By Susan Kayne
For Capital Region Independent Media
At 2 a.m., the gentle rumble of a diesel engine in the distance awakened the stillness of the early morning at Unbridled. Within minutes, the truck and trailer gingerly turned into the pillared driveway. The horses in residence nickered their hellos from the fields and stables.
On board were a pedigreed mare named Marrazano, from the slaughter-bound livestock lot of George Baker in Stroud, Oklahoma, and a little two-year-old filly from the O’Dwyer lot in Bowie, Texas.
Weary from their long journey, the newcomers tentatively stepped out and surveyed their surroundings. Fresh from the slaughter pipeline, they were understandably guarded and alert. They needed rest, medical care and the reassurance of safety — exactly what Unbridled could offer.
Horse rescue is a round-the-clock commitment. It involves nights in the stable, waiting for the arrival of discarded lives; exhaustive days that begin before dawn; and continual adjustments to accommodate the individual needs of horses, ensuring their comfort and health. Their quality-of-life rests solely on the caregivers’ ability to meet their needs with compassion and expertise.
Among the pair, Marrazano was in the worst condition, emaciated with swollen hind legs and open wounds that needed immediate treatment. The little filly, although somewhat thin and skittish, seemed generally OK, her main needs being a gentle reassurance and proper nutrition to facilitate her growth.
Unbridled primarily rescues Thoroughbreds from the breeding and racing industry. Marrazano’s history mirrors that of many other residents at Unbridled’s Sanctuary. She is stunningly gorgeous. As a yearling, she was sold at a public auction in Kentucky for $230,000. Her father, Verrazano, is a Multiple Graded Stakes Winner of $1,878,000. Her mother, She’s A Wow, also sold at a public auction; she fetched $290,000 as a yearling.
Marrazano began her racing career in California under the ownership of William R. Peebles and was trained by Michael McCarthy. Her first race at the age of two was at Del Mar on Aug. 10, 2018, where she placed seventh after navigating around a faltering competitor. In her second start, just shy of a month later at Los Alamitos, she led the field by five lengths and captured the victory. Her jockey, Octavio Vergara Jr., celebrated the win with a Facebook post, sharing pictures of “win kisses” for Marrazano.
Throughout her racing career, spanning 18 starts, Marrazano won three races and earned over $53,000. Shuffled from barn to barn, she raced at five different tracks for various trainers. In her final start at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 9, 2021, she was pulled up and vanned off, a grim echo of her first race.
The injury left her lame and her market value plummeted. She disappeared until she resurfaced at a livestock auction in Shirley, Arkansas, in February 2023. At some point, her beautiful face was fractured and left disfigured. This harsh fall into the slaughter pipeline is a reality for thousands of Thoroughbreds every year. It often remains hidden behind the glamour of the sport.
When Unbridled discovered Marrazano, she was lame, neglected, starved and earmarked for slaughter. Of the many Thoroughbreds in the lot cleared and labeled for kill, her life hung most precariously in the balance.
On July 4, 2023, thanks to Unbridled’s dedicated supporters, her freedom was purchased. She was immediately removed from the lot and spent a week recuperating in a nearby stable in preparation for shipment to New York.
However, the crisis of horse slaughter is not limited to Thoroughbreds. The little filly, a precious pony and embodiment of innocence and childhood dreams, represents another facet of the problem. She’s among the 80% of 30,000 or so horses, irrespective of breed, that cross borders to be brutally killed in slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico.
The pony, just a baby, equivalent to a 6-year-old human, was discarded to be killed. How, why and by whom is unknown. At Unbridled, she’s been renamed Cinnamon Sparkles. Her future will be rewritten; she will be loved and protected.
The heartache of these rescue missions stems from the exploitative actions of those who mistreat these majestic creatures. If all was right in the world, all horses would be cherished, treated responsibly and respected.
Through the tireless work of Unbridled and similar organizations, change is happening. Over its 19 years of service to horses, Unbridled has saved hundreds from the slaughter pipeline. Each rescue is a promise of a new beginning filled with love and hope.
It’s a daunting task that can feel like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. Yet, it’s an effort that reflects our collective responsibility to protect these noble creatures.
Susan Kayne operates the horse rescue organization Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation, on the border of Albany County and Greenville.