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Network can claim Cusack as one of many successes

May 19, 2011

by Neil Clarkson

Kiwi thoroughbred Cusack is safe from the threat of slaughter, but what of the other horses that regularly find their way into kill pens?

Amanda with Cusack at the auction yards in Enumclaw, Washington.
Across the United States, the picture is grim, with an estimated 100,000 horses being shipped to Canada and Mexico to end up on mostly European dinner plates.

However, the success in rehoming Cusack is part of a much bigger success story.

A group of horse lovers have dedicated themselves to helping horses that pass through the same auction house in Enumclaw, Washington, where Cusack found himself a fortnight ago. has had remarkable success in rehoming the horses that fail to sell under the hammer at Enumclaw and end up in the kill pens after the monthly horse auction.

One woman, who asked to be known only as Amanda, says she is only a small part of a much bigger network. She says others do more to help the horses.

But her own contribution points to the dedication and concern of the members, and helps in an effort that, to Amanda's knowledge, has seen every horse going into the kill pens at the auction house saved from slaughter.

Amanda visits the kill pens every afternoon that there are horses held there, bringing them treats and giving them attention, be it a scratch, a brush, or a few reassuring words.

She acknowledges there are many who believe that such auction houses are no places for horses, but says a good working relationship with its owner has been crucial to helping so many horses into new homes.

"I am a member of the forum," she explains. "I help network the horses to the people I know."

The horse auction is held on the first Sunday of every month, and around 30 horses can go through the sale. The number that end up in the kill pens can vary, with winter the worst time.

The most Amanda has ever seen is 15.

If unsold, the horses stay in the kill pens for a week, providing members of with an opportunity to find people willing to pay the price on their head and provide them with a new home.

The power of internet networking has seen horses shipped far and wide - in Cusack's case he will travel half way across the United States to Kansas and the home of Deb Johnson.

"We have had great success with this, to find homes," Amanda says.

"Out of all the horses that come from the monthly auction, we have not had a single horse shipped to slaughter.

"It's just a matter of networking; getting the horses out there."

In one recent case, an elderly and feeble horse was purchased to enable it to be euthanised, rather than face a trip to slaughter.

Amanda says she is on good terms with the auction house owner and has on occasion helped to get a few more days for horses where a new home cannot quite be organised in time.

Amanda says the story of Cusack, and the publicity around it, is helping to get the word out about

Amanda does not have horses of her own, but visits the Enumclaw kill pens with apples, carrots and five or six different kinds of pellet treats to provide some love and attention to the horses.

She recalls her encounter with Cusack, intrigued at first by the two different brands on his shoulders.

"I had never seen a horse with two different brands. It got the gears going in my head.

"I started asking around and somebody told me, 'he's from New Zealand'.

"I wondered, 'how in the world could a horse from New Zealand end up in a little town [in Washington] at this auction?'

"It stayed in the back of my mind.

"He was a really sweet guy. He kind of caught my heart," she said, adding that he would come over and nicker when she approached his pen.

Today, Cusack is enjoying his days at the Back Forte Equestrian Center, awaiting the day he will be shipped to Kansas.

Cusack, she said, was a little light, but otherwise appeared sound, without any lesions or obvious problems.

Another horse rehomed. Another success.

But Amanda and her colleagues at know there are other battles to be won.

Aside from saving horses, the group also aims to raise awareness and educate the public about the plight of at-risk horses destined for auction and/or slaughter.



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