 10 years with her have been challenging but rewarding. In full retirement due to health problems, she had a pampered life and I enjoyed her companionship. I admit that I sometimes found it hard to bear the maintenance and veterinary costs for a horse who could no longer be ridden. But I did it to save her from ending up at a slaughterhouse. This article reminded me how precious her life was, and how grateful I am that I could honour her last years with good care and her final moments with a humane, loving end. I pray for the souls of all the dear horses who are not as lucky. Thanks for showing this brutal side of the horse business. It must have taken a lot of courage for Sarah to witness what she saw and to write so honestly about it. I hope her story inspires more owners to take responsibility for their horses, from foals to old age. They give so selflessly of themselves; it’s the least we can do to give back to them in equal terms.

  2. Sorry I could not read this but I glance at the pictures on the way down to the comments. My throat hurts and I want to cry. So I understand completely. Follow my blog on horse abuse at We can work together and fight to protect these great animals. I do my part, I vlounteer my time at our local equine rescue, includeing fostering some unwanted animals too. So comment and like these blogs. It shows we care.

  3. I can’t find words…

    1. YES! its hard..Sad and To hard, to digest…Thats why, C-544 is there…:-) tks

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