“The horse is 15 years old and in good shape. You’re getting a sweet deal and a good little horse,” said the woman’s vet.
Connie bought Sally. As soon as the horse was brought into the barn and fed some hay Connie noticed that Sally was balling hay. Half chewed chunks of hay fell out of Sally’s mouth when the horse tried to eat. Connie called her vet, Robin, and was told that the horse must be over 30 years old. Sally didn’t have any back teeth in her jaw!
Connie rode Sally with a hackamore since Sally didn’t have enough teeth to hold the bit. A few months later Sally was lying motionless in the pasture. Fluid had built up around Sally’s heart; she suffocated to death from congestive heart failure. Johnn dug a grave behind the barn and old Sally was put to rest.
Again Connie was in need of a horse to ride. She called up Annie Shafer and the two women went to look at a horse in Monroeton, PA. A 4-H leader had a beautiful palomino Tennessee Walker for sale. The horse was as calm as a kitten and Connie agreed to buy the horse.
The palomino was trailered to Horse Heaven and right away there was a problem. The mare was wild and she wouldn’t let anyone near her. When Annie tried to ride the horse it just jumped and spun around like a lunatic. She had a hard time getting off the wild spinning palomino.
The logical conclusion was that the horse had been drugged; a common problem when purchasing an unknown horse. The horse acts calm and well trained when the buyer goes to take a look at the horse but when the sedatives wear off the true nature of the steed becomes apparent.
Connie called the owner of the beautiful palomino and explained the problem she was having with the horse.
“My ten year old daughter rides that horse,” shouted the woman into the phone.”
“Then could your ten year old daughter please come over and show us how to ride this horse?” said Connie annoyed.
Of course the ten year old never came to Horse Heaven to ride the wild horse. After many phone calls back and forth between the owner and Connie with a lot of explaining, yelling, threats, and whining the woman agreed to give Connie half her money back. Connie came away with a new policy: Never buy a horse outright – take the horse on a 2 week trial. If the person doesn’t agree to a trial period walk away and look at another horse.
Connie still didn’t have a horse to ride. She heard about a rescued Standardbred at Marlene Lantz’s place in Litchfield PA. Marlene ran a horse rescue which was associated with The Harness Horse Retirement & Youth Association located in Loganton, PA. Ten newly rescued horses had just arrived from an estate outside of Youngstown, OH.
Connie and Annie Shafer walked into the stable and tried out a Standardbred named Pepper. The bay mare in Marlene’s barn stood quietly while the saddle was strapped on. Her ribcage showed through her hide. Welts and sores covered her body. Connie stepped into the stirrup, swung up on Pepper and rode around the arena a few times. Pepper walked calmly and peacefully around the arena.
Even though Pepper was in bad shape, Connie could tell she was a beautiful horse. Pepper’s disposition was what she was looking for; serene. On October 9, 2001, the transaction was completed. Connie wrote out a check for the adoption fee and Marlene handed her a copy of the paper work. Connie took the paperwork and filed it with her other farm records. The sick and starved horse was delivered to Horse Heaven. Pepper’s registered name was YB Normal and her tattoo number was C2459. The story Connie came away with concerning the rescue was that Pepper had been taken off an Amish farm in Ohio with 20 other horses.
In November, Connie brushed Pepper in her stall and noticed that sweat was running off Pepper’s belly. She reached under Pepper to brush off the sweat and Pepper swung around and bit Connie. For some reason, the horse was very sensitive in the girth area.
A short time later, Connie had medical problems that required back surgery which prevented her from riding. Pepper recovered from starvation; she turned into a very quick and sometimes spooky horse. Pepper wasn’t ridden much.
Within a few months, Pepper put on weight. Her ribs weren’t showing any longer but it looked like she was getting a hay belly. By April Pepper had gained a lot of weight, in fact too much.
When Johnn put Pepper out to pasture in the morning he often commented to the horse as she trotted out the barn door, “If I didn’t know better I’d say you were pregnant.”
They cut down on her feed and Donna Horton offered to hitch Pepper up to her cart and work off some of the fat. The mare was harnessed to the vehicle and Donna and Connie walked the horse up and down the road trying to burn off the extra calories on the over-weight horse.
On July 11th 2002 at 5 AM Connie went out to get the morning newspaper. She looked across the road into the pasture. There was something in the pasture. Was it a cow or that pesky pony from up the street? But how could the pony have gotten in the pasture? She walked across the road for a closer look and suddenly realized that Pepper had given birth to a foal. She dashed into the house.
“Johnn, Johnn! Wake up! Pepper just had a baby!” Connie shouted running up-stairs.
They both rushed out to the pasture to see Pepper’s baby. The cute little colt was only a few hours old and tottered on his long legs. They named the little painted black and white foal Connie and Johnn’s Surprise abbreviated to CJ Surprise.
Connie still loved riding so in 2007 she bought another horse; Jupiter. This time she took the horse on a 2 week trial. Jupiter proved to be the steady, quiet horse that Connie was looking for.
Last week, Connie and I wanted to get Pepper’s racing records. Connie had always had difficulty obtaining Pepper’s records. She couldn’t read the tattoo on her upper lip, and asked if I could help, which I was glad to do.
I googled the US Trotting Association, pulled up their website and selected the Tattoo Search at the top of the page. When I entered YB Normal and the serial number C2459 I came up with a blank – no horse exists with that reg. number and name. A phone number for help was listed on the page and I called. After my initial inquire yielded no results I was transferred to Anne Chunko.
Quickly, Anne came up with answers. YB Normal was a stallion and his reg. was LN727 not even close to the one Connie had listed on her adoption contract. The reg. number C2459 belonged to another stallion named Sea Swirl.
Anne said, “You’ll have to start over. The best thing is to go back to the horse and get the number from the inside upper lip. The best way to do that is take a clean cloth and wipe the inside of the lip. Take a photo, don’t use the flash. You might have to take the horse outside in the sunlight to get a better picture. If you can’t read the number on the photo send it to me. We are pretty good at deciphering tattoo numbers.”
“Thanks, I said. “I’ll try that.”
Emma and I went riding that afternoon. After our ride I put Pepper in her stall and retrieved a clean wash cloth and the camera. Emma readied herself with the camera and I gentle turned Peppers upper lip exposing the tattoo. Emma quickly took a picture. We took several pictures in the barn and then walked Pepper outside and took some outside too.
When I got home I ran up to my computer and downloaded the photos. I sent copies to Connie and to Anne at the Trotting Association. They seemed pretty clear and everyone at home came up with the number L2435 but I wanted to be sure so I sent the photo to Anne at USTA.
Quickly, I received an answer from Anne. She said the horse was Mr. Bill’s Jill number L2435. The photo was clear enough for her to read. Suddenly, we knew the name of Connie’s horse.
The records Anne emailed me showed that Pepper had been a Pacer. She had run 60 races, was born in Big Rock, Illinois on 4/14/1992. Her sire was Mr. DalRae a horse with total racing earnings of $1,150,807, and her Dam was Barb’s Trick with earnings of $99,292. The foundation mare was Miss Copeland. Pepper won 9 races, came in second 12 times and third 6 times. She earned a total of $14,964 at the track. She raced three years and was retired 5/01/1998 when she was 6 years old.
We learned her former owner was Donald E. Landfair of Fredericksburg, OH. He owned her in 1997. 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? Connie remembered the adoption agency telling her Pepper had been rescued from an Amish farm along with 20 other horses. Was that true? And where did Pepper become pregnant with CJ?
I goggled horse gestation and at cowboyway.com I located a gestation table. According to the table and CJ’s birth date of 7/11/02, Pepper was exposed to a stallion September 2, 2001; about one month before Connie adopted Pepper.
Perhaps the former owner could shed some light on these questions. I googled her former owner, Donald E. Landfair. He was listed under several anti-horse slaughter websites (www.unnecessaryevils.blogspot.com, www.freewebs.com) as a ‘Killbuyer’. A killbuyer is a person who buys horses for resell to slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico. The former owner’s information left me with more questions. Was Pepper in a kill pen waiting to be shipped to the slaughterhouse?
At this point I wasn’t sure what to think. I emailed Anne at USTA:
‘Hi Anne, We were told the horse came from Ohio and was rescued from an Amish farm along with 20 other horses. That story doesn’t make sense to me because Mr. Bill’s Jill is very skittish when cars pass her on the road. I can’t see her as an Amish cart horse. Is it possible to find out what happened to our horse between 5/1998 and 2001?’
Anne returned my email:
‘Pat, Unfortunately, USTA would not have any records, or way to track what happened during that time period. It could be that Mr. Bill’s Jill was intended to be a buggy horse, but didn’t have the temperament, but that the Amish did try her as such. Or it could be she was and had a bad experience on the road that left her skittish… It’s hard to know, and is likely you may not ever be able to find out. I can say that a lot of Standardbreds that come off the track in the US, especially if they are in NY, OH, or PA, do end up in the hands of the Amish for a short or long period of time.
The only other suggestion I have is, instead of tracking it backward (from the rescue back in time), for you to start tracking it forward (starting with the last registered owner on file). Donald Landfair is no longer a member of USTA, but his wife Virginia is still a member.’
I dialed Virginia Landfair’s number, the phone rang a few times and she picked up. I explained to Virginia who I was and why I was calling.
“I’m trying to find information about Mr. Bill’s Jill a mare that was rescued about nine years ago. You’re listed as the former owner at USTA,” I said.
She spoke to her husband for a moment and then replied, “He said he raced her 10-12 times in Illinois for a few months, once a week. Mr. Bill’s Jill was a very dangerous, bad mannered horse. She was a bad kicker and tore up her stall.”
“I ride her now and she’s a very nice horse,” I replied.
“You should get another horse to ride. She’s old by now and you’re not going to train that out of her. I don’t think horse slaughter is very nice but when you have a dangerous horse like that it’s not a bad idea. You don’t want somebody to get hurt,” she replied.
“Nobody wants to see anyone hurt,” I said. “Does your husband remember what happened to Mr. Bill’s Jill?”
Again she spoke to her husband and then replied, “He sold her to a Mr. Brown, but he must have never raced her since he didn’t register her with the USTA,” she paused for a moment and continued, “You know you can’t race her. They stop racing after 14 years old and she must be older than that.”
“She’s 19. We aren’t planning on racing her,” I replied. “We just want to find out her history.”
Virginia Landfair and I said good-bye and I hung up. I didn’t seem to be any further ahead, although it was clear that Pepper wasn’t on her way to the slaughterhouse when she was rescued. When I checked my email Connie had sent me a message. She had called Marlene Lantz who ran the horse rescue that Connie adopted Pepper from. She had an answer which put the puzzle together.
Her email read:
‘Hi, I just talked to Marlene Lantz, the one who ran the rescue program here. She said that it was an estate. The guy that 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. She personally 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 in 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’
A few days later, I was standing in Connie’s back yard. The bird feeder was full of colorful birds and Connie was raking grass. We spoke of what a remarkable week it had been and all the information we had found out about Pepper.
“A friend at work googled Donald Landfair and at www.supremecourtofohio.gov found out he just won a law suit,” she said handing me a copy of the legal judgment. “He won it the day before you called and spoke with his wife.”
I took the paper surprised and curious, “What was it about?” I asked.
“He was unloading a young untrained filly. When he was in the trailer backing her out an Amish wagon came rumbling past. The noise spooked the horse and he was pushed out of the trailer landing in the road. The horse came bolting out of the trailer, but Mr. Landfair still had hold of the lead rope. The horse was prancing around him while he lay on the ground. The trainer saw what was happening, ran over to help and was kicked in the head.”
“Maybe that’s why Virginia was so concerned with kicking horses and somebody getting hurt,” I said.
It has been an eventful week. Pepper is still Pepper but she is also Mr. Bill’s Jill with a racing record and an interesting history. We may never know all the details about what happened to her but we do know most of it. She was a Pacer flying down race tracks in Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio, sometimes coming to the winning circle and sometimes going to the barn with the losers, pretty much like all of us. Win a few lose a few. Mr. Bill’s Jill will always have a home at Horse Heaven with Connie where I have the pleasure of taking her on trails in the wilds of the Endless Mountains.