At the Black Beauty Ranch, Anna Sewell’s words guide a culture of love and caring for horses and other rescued animals
This Friday, with the release of Disney’s “Black Beauty,” a new generation of moviegoers will be introduced to Anna Sewell’s beloved story of a horse who goes from a carefree life as a foal to one filled with troubles before returning home to peace and love.
The book, narrated as an autobiographical first-person account by the horse, closes with these famous words: “I have nothing to fear; and here my story ends. My troubles are all over, and I am at home.”
Those words, inscribed at the entrance of our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, are the guiding vision for the work we do there.
When it was founded more than four decades ago, the 1,400-acre sanctuary was meant to be a secure, secluded place where animals who had endured suffering of the worst kind would be nurtured and looked after. It has not only lived up to that mission, it has exceeded it, and countless animals in need have been the beneficiaries. The almost 800 animals belonging to over 40 species who now live here are safe, well cared for and loved by a dedicated team.
Many of Black Beauty’s current residents have been rescued from roadside zoos, trophy hunting ranches and the exotic pet trade. There are tigers, bears, bison, cattle, antelope, apes and reptiles, among many others.
As you would expect, Black Beauty Ranch is home to many horses. Some of the equines have been victims of neglect and abandonment. Some were rescued from slaughter. Some were exploited by the pharmaceutical industry. And some were horribly tormented so they could win ribbons at horse shows.
Among the animals currently in residence are T-Bo and Pride, two gorgeous Tennessee walking horses, who spend their days grazing in the sun and trotting with the other horses.
T-Bo and Pride were victims of soring, the heinous practice of inflicting pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to force them to perform a gait called the “Big Lick” at shows. They, along with six other horses, were seized by federal authorities in March 2012 from the stables of horse trainer and sorer Jackie McConnell, later convicted of cruelty to animals under federal and Tennessee animal cruelty statutes. The Humane Society of the United States conducted a months-long investigation at McConnell’s facility that showed horses being beaten in the face, shocked with a cattle prod and thrashing in pain after having caustic chemicals soaked into their legs.
It took weeks for their rescuers to get the chemicals out and to teach the horses to “step down” after removing the large weighted stacks attached to their hooves—devices that, like the chemicals, are used to forcibly enhance a Tennessee walking horse’s showy gait.
The horses have adapted admirably in the years since, thanks to the love and kindness they have received. “Both are sweet and social,” Black Beauty Ranch Director Noelle Almrud says. “T-Bo is a ladies man and always has a group of mares around him.”
The pandemic has brought new challenges, but staff have stepped up to ensure that T-Bo, Pride and all of the animals at Black Beauty continue to get the care they have always enjoyed at the sanctuary.
Visitors are no longer allowed here because of the pandemic, but we have been posting photos and videos of the animals on Facebook. Starting Dec. 12, staff will treat Facebook followers to a series of 12 videos introducing viewers to the horses, including a look at procedures for feeding the animals, therapies provided to the equines, and other fun activities like staff reading to the animals. You can follow along on the Black Beauty Ranch Facebook page.
Disney’s new treatment of the beautiful story that has inspired millions of people around the world can only do good for the cause of the humane treatment of animals. It is also a reminder of the continuing need for action to protect and provide sanctuary for animals who need our help. That’s what we do at the HSUS and its family of affiliates, and that’s the mission of Black Beauty Ranch. We hope you’ll consider making a donation to the sanctuary this holiday season so we can continue to provide these horses, and the other animals here, the life of peace and quiet they deserve. The HSUS also provides comprehensive training for equine rescues as part of our Forever Foundation program, which has helped place tens of thousands of horses in adoptive homes. We are thankful, as always, to you for your support for our work and for the animals in our care.