Freedom’s Flight was next in line to be slaughtered in a Florida slaughterhouse when he was saved. He inspired the creation of the Animal Recovery Mission.
Tied to a tree in the Florida Everglades, the Thoroughbred with the fortuitous name Freedom’s Flight awaited his fate: death in an illegal slaughterhouse.
He stood on a shattered leg that had snapped in April 2008 at a Gulfstream Park race, as his face swelled grotesquely and oozed mucus from Strangles, a contagious disease so severe he was nearly choking with it.
Awaiting the thrust of a knife deep into his heart, like the horse in line just ahead, the great-great grandson of Secretariat was far from the eyes of the public, and adoring horse fans. He was in the C-9 Basin in south Florida, only 20 miles from Miami.
And just when it seemed life was really going to end this way, the rattling sound of tires on gravel heralded the arrival of help. The Miami-Dade Police Department along with the SPCA had arrived on scene to the chaos of death and terrified horses.
And it didn’t take the poor horse long to choose a friend among his saviors.
Richard “Kudo” Couto, founder and lead investigator for the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), was a SPCA volunteer when he accompanied an associate to the killing ground of the C-9 Basin. As the horror of the place washed over Couto, he rushed to the side of the meek ex-racehorse, wanting to comfort him, seeking to reassure him that help had arrived: Freedom’s Flight would not die this day.
Freedom’s Flight Sire: Pulpit Dam: Heather’s Flight, by Seattle Dancer Foal date: Feb. 16, 2005“The second I saw Freedom’s Flight, I took a picture of him. I couldn’t believe it. Then I went up to him and he put his head and full weight onto me,” Couto says. “Before I started volunteering with the SPCA, I’d vowed I would not adopt a horse, and I certainly never planned to adopt a horse with a broken leg.”
However, as he assisted the others in helping the sick, emaciated gelding get onto a rescue trailer, his thoughts were already forming. And when he later visited the animal in quarantine within a stone’s throw of other illegal slaughterhouses, Couto made a new vow.
“Standing in a horse pasture at the SPCA, I could hear the screams of animals at the illegal slaughterhouse across the street,” he says. “While I listened to the animals being tortured on 97th Avenue, where there were 18 illegal farms at the time, I vowed to this horse that I would seek redemption for him. One day, I told him, I’ll do it.”
Couto spoke truth that day in the field.
Freedom’s Flight was the next in line to die in an illegal slaughterhouse in the C-9 Basin of Florida when the SPCA, the Miami-Dade Police arrived.
He adopted Freedom’s Flight from the SPCA and visited him regularly in his quarantine field. It was hot that summer, as he hosed off the sweat and flies, and promised to avenge the suffering animal.