Happy trails again: Aging Kansas horse rescued
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP)--Through his one good eye, Clever Allemont sees a second life.
The aging thoroughbred stallion used to charge hard for the finish line and often crossed first in the 1980s. He ran at the respected Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., carrying vaunted jockey Pat Day to victory in 1985. He was trained by hall-of-famer Wayne Lukas and trod the hallowed track at Churchill Downs.
How things changed when just weeks ago he stared at another finish line the ultimate one. Standing in a kill lot in Lyon County with one eye clouded by blindness, he was slated for slaughter in another country.
Then, a lucky draw, and he was saved. It almost didn't happen.
Horse rescuer Kristin Chambers received a call about two weeks ago from a kill buyer, or a KB, as rescuers call them. He had a "horse too pretty to ship."
When Chambers arrived in Emporia on Dec. 12 she found the mare in question, then the KB pointed over her shoulder.
"Do you think you can do anything about him?" he asked.
That is when she discovered Clever, a tall, dark brown 26-year-old bay horse. He stood thin, shivering in the whipping wind behind a shoddy fence. His head, dotted with a blotch of white, hung low.
"He could sense it wasn't a good place to be," Chambers said.
She called for him, and he slowly walked to her. In her three years of saving horses, Chambers never cried while in the middle of a rescue. You just don't do it.
But Clever came nearer and Chambers saw his blind right eye. She "loved on him" and wept for the great stallion who had fallen so far.
His former owner, a man in his 70s who was readying to move, had sold Clever to the KB. Within days, Clever was scheduled to be killed for overseas connoisseurs of horse meat.
Chambers got home, posted his story online at 6:22 p.m. and by 6:50 p.m., a forum writer volunteered to pay Clever's bail. He would be freed.
The "series of miracles," as Chambers called them, were just beginning.
She contacted fellow horse-lover Jeanne Mason in Williamsburg, located an hour south of Topeka. Upon hearing the story, Mason instantly replied. She would house Clever at her Donegal Ranch until a new home could be found.
Meanwhile, Internet chatter swelled of the former prizewinner who stepped to the brink of death. People donated blankets, while others gave food.
The next day, Dec. 13, as Mason was unloading Clever at her ranch, Chambers ran out of Mason's house, yelling, "He's going to Kentucky!"
Another miracle. Word had spread to a worker at Old Friends, the posh equine retirement home in Georgetown, Ky. Flying Pigeon, a 27-year-old thoroughbred, had just died at the exclusive horse resort. Clever could fill the spot.
At Old Friends, Clever could roam free in the pastures, eat the finest meals and sleep in the comfiest stalls. The transfer is scheduled for shortly after Christmas.
The winter wind whips across the grass at Donegal Ranch, but Clever rests safely inside his stall.
For a stallion, Clever is mellow. He sniffs out a warm body, nudges a hand. With his bad right eye, visitors have to trod lightly on that side. He can be a little jumpy.
But the depression that Chambers saw in the kill lot just weeks earlier had eased. Clever, who is nearing the end of his life, could sense the love pouring down on him from around the country, Chambers said. (Sitting on the Masons' table is Clever's first fan mail. "Enjoy your new life and may it be long," it reads.)
He is eating well again, occasionally munching on Mrs. Pasture's Horse cookies, the premier horse treat. It isn't difficult to see in the long legs and muscled haunches the horse that won his first six races and took in $350,000 in lifetime winnings.
"He was a superstar," Chambers said.
She said Clever brought out the goodness in people across America. She beams at the stallion and thinks of his rich history.
"When you've had a good run and your payment is a trip to slaughter," she said before trailing off, unable to finish the hypothetical.
Neither Chambers nor Clever have to think of that now.