I am grateful every ride, and every time I go out to the barn that my horse had good horsepeople for owners and trainers. He was not talented enough to be anything but a claimer, but in his 11 races he was in the money most of his races. He just wasn't talented enough to get everything together and win - yet. At 16.3hh and 3 years old he was still trying to untangle his legs and all indications were he would improve with time. However, there was a trainer of the joint-injecting sort who was interested in him. His ownership decided to move him off the track to a show home knowing he would run that 36th race if they kept racing him and allowed that other trainer to claim him.
This is a horse who lives up to all the stereotypes of horses giving you everything they have. Every day, my rides consist of showing him what I want, then asking him not to try so hard to avoid muscle soreness. Every horseperson should be lucky enough to have a horse with so much heart, and every horse like him should be lucky enough to find someone to love him.
Thank you for bringing these issues to everyone's attention. If you have thoughts about how us folks out here who are caring for retired 29y young race horses who they love can do anything to reform the practices you discuss please let us know.
I just want to commend Allie and Canter for the amazing job they do. Thanks to her excellent program of "let down" then training for a new career,these horses are so much more placeable for the average rider. Whether they are 3 day material or trail ride bound, her program gives each of these horses a better chance for long,happy relationship with a new owner.
I just want to say a heartfelt Thank You for all that you do! Your article really hit home with me, as I own one of those "throwaway" OTTB's. My sweet Nickel came to me almost 2 years ago, via a Craigslist ad where he was for sale for $50. He had finally been dumped after the kazillionth injection to his left carpal joint just didn't "do the trick" anymore. By the time I found him, this poor boy, who is 16.2h, weighed barely over 700 lbs and was near death. I rehabbed him and, once he became stronger, I realized that I had an incredibly talented, stunning mover with the huge heart and work ethic that OTTB's are known for. I initially brought him home simply to try to save his life, but he recovered so well that I was so looking forward to developing him in his new career as a Dressage horse...alas, that was not to be. Just a few short months after beginning real work, his knee just couldn't take it. When he first went lame, I had x-rays done to figure out the problem and his poor knee looks like a snow globe with all the junk floating around in it. He had a chip fracture and such extensive arthritic changes that made surgery at that point an exercise in futility. That poor knee had been put through Hell for quite a long time and was beyond repair. What a waste. When I pulled up his race record, I could put my finger on exactly when things started to go south for him. He went from being a winner to being claimed, then running 2nd or 3rd a couple of times, then 9th, 10th, dead last. Pure and simple greed ran that poor boy into the ground. Even when he clearly couldn't run his way out of a paper sack anymore, they kept grinding away at him, then threw him out to starve to death on a dirt lot in the middle of nowhere. At least now, he's healthy and shiny and gets vet care, farrier care and all the peppermints and carrots he can mooch off of me or his "aunties and uncles." He's only 8 years old. I love this horse with all my heart and I'm glad I'm able to do what I can for him now, but I so wish he could have been spared all this! By the way, I'm not one of those bleeding-heart "oh, it's so cruel" anti-racing people...on the contrary, I'm a lifelong racing nut and I've spent my share of time working on the backside as a gallop girl and groom. I've seen the good and the bad, but I still love the sport on the whole. I just think certain aspects of it desperately need fixing, and I'm willing to do whatever I can toward that end!
Unfortunately this is a very common problem in the horse racing industry that needs to be stopped. I believe the industry itself is more responsible than anyone else. If a horse is allowed to be ran into the ground then there are always going to be owners and trainers that are willing to do so. If the racing industry cared about the horses, they would start making the tough decisions and put an end to these athletes from being destroyed and allow them to be retired early enough to move into a second career.
The trainer of the horse I bought had retired to Old Friends has ran 92 times, and the trainer told me that he had to inject him to keep him comfortable. Unfortunately the same situation you have. My horse was terribly lame and soon it was discovered that he was bone on bone in his right front ankle. There was no cartilage left and there was no synovial fluid. He was in a great deal of pain and needed to fused. While he would start to fuse but kept breaking the fuse so his struggle was great! Later we tried putting a cast on his leg. After 3 casts and a year on stall rest, he is now fused and pasture sound. It is a pretty sad day for horse racing when they come off the tracks and can't even be pasture sound let alone be useful for any type of second career. it is sick and disgusting and MUST be stopped. A racing industry that keeps saying that they are making all of these changes to help the horses is nothing but hypocritical when the REAL changes are not even being dealt with at all.
I am going to share this story and hope the best for Hey Byrn. I will say a prayer that Hey Byrn beats the odds. My horse, I'm Charismatic did so perhaps Hey Byrn will too. Sadly horses like this are the ones that we see end up in slaugther every single day simply because they are not given the opportunity to stop racing before this point.
I support your bid for creation of, and subsequent Queen position within, said racing governing body. And, if you should happen to ascent to Queen of the Universe, I ask only that the kind of stupidity shown by these owners, trainers, and veterinarians be painful. If they knew and could experience the excruciating misery that they make these horses endure, I can only imagine that we would see a significant decline in the abuse of the drugs and the horses.
Sadly this sort of thing is not limited to just racing, but exists all across the horse industry, from Western pleasure to racing.