Saddlebred Rescues Work With Amish Sellers To Save Horses

Each year over 100,000 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules are marked for slaughter, according to an article in Tampa Bay’s 83 Degrees online magazine – among them saddlebreds.

Saddlebred horses are valued by Amish for their roadworthiness, but as with any physical asset, they have a limited useful life:

Because they are often trained to harness before they are ridden, saddlebreds are prized in Amish country as road-ready transportation, possessed of the grit and temperament to trot 50 or more miles a day, every day — until they simply can’t.

“The Amish will pay thousands for a saddlebred advertised as ‘ready for miles’,” says Gilbert.

By the time they reach their teens — middle-aged by horse standards — many can no longer maintain the grueling pace and distance required. They are driven to a local auction, unhooked from the buggy and traded in on a younger road-ready model.

The kill buyers snap up the exhausted road warriors for a few hundred dollars, to be re-sold by the pound.

Some Amish don’t like the idea of sending a horse to which they’ve grown emotionally attached to be killed; for others, it’s accepted.

But Saddlebred Rescues are now making inroads in Amish communities, convincing them of an alternative buyer:

“Word is starting to get out in the Amish community that they can sell their horses to us rather than send them off to auction,” says Nealia McCracken, founder of Saddlebred Rescue, Inc., a New Jersey nonprofit that operates out of North Wind Stables, a renowned show stable based in rural Warren County.

McCracken offers free seminars in nearby Amish communities, where she explains the importance of proper feeding and care.

“Many of them don’t know much about horses other than what was passed down from their father or grandfather,” she says. “They ask a lot of good questions.”

The informal gatherings are well attended and serve the dual purpose of improving the horses’ current lives, while letting their owners know there is an alternative to slaughter when their buggy days are over.

McCracken says there is a waiting list of Amish people willing to hold onto their horses until the organization can take them.

I have heard Amish speak of their horses before in warm terms, almost as if the animal is a member of the family. On that count I am not surprised that some are interested in cooperating with these organizations.

But limited resources hamper the effort – Gilbert notes that having to pay the “kill buyers’ markup” prevents them from saving more. It appears some Amish are at least bearing some of that cost in the meantime, in order to keep their faithful equines out of the slaughterhouse.

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    1. Wow, I am disheartened to hear that so many faithful horses and mules are slaughtered in old age. I pray more organizations can be formed and funded to save these animals from such a sad end.

    2. Linda K Chaney

      Horses Sold to Killers vs Adoption

      I’m a bit confused. Are you writing about Standardbreds? Saddlebreds are more riding horses and some are driven but not the way the Amish would want. Now Standardbreds are bred to pace or trot in front of a racing sulky. Thought this information might be helpful for you. Regards, LC

      1. Saddlebreds and Standardbreds both

        Well, the article repeatedly uses the term “saddlebred” and also quotes someone from Saddlebred Rescue, an NJ organization.

        American Saddlebred Legacy Foundation also mentions the Amish on the front page of their site, and there are multiple articles mentioning Amish using saddlebreds.

        I’m no horse expert, but Amish use Standardbred as well. This link describes the horses Amish use:

        Maybe if our resident horse expert Mr. Oldkat is reading this he could chime in, but I hope that clears it up 🙂

    3. Patti


      Praying that more rescue organizations join. Animals are God’s creatures as well.

    4. Saddlebred and other old Amish horses

      We try to live like the Amish even though we were not allowed to join. I had an abusive husband who beat me and said he would kill both my parents if I left him.
      When we buy a horse, or have bred one, that commitment is for a lifetime if need be. We have been married 28 years. We still have our foundation Morgan mare I bought at a Morgan auction at age five months in 1992. She will be 26 this year and still going strong. Lots of love, pasture and good hay and grain.

    5. Elizabeth Van Deventer

      Thank you

      Thank you so much for what you do. I am so impressed that you are working directly with the Amish to give their horses a better life now and a better fate than kill buyers and being trucked to Mexico or Canada. I keep seeing these groups that buy horses from kill buyers and I have so often wanted to say, maybe it would work better if the horses were bought directly from the Amish, the tracks, or from the auctions, instead of paying the kill buyers.

    6. Paul Delande


      Looking to buy a trained Saddlebred, at least 15.3Hnds, up to 16 years of age (no cheating here) Prefer gelding. Will deal with potential infirmities, this horse will never see an auction and certainly never meet a so called ‘meat buyer’


      Amish horses

      Not too long ago, I spent a weekend in Clymer Amish country, in Chautauqua County, NY.
      I saw a lot of horses in the pastures, every day I was there. Draft horses, buggy horses, mules, even some minis.
      I talked to a farmer’s wife I stopped to buy some bread from. She told me, all the horses get pasture time every day, and some, if not needed that day, are turned out to spend the day there. She felt it made for calmer horses, and said that when they bought standardbreds who’d been racers, they were always very touchy, spooky, easily irritated animals. They always put them to pasture for a week or so, first thing, to let them calm down, learn the farm routine from the other animals, and get used to the calmer surroundings, and the fact that they could now look forward to being in the pasture, eating grass, rolling in the dirt, and learning to be with other horses again, “as God meant them to live.”
      In short, to learn to be a horse again.
      They soon calmed down, and learned to be driven on the road, and not get nervous at an approaching car.
      She also said, although she knew a few people, not Clymer Amish, who sold their older horses to kill buyers, she and her husband didn’t. Instaed, they found the older horses valuable, in teaching new horses, in calming them, and in teaching the kids how to drive a buggy or wagon. And, the family thought of them as pets, who would live the rest of their lives out on the farm. If they became too ill to cure, or suffered from failing bodies from old age, there was a place in another meadow, where an English neighbor with a backhoe would dig a hole. The old horse would be taken there, and shot. Usually, they’d be well into their 20’s.