UNION, Mo. -- New life has sprung from a gruesome, middle-of-the-night horse-trailer wreck on Interstate 44 last September.
One of the dozens of horses that were trapped inside and rescued has given birth.
Mama, a thoroughbred mare, delivered a healthy baby boy on April 18. She and her new foal are resting and doing well at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch in Union, about an hour west of St. Louis, the Humane Society of Missouri said Wednesday.
The foal, which for now is known as "Baby," stands so tall he has difficulty tucking his long white legs under him to nap. At 140 pounds, he is healthy, energetic and interested in nursing. Like most youngsters, he's curious. On Wednesday, he interacted with a llama that has free run of the ranch.
"He wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for that wreck," ranch director Earlene Cole said of the foal she describes as "a powerful little guy."
She said she hopes all the rescued horses can live out their lives with adopters, "instead of being on someone's plate."
The rehab facility is run by the Humane Society of Missouri and is widely recognized as the largest of its kind in the United States.
It's also the place where 24 of those horses have been given the most unlikely of second chances after their trip to the slaughterhouse took an unexpected and, some say, miraculous detour.
Last fall, a double-decker horse trailer en route to an Illinois slaughterhouse crashed on I-44 and was perched on its side. Forty-two horses were trapped in the mangled wreckage. Eighteen died at the scene or since.
Rescuers, including Cole, worked through the night.
Using huge straps attached to a tow-truck winch, workers lifted and moved horses that were pinned on each other inside the trailer.
The horses were headed to a slaughterhouse to be processed and sold for people to eat in Europe.
After the wreck, the owner, who had purchased them for slaughter, told Cole he would dispatch another truck to take the surviving horses to the slaughterhouse.
That wasn't acceptable to Cole or the handful of veterinarians on site, who saw the suffering and had to put nine of the horses down on the spot.
After some negotiating, Longmeadow gained custody of the horses.
Among those saved were a yearling thoroughbred, a 4-year-old Appaloosa named D.D. and a young quarter horse mare named Karma who recently took sixth place at a local riding show.
They also included a spunky thoroughbred named Stan; Mama; and a horse they call Willie because of his will to live after being trapped beneath four dead horses in the trailer.
Of the horses that survived the wreck, five have been adopted, three are being sponsored as "barn buddies" in which the public helps pay for their upkeep, and three are still recovering from their injuries. The rest are up for adoption.
Most of the people who have inquired about adoption want a horse that's already trained to ride. Most of these horses are not, and need someone who can train them, Cole said.
The rehab ranch has 98 horses and a menagerie of 58 other rescued animals, including goats, sheep, potbellied pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, an emu and a llama. All can be viewed for adoption on the first and third Saturday of the month, or by appointment.
The Humane Society of Missouri is asking the community to help name the new colt. Ten names to choose from have been posted online.
The horrific accident exposed the sad side of horse racing, a speculative industry that has become overrun with animals that risk being left behind if they don't help the bottom line. They can be turned loose in the wilderness, euthanized and cremated, or simply taken to an auction to be sold. In almost every case in which a horse is sent to a slaughterhouse, it has outlived its usefulness to the owner.
About 90,000 horses were processed at the three U.S. slaughterhouses last year -- one in Illinois and two in Texas that are currently not slaughtering for human consumption and could be shut down permanently, depending on pending legislation in Congress.
On the Net:
Longmeadow Rescue Ranch: http://www.hsmo.org/m--longmeadow/index....
Humane Society of Missouri, new foal: http://www.hsmo.org/newfoal