By Meredith Knight
Every little girl dreams of owning a pony. Ashley Hafner took that dream farther than most. “I worked for a year and a half to buy myself a pony,” she said. By age 13, she’d graduated to a thoroughbred and taught herself to buy, sell, and trade horses. “I was always the youngest one at the barn. Horses were all I thought about. I never even got sidetracked by boys.” From what she admits was a “very simple upbringing,” this horse-obsessed girl was not prepared for a cruel reality that recently hit her between the eyes.
“I took a few years off riding to have my son,” Ashley said. “I was ready to get back to it and was searching online for a horse when I came across an article about horse kill pens. Next thing I knew, I went down a rabbit hole.” One article led to another and, over the next several hours, Ashley learned the extent of horse slaughter in this country. According to HorseNation.com, between 80,000 and 100,000 horses are exported from the U.S. for slaughter each year. In fact, between 2015 and 2019 a total of 355,821 equines were exported from the U.S. to Mexico for slaughter, per USDA Market News data, October 2018 and, between 2015 and 2018, almost 93,000 equines were imported to Canada from the U.S. for slaughter according to AgriFood and Agriculture Canada/StatCan.
As Ashley explained, “With racing horses, you have to go through many horses before you find a winner. The ones that don’t make the cut still cost money to feed and maintain. Just because these thoroughbred horses aren’t racing material doesn’t mean they won’t be excellent hunter/jumpers, pasture pets, or something else. There are thousands of people in this country who want a horse, and these are great athletes with great minds. They can still do great things with the right owner and/or trainer.”
Enter award-winning trainer, Brandon Clinton, client coordinator, Kent Billiter, and the pristine 60-acre Brandon Clinton Sport Horses facility just minutes from Frisco, Plano, McKinney, and Denton County. “I rescued my first horse, Cairo, four months ago,” Ashley said. “Brandon has been training him and he’s showing great promise as a showjumper. Brandon has come with me to auctions to outbid the kill shelters on other horses which have been placed with owners too.” And Ashley has established the nonprofit Hafner Equine Foundation onsite at the Brandon Clinton facility to rescue even more of these magnificent animals.
Brandon Clinton Sport Horses is a premier hunter/jumper training and lesson facility. They offer beginner to advanced lessons, summer camps, and compete at the local and national levels.
954 East Blackjack Road
Pilot Point, Texas 76258