The tale of the horse named Give Chrome just went from Dickens to Disney.
Nearly a month ago the 12-year-old standardbred gelding was found hitched to a cart near Gettysburg, bleeding from deep wounds across his hind end caused by an ill-fitting harness. His owner was beating him with a whip.
Next week he will be shipped to Kentucky's bluegrass horse country and live on an historic 560-acre farm, Walnut Hall, owned by Meg and Alan J. Leavitt, a director of the United States Trotting Association and Hall-of-Fame standardbred breeder.
Meg Leavitt says when her husband heard about Chrome's plight he called her and said:
"We're going to adopt that horse."
Chrome ran 56 races in his career at tracks all over the United States, never winning enough to earn his long term keep. He likely ended up - as many ex-harness racing horses do - as an Amish buggy horse in Lancaster, Pa. and then fell into the hands of Wilbur Frost, a homeless man convicted of animal cruelty in March for abandoning two draft horses in Kansas.
Frost was seen this fall on several occasions driving Chrome along a road between Hanover and Littlestown only about 20 miles from where one of Walnut Hall's most famous stallions, Tom Ridge, is standing at stud.
An Adams County SPCA humane officer finally caught up with Frost on Nov. 11 outside a food market in Littlestown, Pa. Chrome was "dripping blood" from multiple wounds include lacerations on his legs that appeared to come from bottles hurled at him on the road, recalled officer Abigail Avery.
Frost said he got him "from some Amish man in New Holland." That struck a chord with Meg Leavitt, who helped found the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, believed to be the first large animal shelters of its kind. She had attended the infamous livestock auction in New Holland - where thousands of ex-buggy horses, plow horses and race horses are sold for slaughter each year - and witnessed cruelty firsthand several years ago. Leavitt was accompanied by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, his wife Connie - both outspoken animal advocates - and several bodyguards. They found a severely debilitated horse unable to stand and then found themselves menaced by several auction workers as they tried to help the horse, she said.
"We felt threatened," said Leavitt. "We needed bodyguards."
When Leavitt got a call from a reporter at HarnessLink, a website for harness racing industry, about Chrome she turned to the USTA fund that supports abused and neglected retired race horses.
Then her husband, Alan, stepped in and said he wanted Chrome to come live with them.
"We will keep him until he's healthy and gets his trust back," said Meg Leavitt. "Then will see if he can be trained for something new. It depends on him and what he's ready for."
Frost is being held in Adams County Prison on weapons charges stemming from the multiple guns found in Frost's cart. Avery says cruelty charges against Frost are pending. "I would like to see him forbidden from owning animals again," she said.
Chrome, who has been nicknamed Roger by the Adams County SPCA staff, will be pampered on Kentucky bluegrass.
"It's a wonderful opportunity," said Leavitt. "We want to see him blossom."