Amy Grosse-Bayes upset the kill buyer.
She attended horse auctions and began snapping photographs, which did not sit well with the man who bought them in order to send them to the slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
However, Grosse-Bayes, who has been rescuing unwanted horses for several years to her Greenwood Stables in Peabody, approached the man known as the “kill buyer” and ended up striking a deal with him: She would find a home for any horse he gave her.
They began working together in the fall, and so far Grosse-Bayes has saved about 60 horses from ending up as food on a plate in Europe.
“I just figured it was better to work with him instead of fighting,” Grosse-Bayes said. “I just wanted to do something to make this world a little better, just a little bit.”
At first, he was not receptive to her idea to sell his horses, but then he challenged her to sell five horses in 24 hours. She did.
“And these horses were all wild as snot,” Grosse-Bayes said. “He was so impressed with that he said, ‘You want to do it again?’”
When the horses first arrive at Greenwood Stables from the auction, they are usually quite scared. They don’t trust humans after experiencing a noisy auction that includes workers whacking them with sticks to make them move so bidders can see if they are lame.
“It takes a good two months for them to adjust, where we actually see a difference in their behavior,” Grosse-Bayes said. “They’re depressed. They don’t know why they are here. They’re so sensitive. It’s very traumatic for them.”
“All these horses deserve a chance,” said Saje Bayes, 18, who originally started her mother into rescuing horses five years ago and heads the riding lessons at Greenwood.
“I’m the one who rides and pets them and makes sure they are safe for people to buy. They are really good horses. Some are from loving families and others from more abusive backgrounds. None are aggressive or mean.”
While Grosse-Bayes rehabilitates the horses on her property, she uses Facebook to find unlikely homes for them all over the country, including as therapy horses, lesson horses at universities and to herd buffalo in the Dakotas for the national parks service.
Grosse-Bayes attended auctions for years and began taking photos to show people that the majority of horses sent to slaughter are healthy. She occasionally bought a horse and would have liked to buy more, but at several hundred dollars a head, the Peabody resident who works three jobs just couldn’t afford to buy too many. She works at Newton Community Child Care Center and the Newton Public Library as well as giving riding lessons at her stables in the evenings and on the weekends from April through November.
At first, she didn’t receive any money for orchestrating the transactions for the kill buyer. Then he began giving her $50 a horse, Grosse-Bayes said.
If the kill buyer purchases a horse at auction for $450, then Grosse-Bayes would typically find a buyer for $600, leaving $100 profit for the kill buyer, she said.
“He’s not making a ton of money,” Grosse-Bayes said. “We’ve become friends.”
They work together and speak on the phone regularly these days.
Grosse-Bayes, who is working with others on legislation to ban the transportation of horses to slaughter in Mexico and Canada, says she spends about a $1,000 a month on hay and $600-$700 on grain at her home.
The non-profit Greenwood Stables recently received a donation from a supporter in California that allowed her to refurbish her old barn with electricity and tin siding. Good thing, because the kill buyer has been giving her several pregnant horses lately and the new barn stalls inside is where the mares will have their foals.
Grosse-Bayes says her dealings with the kill buyer will continue as long as she keeps finding homes for them.
“My only concern is that at some point he’s going to give me so many I can’t find homes, but he’s been really good about giving me time.”