by Gene Kang

Posted on February 10, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Updated today at 6:29 PM

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Harris Horse Rescue Website

It's a shocking reality here in horse country, unwanted thoroughbreds sold and killed for meat.

And it's a business that's growing because of the bad economy.

WHAS11’s Gene Kang talked to one Kentuckiana rescue group putting a stop to butchering horses.

We want to warn you some of these images could be disturbing.

"He came off the race track. He wasn't fast enough, " said Katelyn Hess, Galliant Hope’s owner.

It’s quite a fitting name for a former race horse that would've been slaughtered for horse meat if he wasn't rescued.

"We saved his good life. He's the best horse you could ever have.

Galliant Hope is a thoroughbred worth up to $100, 000 but because nobody wanted him, Katelyn's mom got him for free minus a $50 shipping fee.

"Either they didn't cut it in racing or they just got too old and nobody knows what to do with them. They're a by-product of the racing industry, " said Charlene Harris.

The graphic images on YouTube from Animals' Angels USA are shocking.
According to the USDA, more than 100, 000 American horses are exported to Canada or Mexico every year.

After inhumane treatment, they're butchered and sold for meat overseas or they're left for dead on farms.

Harris said, "I’ve seen them in people's fields where they starve to death and they're laying there dead. I wanted to do anything I could to save them."

Harris Horse Rescue rehabilitates dozens of horses of all types.

On average, they spend about $500 to care for each one.

Last year, they rescued 35 horses in Kentuckiana.

Fire and Brimstone, otherwise known as Turbo, is one of them.

"He's a search and rescue horse. He's in parades. He does security, " said Sue Currie, Harris Horse Rescue.

It's a new life for Turbo who once raced in Keeneland in Lexington.

He's from the same bloodline as the famous Kentucky Derby winner, Secretariat.

His owners gave him up after a blown-out tendon and surgery put him out of racing.

It was an act of compassion that saved his life.

"Actually, more racers go to slaughter than any other breed. It's because there's more of them out there, " said Currie.

The rescue has their work cut out for them.

Harris Horse Rescue says the bad economy means more horses become homeless, neglected or abused. Many are sold to kill buyers where they're auctioned off and many are sold for food in Europe.

The rescue tells us the closest kill buyer is owned by Buck Ryan in Rineyville, Kentucky.

The rescue uses a donated barn and land to save horses that’s 25 acres off Old Bardstown Road in Louisville, space that's running out quickly.

Horses like Beaver and many others get a second chance.

One thoroughbred had a fungal infection called rain rot, when hair falls out in clumps but with some tender loving care and Gold Bond powder it can be cured.

"She’s actually the oldest one we have right now."

And one of their most beloved friends, Momma, is a quarterhorse in her 30s.

Photos show her ribs sticking out and a fused and broken knee.

She was rescued last September after being starved and abused by her owner and looks much healthier today.

“We basically poured our hearts and souls into saving this old girl because of the kind of life she had, " said Charlene Harris.

Momma will live the rest of her life in their care along with her new family of rescues, Beaver, Loco, Valentine, Sweetie, Kiro and many more.

Many horses come from very difficult backgrounds, some of them from animal abuse, others that just had a horrible life.

After so much fear and uncertainty, it's also time to live with Galliant Hope for a better future.

The Harris Horse Rescue Group is looking for people to adopt horses or to volunteer and donate money to their organization.

Currently, they're using their own personal cash to fulfill their mission.

Visit their website to find out how you can help.

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