RICHMOND — As if caring for five horses isn’t enough work, Richmond veterinarian Amanda Burbank, her husband Casey and daughters Maizey and Ashlynn just rescued two more.
The two ex-racehorses, one a thoroughbred and the second a standardbred, are registered under the names “Pink Performance” and “Jaclyn Doodles.” The Burbank family has nicknamed them Pinkie and Jackie.
Both horses ended up in the kill pen at a horse auction in New Holland, Pennsylvania, which meant they would be loaded into a large truck with other horses and driven to an equine slaughterhouse in Canada. Horse slaughter is no longer legal in the United States, but American horses are still slaughtered in Canada and Mexico.
Feel Better Farm, a horse and farm animal rescue group based in Virginia, paid several hundred dollars to get Pinkie out of the kill pen. Burbank paid the fee to get Jackie out and ship her to Rhode Island.
Jackie was sprung from the kill pen in a nick of time.
“The deadline for the horses was Tuesday the [Jan.] 26th at 8 p.m., and the standardbred hadn’t been saved,” Burbank said. “So I called the rescue after the deadline … and I said ‘is there any way we can save her, too? Will they still let us?’”
Jackie’s shipping deadline had passed, but the auction house released her after a payment was sent. A horse shipper who works with Feel Better Farm transported Jackie and Pinkie to Rhode Island on Jan. 28.
The two stressed, exhausted horses arrived in Richmond at 9 p.m. during the recent cold snap.
“They had no blankets on, neither one of them has much of a winter coat,” Burbank said. “They were both freaked out, but that’s understandable. They’d been through a lot. You know, from the get-go, they are both very kind animals. I’ve not had either one of them do anything fresh.”
The horses were brought to a large pen where they could stretch their legs after the long journey. At first, they were hard to catch, but later, when Burbank wanted to put blankets on them, they stood quietly.
“We got their blankies on them and then got them tucked into their little quarantine area,” she said.
Despite everything they have been through, Burbank said both horses appear to be relatively healthy.
“So far, the thoroughbred seems healthy but the standardbred has a little respiratory infection going on, which is normal,” she said.
Jackie is believed to have been bred at least once.
“We believe she was most recently with the Amish,” Burbank said. “She’s definitely had some babies.”
Four of the Burbank family’s five horses are rescues. Burbank was thinking that Jackie might be a good addition to a therapeutic riding program, but her daughters, who are ages seven and four, wouldn’t hear of it.
“There’s a therapeutic program that might be interested in the standardbred, depending on how her evaluations go, and I mentioned that to my daughters and they both instantly started crying,” Burbank said.
The family doesn’t have to make a decision yet, because both horses must remain in quarantine for a month in a separate building on the property.
Burbank said she did not know whether she would end up keeping the two latest additions to the family, but she admitted that she has always had a fondness for former race horses.
“I have soft spot for off-track thoroughbreds,” she said. “I’ve been riding thoroughbreds since I was 12 and I did my first rescue on a thoroughbred when I was 16.”
When Burbank went to check on Pinkie and Jackie the morning after their arrival, they’d been eating and drinking and already seemed more relaxed.
“It kind of warmed my heart to see, just in a 24-hour period, how different they were,” she said. “They went from Thursday night, we couldn’t catch them, to Friday and they’ll walk right up to us. You just show them a little bit of kindness and they turn right around.”
Burbank, a small animal veterinarian, does not treat horses, so she has started a campaign to raise funds for Pinkie and Jackie’s veterinary care. They also need to see a blacksmith for their hooves and they could use a couple of warm horse blankets.
More information on the rescue is on Burbank’s gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-these-horses-restart-their-lives.