Pepper’s Sudden Death

On Tuesday night, February 27, 2024, Pepper died from a tragic and yet bizarre accident. As usual, Connie let the horses into the barn to feed them and bed them down for the night. After she fed Pepper, Jupiter, and CJ, she turned out the barn light and went to her house. At that time nothing was wrong with Pepper. Except for an injury, she sustained over a month ago, to her back leg. Yet the cut on her hock was healing and didn’t seem to bother her.

Everything was much different in the morning when Connie came to feed the horses and let them out to pasture for the day. CJ and Jupiter were whining and pacing in their stalls. And when she went to Pepper’s stall the horse’s hay was uneaten. She found a gabbing hole through the wall just under the hayrack. Pepper was lying on the other side of her stall’s wall, in the sawdust room. A stud and part of the wall lay on top of her. Pepper was in an odd position pinned up against the wall. But Pepper was still alive, although her breathing was shallow. Quickly, Connie ran to her neighbors for help. Bo and Angie followed Connie back to the barn. They managed to remove the boards and free the horse. Then Bo fixed another stall, and they moved Pepper into it.

When the vet came, Pepper was not doing well. Her breathing and heart rate were low, and she had blood in her stool. Bo waited with Connie for the vet to come. When the vet arrived, she suggested the most humane thing to do was to put the horse down which she did. As Pepper lay motionless, Bo covered Pepper with a blanket. Thus, came the sad end to a beautiful horse, a horse with a long history.

Pepper’s life was often shrouded in mystery. When Connie adopted Pepper from a rescue organization, she was under the impression that the horse had been taken from an Amish farm in Ohio along with twenty other horses. But Connie always thought there was more to Pepper’s story, so after we talked about it during the summer of 2011; I began to investigate. The first thing I did, with the help of my daughter Emma, was to take a picture of Pepper’s lip tattoo. Which led to revelations, as soon as I contacted Anne at the United States Trotting Association (USTA).

Pepper was born on April 14, 1992, in Big Rock, Illinois. She was a Standardbred, a pacer, and her registered name was Mr. Bill’s Jill. She had run 60 races, won 9, came in second 12 times, and placed third 6 times. She raced for three years and retired on May 1, 1998, when she was 6 years old. Connie adopted Pepper from the Harness Horse Retirement & Youth Association in Loganton, PA on 10/9/01. What happened to Pepper from 5/01/1998 to 10/9/01? Here was another mystery.

Anne at USTA suggested I contact Pepper’s last listed owner, Donald Landfair. I spoke with his wife Virginia who said her husband sold Mr. Bill’s Jill to a man named Mr. Brown. I said goodbye to Virginia Landfair, and I hung up. I didn’t seem to be any further ahead. Was Pepper on her way to a slaughterhouse when she was rescued?

Connie called Marlene Lantz who ran the horse rescue that she adopted Pepper from. She had an answer, finding another piece of the puzzle. Connie’s emailed me the following:

‘Hi, I just talked to Marlene Lantz, the one who ran the rescue program here. She said that it was an estate. The guy who owned the horses had died a couple of weeks before she went out there. There were a number of horses that had to be put down out there. Personally, she picked up 9-10 horses and brought them to her place.

She vaguely remembers a black walking horse with a bit of color that had to be euthanized there since he was in such bad shape. There were work horses, Standardbreds, and all kinds. They had to euthanize at least 10 while they were there. Since they were in such bad shape and couldn’t even get up. She felt that the horses there hadn’t been cared for long before the owner died.

She didn’t remember the owner’s name but Brown did not ring a bell. The estate was near Youngstown, Ohio, near the hills of Pennsylvania. There were no stops. They brought the horses directly here and they were all adopted out in 2-3 weeks of coming here.

She had no stallions on her property. She doesn’t have any of the records since she is out of the program. So, Pep must have been bred at that farm. She doesn’t remember for sure if it was Amish or not. I remember that is what I was told. Hope to talk to you sometime over the weekend. Connie’

The missing piece of the puzzle about the stallion was important since Pepper was one month pregnant when Connie adopted her. Now, here was a mystery about Pepper’s life that was never fully solved. Who was CJ’s sire? We never found out, except the sire was a stallion, who was euthanized in a pasture in Youngstown, Ohio. CJ was born in Connie’s pasture, and he was never far from Pepper. He was traumatized by his mother’s death. It was a few days later when I visited the barn that I saw sadness in his eyes.

So, Bo and Brian Wood dug Pepper’s grave not far from the barn in an open field. When Connie took me to the barn to see where Pepper had crashed through the stall, she showed me where Pepper was buried. At the time, a small herd of about 8 deer stood not far from us. Quizzically the deer watched us and then moved on, crossing the road. Connie plans to place a plaque to mark the grave. In the meantime, CJ seems to be adjusting to the loss of his mother, a mother who was always at his side. Now, he and Jupiter are the only horses left at Horse Heaven, and they stay close together in the pasture. Time marches on, the older one gets the closer death lurks, or perhaps death is always ‘around’ we just choose not to notice it. In any case, Pepper will be greatly missed. She was a fine horse and a good friend.

Copyright © 2024 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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