Horses run freely in a field

Saved From a Nightmare! ‘My Elusive Dream’ Comes Home

Issue 2|Spring 2024

PETA’s American Rescue Returns From Korea

At the sound of a truck rumbling up the road, PETA’s investigators sprang into action. They had been waiting near the entrance to the Nonghyup slaughterhouse – South Korea’s largest horsekilling operation – and now, they raced to intercept the truck and negotiate with the driver at what was, for the horse on the truck, the eleventh hour. The thin, frightened gray mare they had seen was just moments away from being turned into ground meat.

Working in tandem with their Korean partners – a stalwart activist/interpreter and the Jeju Vegan group – PETA’s team convinced the truck driver to do the right thing and secured the mare’s release. She escaped the butcher’s knife – and we brought her home: safe at last on a lush farm in Florida. The horrifying fact remains that more than 1,000 other horses face the same fate this year in South Korea. Not everyone can be rescued at the slaughterhouse door, but PETA has other plans to try to change their fate.

My Elusive Dream steps from the death truck to the rescue truck
My Elusive Dream steps from the death truck to the rescue truck. She was thin, matted, and minutes from slaughter when PETA saved her.

A Petrifying Dead End for Discarded Racing Legends

When PETA’s investigators scanned the horse’s microchip, her identity was revealed. She is My Elusive Dream, a 17-year-old Thoroughbred sired by the legendary stallion El Prado, who was owned by the US racing conglomerate The Stronach Group. My Elusive Dream was born in the US, and like many horses who end up in South Korean slaughterhouses, she had been raced and bred, her foals had been sold off, and now, mentally exhausted and physically debilitated, she had been discarded, sent to her death – destined to end up on someone’s plate or be turned into dog food, bits of her perhaps ending up as cosmetics ingredients.

The Nonghyup slaughterhouse is the “finish line” for many former racers whose exploitation began in the US – including, as PETA exposed, Kentucky Derby contender Private Vow. Our investigative video “K-Cruelty” has been viewed millions of times and reveals workers beating horses with poles – often in the face – to force them through the slaughterhouse door and onto the kill floor. It shows frightened horses shot and hoisted into the air right in front of their panicked companions. That scandal reverberated throughout South Korea, generating massive media coverage and resulting in convictions for the slaughterhouse and three workers for violating the country’s Animal Protection Act. But the killing has continued.

Broodmares Trapped in a Real-Life Handmaid’s Tale

South Korea’s attempt to become a major player in international horse racing fuels this cruel track-totable cycle. The Korea Racing Authority (KRA) and private buyers import hundreds of American horses each year for racing and breeding. That was My Elusive Dream’s fate. She had already birthed five foals in the US and was pregnant with a sixth when she was sent to South Korea. That foal was stillborn, but she was soon impregnated again – a traumatic process in which mares are immobilized with “twitches” that are twisted tightly around their sensitive upper lips to make it too painful to struggle. She birthed three more foals in South Korea, and as soon as her last was weaned, she was sold to a horse-meat trader.

A mare is restrained with a twitch to induce pain if the mare moves
Left: A mare is restrained during breeding.
Right: This is a twitch. It is used to induce pain if the mare moves.

PETA’s Plan to Give Retirees Life Instead of the Knife

Thanks to PETA, security, peace, and happiness are no longer elusive dreams for this dear mare. As soon as she was safe at a temporary sanctuary in South Korea, My Elusive Dream enjoyed a good meal and a much-needed brushing – with clumps of old hair falling like snow. Although she was more than 200 pounds underweight and had hoof problems, an inflamed leg, and a lump on her head from an old injury, her vital signs were healthy. And as soon as she was well enough, PETA flew her back to the US aboard “Mare Force One,” delivering her to The Stronach Group, which has given her a beautiful, permanent home at Adena Springs, its farm in Florida, where she’ll know top-notch care for the rest of her life.

As a direct result of PETA’s work, Jeju province in South Korea is investing 3 billion won ($2,250,000) that includes funds to build five ranches for hundreds of retired racehorses by 2028. PETA is pushing the KRA to match this amount and permanently redirect 3% of horse racing prize money per year to equine retirement – a tiny fraction of the profit that it makes from these horses but a significant sum – so that many more horses can be saved from slaughter.

White horse being transported to the airport
On her way to the airport, where “Mare Force One” awaits
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