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A series of unfortunate events…ends in tragedy.

Friday (auction day) started off fairly monotonous. I did not sleep well the night before as is usual for me before the auction, so as tired as I was, it was time to get up and get moving. There were horses to save and thanks to all of you, we were on our way there knowing that we could for sure save 4 in need. As we started the truck though, things immediately began to take a turn for the worse. There were lights lit up all over the dashboard and a warning beeper thingy started going off non-stop as soon as we started to move. I noticed the emergency brake light was lit up and tried to release the pedal. It wouldn’t release so I tried pushing the pedal down a little more thinking maybe it was just kinda stuck. When I did that though, the pedal went all the way to the floor and stuck there. It would not come back up. I talked to Nate and he said not to worry about it as it is not hooked up anyway. Ok. So, off we went. Listening to that annoying beeper the entire drive.

When we came to an intersection a few miles from the auction house, I noticed that the brake pedal felt rather soft. I thought about it as we continued on and thought maybe it was just because of the trailer and I just needed to adjust the trailer brakes. But, when we hit the next intersection we had to stop at, the brake pedal wasn’t just soft, but it went almost all the way to the floor. Ok, this isn’t right. I was quite sure at that point that we were losing our brakes. Thankfully, we were just a couple miles from the auction house and we kinda just coasted into town going as slow as we could. When we reached the auction house, there was little left to the brakes at all and we swung in and with me literally standing on the pedal, finally came to a stop. I called Nate and he confirmed that we likely blew a brake line. So, we had no choice other than to find a shop that could fix them while we were at the auction so we could get home. We limped the truck to an out of the way spot and by that time, there were no brakes at all. I had to slam the truck into park to stop.

We went into the auction house and asked if there was anyone near town that could help. They gave us a phone number and we went back out to make some calls. We tried the number they gave us, but he simply did not have time that day. He gave us a number to another place, who never answered their phone. We then googled places there and eventually we lucked out and found a place just a couple miles away that not only could work on it right away, but could also come and get it since it could not be driven anywhere anymore. So, we gathered up what we needed from the truck, unhooked the trailer, and went about our day at the auction feeling good that though we would likely be heading home much later than planned, at least we would be heading home. As we watched the truck get loaded onto the tow truck and drive away, it was only then that I realized I had left the cash in our truck.

There were 52 horses, mules, and minis at the auction. By this time, we had raised enough funds to save 5. There were some amazing horses that sold for way above slaughter price, but there were so many others that did not get much for bids at all. We reached our 5 and sat helplessly as the fate of the rest were sealed. 🙁 But, we felt good being able to save the ones we did. When it ended, while we waited for the line at the counter to clear and the others to load up into the large trailers, we went to a restaurant for some lunch. While we were in there, we called to check on the status of our truck. They had only just pulled it into the shop to take a look at it. Disappointing, but being married to a mechanic, I know how it goes. A few minutes later, the auction owner came in and asked if we could pay for those we purchased so they could close down the office. I explained that I had left the cash in our truck and he laughed and assured me that it was no problem. The guy who had it could be trusted and that the office could wait.

When we finished eating, we walked back over to the auction to check on the 5 we had saved. We were shocked to find that one of them had suffered severe injuries since the auction ended. There was a deep puncture wound to her left front shoulder and her left hind leg appeared to be broken. We asked if anyone there knew what happened, but no one did. We then called the vet and asked them to come take a look at her. Putting her on a trailer looked very iffy at this point. While we waited for the vet to arrive, the shop called and gave us the verdict on our truck. Rear brake lines blew. He talked about replacing front and rear lines as the fronts were still ok, but would need replacing soon. He recommended some lines made of some super durable material that would last forever. I explained that the truck has over $300k miles on it and we just want it to get us home. Plus, the time to do all of them was 8+ hours. It was already 2:30. We opted for just replacing the rear. He felt he could have that done by 5pm. Good enough.

The vet arrived and could not confirm a broken leg without doing x-rays. We could not load her as we did not have a vehicle. He felt that with some pain meds, she could probably handle the ride home. He doped her up and sprayed antiseptic on her puncture wound and we thanked him. The auction house, knowing our vehicle troubles, assured us that they could stay as long as needed. We gave him the rough estimate of being out of there around 5pm and he thought he’d still be around to help load. So, we went to a couple shops and looked around just killing time. My mom then wanted some coffee, so we went to a small diner and waited there. The time kept passing and by 5:30, with no word from the shop, we called to check on the status. It was not going well. Every time he tried to bleed the brakes, a leak would spring up somewhere else. His shop closed at 5pm, but he said he would keep working on it.

A little after six, tired, and noting that the diner was closing soon, we decided to start walking the direction of the shop. As we walked, a Super 8 motel sign lit up in front of us. Both of us having the same thought, we walked towards it. We had literally just arrived at the motel when the phone rang. It was Ryan from the shop. He had to throw in the towel for the night. He was out of supplies and he was tired and frustrated. I totally understood as we both were as well. We asked if we could somehow get to the shop to get our things out of the truck for the night. He offered to come pick us up and take us to it to do so. We grabbed out things (including the cash!) and were ready for a ride back to the motel when he told us we could just take the van. He promised to work on the truck again first thing in the morning and felt that if all went well and people left him alone, he could have it done by noon. Perfect! We drove back to the motel, ordered some dinner, and hunkered down for the night.

We woke up bright and early the next day and called the auction house to make sure the horses got some food and water. We offered to come help, but with another sale happening that day, he said he would take care of it. We sat in the motel feeling helpless and wishing the phone would ring and tell us the truck was done. As check-out time approached, we decided to go to the auction house anyway and check on everyone. This sale was a fancy, driving horse sale and the place was packed! We worried our trailer would be blocked by all the other vehicles and trailers there, but as we drove up, we saw the they had turned the trailer and pointed it in a direction so that no one would park in front of it. Whew! We wandered through the barns trying to locate where our horses were moved to and eventually we located them…except one. Just as we were about to go looking for the injured mare, the owner walked up and said she was back by the water and took us to her. He explained that she walked (though not well) over to where she now was and he seemed hopeful that she had a chance. He had already had the vet give her more banamine and we were so relieved to hear this. But, as we came around the corner and saw her, our hearts sank….

The shoulder wound had blood coming out in spurts and she could not put any weight on her left front. The left hind looked even more broken. And as her head hung down in drug-induced relaxation, while we still hoped, we already knew…. We discussed this with the owner and he told us that he could arrange for that if needed. We all decided that we would give it a shot once our truck was done and revisit the situation then. No sooner did he walk off than the phone rang and our truck was done! We hopped in the van and went to the shop, giddy with happiness that we were finally going to be on our way home! We took care of the bill, leaving a tip of course, hopped in our truck, raced back to the auction, hooked up and the owner had us back into the barn near where the mare stood. He had a couple helpers there to help move her, but when she tried to take a step, she slipped and I said no. Stop. With tears in my eyes, I walked over to her and hugged her and stroked her face and tried to explain how sorry I was. There was just no way we could make her get on that trailer. The pain she would be in. We just couldn’t….

The auction owner understood and agreed that it was the right call. He felt terrible about the entire situation. He had no idea how it happened and worried we would make a big fuss about what an awful place it is. I assured him we would not. He even…paid for her to be laid to rest. While our hearts were broken, we had 4 others that were counting on us to get them out of there. We got them loaded up and were on our way after what seemed like days and days. We talked about the mare we had to leave behind, and we cried, and we tried to assure ourselves that we made the right call. Shortly after we got on the highway, we pulled off to get something to drink. And only then did I realize…I didn’t have my purse….

In a stress-induced frenzy by this point, I retraced the morning in my head and determined it was either at the repair shop or in the van. We called Ryan who then called his brother at the shop who then confirmed that it was in fact in the van. There was no way I was turning around. We were finally on our way home and, as luck would have it, since I had put the cash in my mom’s purse, we had funds to get home. Ryan said they would mail my purse to me first thing Monday morning. Calming down and just trying to let everything roll off my shoulders, there was just one nagging thought in my mind…that still won’t go away…if our brakes had not failed, if we had been able to load right after the auction…that poor mare may have been riding in the trailer behind us with the rest of them on their way to safety. This is my fault, I feel. The delay…due to my vehicle breaking down…caused her to lose her life…and for that…I will never forgive myself.

Four others are here and resting comfortably now and I will hang on to that and take what comfort it brings me, but the memory of that little mare…and the pain she was in…because of me…will haunt me forever….