Rescue From a Kill Pen


By: April Horowitz

My name is April Horowitz and I am the founder of a rescue charity called the Heart of a Horse Foundation. The inspiration for this foundation was a tragic event, which I witnessed when I was living in Calabasas. I had to watch my neighbor’s horse die a slow, agonizing death because of human neglect and incompetence. Seeing this powerful, noble creature, in the fullness of life, struck down without warning, reduced to such helplessness and put through such needless suffering, led to my passion for the well-being of these animals and my desire to learn about them and teach others what I had learned.

I was a photographer and thus particularly taken with the beauty of these creatures. I began by putting up a website with my portraits of horses calling it www. The name came naturally to me because I saw what awesome creatures horses are and also because I wanted people to know the hearts of horses so that they would appreciate them and take care of them and not abuse them.

In order to create the widest possible community of people concerned about horse rescue, I enlisted celebrities like Robert Duvall, Robert Davi and Bo Derek, whose professional careers have been involved with horses, to carry our message. features many videos of Duvall and other celebrities talking about horses and promoting their welfare. On August 15th, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is sponsoring a benefit for Heart of a Horse at the 100th anniversary of the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open. To celebrate the event there will be a parade of 100 polo ponies. We are hosting a VIP tent and Kid’s Activities Center. To showcase our work, I will be presenting an 8-year-old thoroughbred named Covergirl whom we recently rescued from a kill pen in Pennsylvania, and who arrived in California just last week.

In the whole time I’ve been doing rescue, the weekend of Covergirl’s arrival had to be one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had. I had been waiting the entire week as she made her way across the country. Covergirl was a brood mare in racing stables in Florida. She is a descendant of champion racers whom her owners decided was of no use anymore. They sent her with her baby from her Florida home to a kill pen in Pennsylvania to be slaughtered.

Someone in the pen saw this beautiful horse and in desperation called our Philadelphia office, and we immediately arranged to place her on a ranch called Outlaw Farms where the manager, Dianne, supervised her rehab. Dianne said to me, “I used to be okay with slaughter, until I met Covergirl. But she’s one of the kindest, gentlest horses I’ve ever met. She’s stolen my heart,” and she started to cry. We put out the word that Covergirl needed a home but there was no one who answered our call. So we decided to ship her via Cox Equine Transport to California, where we could make arrangements for her.

Last weekend I drove up through the grapevine to Antioch, which is a town a little beyond Gorman. A kind rancher there named Larry had offered to put her up at his place so that we could continue her rehab until I was able to find her a new home. As we waited through the night for Covergirl to arrive, the power and electricity in the area blew out. We were standing in the dark in this valley town. All you could see were the stars above. I was anxious because I thought this might make her nervous when she arrived at about midnight. We turned our cars around and the put the headlights on so that we could see her when she emerged from the hauler. When we saw the lights of the hauler down the road my heart started racing as I thought, “I’m going to finally meet her.” I did a mental check on everything she must have gone through from the time she was shipped from Florida to Pennsylvania, to being in a kill pen where her baby was taken from her, and I thought to myself “She has gone through so much; I wonder if she’ll be a nervous wreck.” When the hauler pulled up, I asked the owner Mike Cox which stall she was in. He said, “Third stall,” and when he opened up its window, there was her sweet face looking at me with her soft brown eyes.

When they let her out into the glare of the headlights, instead of being spooked she was a calm and perfect as can be. She was so kind and sweet and calm I was simply amazed. I stayed through the night with her, and when the morning came I jumped up, eager to see her in the full light. I walked over to her stall and there she was, even more magnificent in the light than the night before. This wonderful attitude remained as Dr. Smith attended to her, checking her feet and examining her. It even lasted through the floating of her teeth which causes most horses to react. “I haven’t met one sweeter than this,” Dr. Smith commented when he was done.

I took her for a walk around the property. She would stop on a dime, allowed me to hug her a lot and give her kisses. She had lived up to her name. Every bit of it. As beautiful inside as she is outside. I will never understand how anyone could want to kill such a well-mannered, healthy and beautiful creature. It makes me even more determined to carry on the work of Heart of a Horse to save as many other Covergirls as we possibly can.

We can only do this with your support. We need to provide food, medical care and homes for horses like Covergirl. Please join us on August 15 at the Bombardier Open, in our VIP tent if possible. You can get details at or by calling 323-331-5259 or emailing


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