A Star is Born: Choco Escapes Slaughter to Honor American Heroes

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In November of 2018, like more than 100,000 American horses just like him, Choco the chocolate overo paint gelding found himself on a kill lot awaiting a hellish transport to a Mexican slaughterhouse. Through no fault of his own, after faithfully serving humans throughout his 13- to 14-year life, he was sold at auction to a kill buyer and doomed to a violent, inhumane end.

But first, the kill buyer gave Choco one last shot at freedom, posting him for sale on a Facebook page until his haul to hell. If someone raised the funds to pay his bail, he could escape slaughter. If not, tough luck.

Like most horse rescues across America, we were full – too full to take in another horse. But my husband assured me he had an adopter who would immediately take possession of Choco, so I paid his $700 bail. The “sure-thing” adoption fell through, but we made a place for the gentle soul, and he stole our hearts in short order.

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Choco was malnourished and sick when he arrived at Swingin’ D. We kept him in quarantine for 45 days to make sure the other horses didn’t catch whatever infections he picked up on the kill lot. Because our quarantine pen is right outside our front door, we got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Choco as we nursed him back to health. Unlike  many of the horses we’ve rescued, he was immediately curious and social. He enjoyed human contact, following us around as we cleaned his pen or fluffed his hay. His company was like a warm hug on a frigid Oklahoma night.

To be honest, we were not in a hurry to find an adopter for Choco. We enjoyed having him around and looked forward to our special time with him. But when Catherine and David came along and we got to know them and learn about their deep love and devotion to their animals, we were thrilled when they so immediately bonded with our sweet chocolate boy.

Volunteers with the United States Marshals Posse of the Western District of Oklahoma, Catherine, David and their other horse, Macho, suit up in historical western garb and honor the men and women of the United States Marshals Service by marching in parades and attending community events. They needed a horse that not only got along with Macho, but that would do well in crowds.

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Within days of getting Choco and Macho accustomed to each other, Catherine let me know of a tragedy in the U.S. Marshal family – the passing of Deputy Marshal Sam Chesnut, a Medal of Valor recipient of the Oklahoma City Police Department and a president of the U.S. Marshal Posse. The 70-year-old law enforcement legend went to be with the Lord on January 26 in Oklahoma City.

Within two months of being betrayed by his trusted human and sold for a horrific foreign slaughter, Choco was about to be part of a funeral ceremony for a decorated American hero. Catherine and David had only had Choco home for a short time. They hadn’t even saddled him yet, but Choco proved to be more than up for the challenge.

“It’s a big deal for Choco to participate in this incredibly somber and honorable event,” Catherine said of the U.S. Marshals Posse that would trail Chesnut’s caisson.

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As if he understood the gravity and honor of the event, our precious, calm, level-headed Choco performed like an old pro.

“Choco hardly even flinched at the 21-gun salute,” Catherine texted with pride after the ceremony.

He was supposed to be a fancy entree in some foreign country; but God intervened, and Choco is living his beautiful Happily Ever After.