A horse who was once one of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales was sold at a slaughter auction – but unlike so many unfortunate horses who share the same fate, a kind rescuer stepped in to save his life. News of the Horse reported yesterday that Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue (CDHR) recently rescued a former Budweiser Clydesdale who had been placed for sale at the infamous New Holland auction.
The horse, was dubbed “Duke” by his rescuers, was in very poor condition when he was found. According to Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue’s Facebook page, Duke was “so thin and neglected…missing patches of body hair, raw sores on swollen legs – we knew he needed us…”
Country 92.5 posted on Monday: “Duke was once admired by millions as one of the Budweiser Clydesdales, a true equine star at Busch Gardens, destined for great things. It seemed his future was secure, with a contract and a microchip to keep him safe for life…however, things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, and Duke was days from a horrible, unthinkable end.”
After news of Duke’s rescue broke on social media, Duke’s prior handler, Laurie Bouthiller-Gendron, recognized him. According to Bouthiller-Gendron, she handled Duke in 2006 at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg – and at that time, Duke was in excellent health, receiving loving care and the attention and adoration of thousands of fans. But a lot has happened between 2006 and now – much of which will never be known.
CDHR contacted Budweiser’s Clydesdale manager, who confirmed the horse’s identity with his microchip and explained that Duke had been privately sold in 2009. Budweiser had been careful in choosing what they thought was a good home for Duke, and his sale had included a right of first refusal clause, meaning that the horse would have to be offered to Budweiser before the new owner sold the horse to someone else. Instead, the new owner chose not to honor that contract, and it’s not known where Duke went between 2009 and today. When the 18-year-old horse arrived at the New Holland auction, however, he looked nothing like he did during his Budweiser glory days: he had been abused and neglected; he was emaciated, injured, and dejected.
After Duke was rescued, CDHR posted a youcaring page to help him. The page stated: “The costs to rehabilitate this horse are unknown at this point, but know that initial transport, quarantine, and medical evaluation will be at least another $1000. We hope you will support our mission to help Duke recover and eventually find his forever home. Welcome to CDHR, Duke – your troubles are over now.” To make a donation towards Duke’s care, visit this page.
A horse who was being on the auction block – potentially for slaughter – only days earlier suddenly had even more support. After hearing of their former star’s plight, Budweiser made a donation to CDHR in honor of Duke. CDHR has made it clear that no blame is to be placed on Budweiser, which tried to find a good retirement home for Duke. The organization hopes that Budweiser, as the “world renowned face of the Clydesdale breed, along with the organization that promotes breeding and registers them, [will] consider partnering to create and promote a charitable fund for their breed…”
Duke continues to recover from untold abuse and neglect, but this gentle giant is only looking forward. Only one week has passed since Duke was first rescued, but his red, open sores are scabbing up; his reddened skin has started to fade to pink, and he appears to be feeling more comfortable.
Animal advocates hope that Duke’s story can help other horses, as well. CDHR posted on its Facebook page today: “We hope to bring attention to the fact that there are horses who fall victim to neglect from all kinds of backgrounds – even horses like Duke who previously led the pampered life of an equine celebrity can fall into the wrong hands and end up at risk for shipping to slaughter. We hope that the attention that this situation is receiving results in some positive changes.”
Sadly, thousands of horses go through the slaughter auction every year – and many of them aren’t saved. According to Equine Welfare Alliance, 12,804 American horses were sent to slaughter in Mexico and Canada during January and February of 2015. Current statistics are still being gathered.
Country 92.5 added: “…hard to believe that a horse with a background such as his could end up this way, but it happens so much more than many people think. It happens every day…That’s why it’s so important to support organizations like Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue. They step in when no one else will, just like they did for Duke, and others like him, who deserve to be treated with dignity.”