At least 21 recipient mares, formerly owned by The Arnold Reproduction Center, landed in a Forney kill pen late last month. The ‘LA’ brand on the mares’ haunches identifies the business, and its owner, as Leea Arnold, DVM, a Texas equine veterinarian.
Days prior, Dr. Arnold sent 40 former recipient mares to auction in Cleburne. They sold for an average price of just over $450.
“She is getting rich off the blood of horses,” says Mount Pleasant horse owner Michelle McCarley, who tried to save the almost two dozen recipient mares from shipping to slaughter.
Dr. Arnold’s Weatherford-based business offers embryo transfer (ET) and additional reproductive services, primarily for western performance horses, including cutting.
Dr. Arnold has stated that The Arnold Reproduction Center maintains a herd of 650 recipient mares.
McCarley called Dr. Arnold when she learned the mares were in danger of shipping to slaughter. The vet told her which mares were rideable, that three were registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), and one didn’t have a brand.
Part of McCarley’s call was to let Dr. Arnold know she would get her a list of rescues so the recipient mares don’t land in the kill pen again.
McCarley says Dr. Arnold got “sideways” during their second conversation. She asked the vet if she would help save the mares from shipping to slaughter by utilizing the money she got from selling the original 40 mares.
McCarley claims Dr. Arnold said, “What do you want me to do? Set up a rescue for these recipient mares when they’re no longer viable for my operation? I can’t afford that – can you? You want all 40 of those mares? I’ll come dump them at your place right now.”
McCarley said, “I told her hell yeah. I have over 80 acres and my husband will divorce me, but if you can get them out of the kill pen you can bring them here and I will take care of them and find them permanent homes so they never see the inside of a kill pen again.”
According to McCarley, Dr. Arnold responded, “Well I have 20 more if you want them – come get them. They’re not all here right now, but as they get turned in you can come get them.”
A social media mêlée ensued as the kill pen pushed for bail funds and the timeline on the mares’ lives grew shorter. Word spread online like wild fire about Dr. Arnold’s ‘retirement method’ for her recipient mares.
On Sunday, July 24, a statement on The Arnold Reproduction Center Facebook page read in part, “I recently sent some mares to the Cleburne Horse Sale. I certainly never intended for them to end up in the slaughter pen… I will use another avenue to re-home these mares in the future…” She cited utilizing horse rescues specifically in her post.
Dr. Arnold’s supporters spoke-up in her defense and included, Amanda McNabb, DVM of Washington.
“Thanks for your hard work, Dr. Arnold. Hopefully the angry people out there who don’t understand the realities will offer homes for the horses instead of attacks on the people who work with the horses,” Dr. McNabb posted on The Arnold Company Facebook page.
The majority of the Arnold recipient mares shipped to Mexico for slaughter, according to the kill pen owner.
Although McCarley wasn’t able to save them all, she personally saved three mares who are now living at her farm.
“They are all so sweet, and appear to all be broke to ride,” McCarley says. She admits she doesn’t know to what extent.
McCarley says she’s just glad she could make a small difference. “I guess some people don’t have that kind of heart.”
“I wanted to do something to help,” said Katelan Burkley of Brandon, MS. She drove to Texas before the mares were scheduled to ship to Mexico. “I was only able to save one, which was really hard seeing that there [were] so many.”
“As soon as we picked [the mare] up she was kissing all over my two babies. She is amazing with them.”
Burkley doesn’t understand why Dr. Arnold would sell them to a place where she knows they will meet a “terrible death”. “It just seems so wrong.”
Burkley says she leads her 4-year-old daughter around the barrels on the recipient mare she saved from the kill pen.
Texas is the mecca of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), which has a pro-horse-slaughter stance. The breed organization states, “AQHA opposes abolishing the option of horse processing until there are other provisions to take care of more than 150,000 horses that meet that end each year.”