A gigantic horse weighing 3,000lbs has struck an unlikely friendship with a smaller horse – who was saved from being slaughtered.
Big John, a retired 24-year-old a Belgian Draft gelding, is abnormally large for a horse of his breed and he’s become best friends with Stardust, 20, a Belgian Draft mare – now the pair are inseparable.
Big John stands at 20 hands hall or 7ft – the average being 16 hands tall – towering over Stardust.
Big John was used as an Amish workhorse and would help plough fields. He spent his whole working life working in a field.
After his owners were done with him, Big John was sent to an auction where he was bought by his current owner, Ally Smith, 29, a horse trainer.
He instantly struck up a bond with Stardust, after they were placed in the same field and are now inseparable – following each other around the field.
Ally, from Charlottesville, Virginia, US, said: “We bought Big John for $2k as prices are based on how much they weigh and Big John tips the scales at around 3,000lbs.
“His breed naturally is very large, but he is exceptionally large for a Belgian, they are not supposed to be that big.
“He was well sought after at auction because he can carry very large loads.
“We have come across hundreds and hundreds of Belgians, and none have come as close as he is.
“Stardust and big john are very attached for two very senior horses – they don’t go anywhere without each other.
“It is super sweet to see, they didn’t have any kind of connection to any other horses when they first got here and now you can’t take one without the other whenever they go anywhere together.”
Belgian horses reach a height of 16 hands, on average and typically weigh between 2,100 and 2,300lbs.
Since moving to the rescue centre Ally runs – Colby’s Crew Rescue – in April 2021, Big John has developed a connection with a fellow Belgian called Stardust, who was brought to the rescue after being sent to slaughter.
Ally said: “Stardust, is the average size of a Belgian at 16 hands tall, weighing in 1,400lbs.
“She was a carriage horse and when she couldn’t pull the carriage anymore, she was sent to auction.
“The kill buyer bought her to be sent to slaughter and then we rescued her.”
Ally describes Big John and Stardust as a “super cute old married couple”.
She said: “Big John had not connected to any horse we had here, he kept himself to himself.
“One day he took a large fancy to Stardust, and we thought ‘why don’t we try letting them meet?’.
“Now they are inseparable – they are like a super cute old married couple.
“They have been together for about a year now, they never spend any time apart, they really love each other, it is super sweet.”
Colby’s Crew Rescue was established in 2021 and has saved around 300 horses from slaughter.
Every year, thousands of horses are sent to Mexica and Canada to be slaughtered for human consumption in Europe and Asia.
Currently, the rescue houses around 80 horses at four to five different farms, including an equine sanctuary that looks after 30 of them.
Ally said that she and the team rescue around 20 horses out of the slaughter pipeline each month.
She said: “We don’t have any slaughterhouses in the US, what happens is they get sent to Canada and Mexico to be killed.
“What happens is they go into the kill pen and a kill buyer goes to all the auctions across the country and buys the cheap horses, bringing them all into a holding sport where they are weighed and get sent to the slaughterhouse, to be killed.
“The slaughterhouse then comes and picks the horses up and ships them to Mexico or Canada – We get to the pen and save them before they go to slaughter.”
Ally said it is “super heartwarming” to see how Big John and Stardust have bonded.
She said: “We put so much time and effort into rescuing and one of the best part is seeing these retired horses relax and enjoy life.”