How One Snapped, Dangling Leg Changed a Heart Forever

With Derby Day tomorrow, I share this from one of our readers…

I will never forget the horse’s name who changed my view of horse racing forever. His name was “Mariano Intheninth.” He died 2 years ago. In the name of horse racing. I grew up in a family who is pretty fond of “going to the races,” so I have been around it my whole life. My dad even owned a couple racehorses when I was a kid. So I did not come to this conclusion lightly. Two years ago, I accompanied my family to the races. Pretty standard stuff. I probably went once every year or two with them. I had no idea that on this particular trip to Churchill, my opinion and life would be changed forever.

We had been there about an hour or so and I walked outside during one of the races to get a better view. As the horses were crossing the finish line, I noticed one stopped very abruptly and the little man on his back fell off onto the ground. The horse that had stopped was Mariano. As the other horses passed him, it became clear to me what the issue was. One of his front legs had completely snapped in half and was now dangling, held on by nothing more than the horse’s thin skin. I looked around and there were a few startled faces, but the vast majority just looked the other way or simply said to me “that’s just part of horse racing…it happens.” I knew right away that Mariano would be killed shortly after breaking his leg and that the races would continue on as if nothing happened. So I left, never to return.

Being the person I am, I will never accept “that’s just part of horse racing…it happens” as an excuse. So I immediately went looking for answers. I wanted to know WHY. There was something off about him breaking his leg. He didn’t trip. He didn’t fall. He didn’t run into any other horses. I know because I was standing RIGHT there. He was just a few feet away from me. He was just running. And then he wasn’t anymore.

I started doing research online about racehorses and broken bones (I will include links at the end of this article for all of you who want to doubt my research). I was shocked to find out that horse bones don’t even stop developing until the age of 7. Mariano was 3 (side note: ALL Derby horses are also 3). I learned that the average lifespan of a horse is 25-30 years and that most of the horses you see at the track are under 7 years old with underdeveloped bones. Over time, people have bred these horses to have big muscular bodies and thin legs making them very fast. But of course this means that their legs are more brittle in general. Many of them live very short lives due to racing. I also discovered that most (if not all) of these horses are given drugs that mask injury and pain, causing them to continue performing. Why would a trainer or owner do this? To get their money’s worth. In the case of Mariano, it is possible that he already had a leg injury but was given drugs and pushed to race anyway. It could also simply be because he was a young horse with brittle bones.

Those were just my first findings. And they were appalling to me. I kept searching and reading. I learned that there are thousands of these horses bred each year and only a few make it to the track and even fewer make it to Oaks or Derby level. What happens to the ones left over? Keep reading. I learned that the vast majority of horses not good enough to race, who do not make their owners money, who have a “washed up racing career,” and the ones who don’t end up dying on the track, end up at horse auctions. What is so bad about a horse auction? Kill Buyers. Kill Buyers frequent horse auctions. They buy left over or used-up horses (even beautiful healthy horses) and sell them into the slaughter industry in Canada, Europe and Japan.

The slaughter of horses is illegal in the US (but wasn’t just a few years ago), but that doesn’t make it illegal for Kill Buyers to buy US horses and ship them off to other countries to be slaughtered. This happens every single day. There have even been a few “precious KY Derby” winners who have slipped through the cracks. How could this happen? Well many times, once a successful racehorse is done racing they are sold to become a breeder horse in hopes that they will produce the next big winner – to produce more money. The breeding facilities are not always in the US. Look up the horse named Ferdinand. He was sold to a breeding farm in Japan after he won the KY Derby. He spent a few years on the farm breeding… but then was sent to slaughter.

These are all the things the horse racing industry doesn’t want you to know. They want you all to continue to bet, drink and to go to your “Derby Parties.” They don’t want anyone to see the pain that many of these beautiful horses suffer daily, and they certainly don’t want you to know that the horse racing industry and the horse slaughter industry are linked in any way. Of course, not ALL owners are bad. Not ALL trainers are bad. Not ALL horses end up dying on the track and they don’t ALL end up being slaughtered. But a LOT do. A whole lot. Sure, you may see the occasional happy story on TV around Derby time, where a retired horse gets to spend the rest of his or her days out on a ranch in the country. And that is wonderful. But it is NOT the norm. Too many horses are bred each year for that “happy ending” to even be possible for most of them. Of course, that is the best outcome for those lucky ones. And that is the image you will see on TV. You won’t see what happens to the rest of them.

Speaking of Derby time, there was a time when the curtain was very briefly drawn on the industry. Derby Day 2008, when the horse who came in 2nd crossed the finish line and then promptly snapped BOTH front legs and landed face first into the ground on national television. Her name was Eight Belles. This caused a bit of an uproar, but was soon forgotten. But hey, “that’s just part of horse racing…it happens,” right?

Some of you may find yourselves asking, when a horse breaks its leg, why do they get “put down” when it is possible in some cases to repair a broken leg in a horse? The answer is that it is cheaper for the owner to buy a new race horse than it is to heal a broken one. On top of that, once that leg has been broken, the horse will never race again. Meaning, no more money for the owner. That fact alone is proof that these horses are nothing more than “money making machines” to their owners. Once they are no longer of any value, they get sold. Some people may even like to call horse racing a “sport.” My response: In what sport does an athlete get “put down” after breaking a bone? In what sport does the athlete not have a CHOICE whether to “play” or not? A horse is not a consenting athlete. If he is, then please let me see his signed contract. Some people may also use the excuse that “horses love to run.” Yes, they do. They love to run on their own terms. Out in a field. Not whipped to go as fast as their thin legs will carry them and certainly not to the point that their legs break.

I could literally go on and on about this subject. But I will leave you with this. Next time you get invited to a Derby Party, or get invited to the track, please stop and really think about it. If you are an animal lover or you find yourself saying, wow those horses are beautiful, please just stop and think about THEM. For just a minute. They are the ones who suffer in all this. By saying, “well I’m just going for the music or the drinking or to be social,” you are still GOING. You are still participating. If you are not bothered by any of what you have just read, then by all means keep doing what you are doing. But if these facts DO bother you, please don’t look the other way. That’s the selfish and easy way out. Trust me. It was not easy researching all of this. It was not easy writing this. And it will NOT be easy for me to post this for all to see, as I will surely face ridicule. But I truly love animals. ALL animals. And I am honored to be a voice for them. Even if it is a small one here in “Derby City.”

I hope that if nothing else, I have opened the eyes of at least ONE person. I am just ONE person too, after all, and that’s where change begins.

– Meghan Julius, May 2017

General:
https://horseracingwrongs.com/
http://horsefund.org/horse-racing-fact-sheet.php

Slaughter:
http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/horse_slaughter/facts/horse_slaughter.html
http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/horse_slaughter/facts/facts_horse_slaughter.html
http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2013/09/20/big-winner-nearly-dies-on-the-way-to-slaughter/

Overbreeding:
https://therail.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/what-to-do-with-all-those-horses/

Ferdinand:
http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/180859/death-of-a-derby-winner-slaughterhouse-likely-fate-for-ferdinand

Eight Belles:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/eight-belles-death-sparks-controversy/

22 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. Dear Meghan, I want to thank you for taking the time to write this very thorough, knowledgeable and heart-felt piece…you have no idea how it lifts my spirits to see others acknowledge that FACT that horse racing HURTS horses, KILLS horses, and has not an ounce of redeeming value.

    But mostly, I want to thank you for your decision to support the HORSES and not the industry that exploits them. The right thing to do can often be the most difficult to stand for…because at times, it feels like you are standing alone. But always remember, you are not.

    Thank you Meghan….

    • Thank you Joy. It is definitely not the easiest thing, especially here in Louisville where horse racing seems to be everything at times. It can be quite discouraging to see those I love blindly feed into it all. I am so glad I found this site 2 years ago. <3

  2. Meghan, our feelings about certain industries evolve over time and certain events are often etched into our minds. Your description of the breakdown of Mariano Intheninth was powerful and you will never forget that day when you turned and walked away forever. We have all had those defining moments when we realized the carnage was no longer acceptable. Thank you for speaking out. You have my admiration and respect.

  3. Meghan, your comment brought tears to my eyes.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and opinions backed up by facts.
    I grew up in this business.
    My family dedicated themselves to the racehorses.
    As a kid in the 60’s, I used to watch the kill buyer trucks come directly to the barns at Woodbine to pick up broken, and discarded racehorses because they were no longer profitable.
    Although I would be upset, I was given the proverbial excuses like “the horse was royally treated while he was in our barn.”
    I was indoctrinated to accept this as a kid – you don’t question it although you know something isn’t right.
    Fast forward to the present, and not much has changed – it’s only gone underground with few getting decent homes via Longrun who is now full to the brim with racehorses as most industry financed groups are all over the place.
    It doesn’t matter how good their intentions are because as long as there is horse racing, breeding is required, and what happens to them after that is not financially provided for in most cases.
    Their sole purpose is to fill races, and increase wagering profits for wagering companies who almost never share their staggering profits with the racehorses after they have been maimed and/or killed.
    I can say with 100% certainty that there are not enough homes to go around, it’s getting worse with every horse they breed, and people are no longer responsive to cleaning up their mess of unwanted racehorses.
    Later on, as an adult, I invested, owned, and trained in racehorses from about 1997 – 2005.
    I was convinced that things had changed for the better.
    I was all for the industry.
    I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I actually used some of those lines at one time “he took a bad step,” “he was treated like royally.”
    Although I never had a racehorse die under my direct training methods, nor would I turn them into a pin cushion in order to win – I sure as hell saw a lot of them snap their legs off.
    From watching racehorses literally LIMP up to the track, to watching them run while crippled (some with broken knees), to watching the daily doping cocktails in and out of veins, joints, muscles, to watching them die in front of me, and to watch that truck pull away to the kill auction just as I did years ago.
    I trained on a “B” track, and despite the industries effort to claim that “A” tracks have the “best” trainers and the “best” care for their racehorses they are no different than any other racetrack whereby chronic conditions, maiming, dumping and/or dying occurs as well.
    In retrospect, all I was doing when I was active in this industry was rationalizing the abuse all around me.
    I’ve come to learn that people still active in this business rationalize to the point of delusion.
    You would have to be delusional, in some capacity, to continue in this business while watching what is going on around you.
    Tomorrow, 20 racehorses will enter the gate for the Kentucky Derby.
    The “road to the roses,” is really the road to hell and death for most racehorses.
    In fact, most of the top trainers in this country all have multiple drug violations with multiple racehorses being maimed and/or dying under their direct training methods.
    The majority of the Kentucky Derby field tomorrow contains these types of trainers so, again, this proves that nothing has changed in this business.
    They condone these trainers, and even revere them by indicting them into the Racing Hall of Fame.
    Steve Assmussen, Doug O’Neill, Todd Pletcher all fall into this category, and all of them have horses in the Derby tomorrow.
    Nothing has changed.
    Tomorrow the industry is sending a loud, and clear message that doping and killing racehorses is fine because they endorse these Trainers, but the owners are equally guilty as they send horses to them knowing that they could be maimed and/or die under their direct training methods.
    What should really happen is that these trainers should have peaceful demonstrators outside their hotel rooms in Louisville holding signs up “horse killers.”
    Of course Kentucky wouldn’t allow freedom of speech to rein in on their doping, cheating, precious trainers.
    Wonder what these trainers tell their kids every time a racehorse dies?
    If people only knew what goes on behind the security gates of the racetracks.
    Their brief visits are not enough until you actually spend some time there.
    I’m not saying that people in this industry are either bad nor are they good, but I’m saying that they are upholding this ongoing cruelty circus, and death camp by supporting it.
    Take away the fancy hats, mint juleps, movie stars, and “entertainment” banner, and what’s left is a living being being exploited maimed and/or killed for gambling bets.
    I do hope that all horses/humans racing tomorrow come back safe, but this is horse racing.

    • Wow, Gina. Thank you so much for your comment. Do you mind if I copy and paste this on my Facebook page today so that others can read it? I will of course give you full credit. Let me know <3 It is good to hear from people who have actually spent time in the industry and who can tell you from their first hand experience that it is corrupt.

      • Yes Meghan go ahead and post it.
        Everything you say is correct, and my only hope is that other people make the right decision like you did.
        In tomorrow’s Derby Pletcher has 3, Assmussen has 3, Doug O’Neill has 1, Mike Maker has 1 – ALL are multiple drug violating trainers with multiple racehorses who have died under their direct training methods.
        Whether you like PETA or not, the undercover video of Steve Assmussen’s operations exposes the disgusting, revolting, cruel, and inhumane treatment of racehorses.
        This guy should have gone to jail, but the horse racing industry protected this animal abuser.
        For people to watch that, and continue supporting it speaks volumes on their delusional state.
        They were actively training, and racing poor NEHRO who had a hole in his hoof, was plagued with sole and foot problems – extremely painful condition.
        Yet, that bastard still sent him out!
        I don’t for one moment believe that the Zayat owner wasn’t aware of these issues since he pays the vet bills.
        He’s either incredibly stupid or an outright liar.
        It’s no wonder that Nehro had colic episodes which eventually led to this death.
        Colic can be a result of many things, but certainly is the result of stress brought on by pain which he was forced to endure every single day he was sent out to train, and race.
        This is the guy who has 3 horses in the Derby tomorrow, and the industry supports this animal abuser.
        They are so accustomed to racehorses getting maimed and/or dying under these trainers that they think it’s acceptable.
        What a sad state of affairs for racehorses.
        As Derby Day is upon us I think of poor NEHRO, and I abhor the connections that are directly responsible for his death.
        If anybody in this industry actually “cared” for racehorses then they would have ensured that Steve Assmussen lost his trainers license for the rest of his life.
        Instead, they indicted him into the Racing Hall of (SH)ame!

  4. Wow…
    I worked on a facility that only trained race horses in my twenties. It opened my eyes to really happens to these horses. Nobody believed me. Fast forward thirty years, it still happens, but now it is just more sneaky, quite and corrupt. Thank you for your voice!

  5. Meghan,
    I agree to all that was said, by you and in the comment section.
    So, to be brief: THANK YOU FOR YOUR ARTICLE!
    and thanks for doing the right thing: quit on horse racing!

  6. Meghan, you are absolutely spot on with all that you have said. Calling the racing industry for what it really is. Thank you for taking the time to give of yourself with this exceptionally well written piece.
    Meghan you are an inspiration!

  7. Yes Meghan I too was appalled when I researched Ferdinand years ago. I dug deeper like you did too. All this hype about the Derby on TV makes me nauseous. If anyone expresses like for racing I do not hesitate to give my view and opinion. I am not afraid. More of the population is slowly becoming aware of the horrible lives of these horses I would to see in my lifetime horses being cared for properly and living free and happy I love all animals too Ans take in cats and dogs all my life. The animals know and are greatful and give so much joy that they are rescued and treated better than their former life. I honor and respect anyone that advocates for the lives of all animals. Thank you Mary. Thank you Joy for all the work you do to educate and save these beautiful animals. Your hard work is noticed!!!!! Thank you Meghan for speaking up we always need more like you on this side of these issues. Keep up the good work!!!!!!

  8. Thank you so much for reading, everyone! I just wish more people would take this all to heart. Today is such a sad day.

    • Keep the faith, Meghan – we ARE reaching people and we ARE making a difference! – and we are so fortunate to have you alongside!

  9. Thank you for sharing. I didn’t know about the horse that you wrote about but I did know of eight bells, Ferdinand, and Exellor who was also slaughtered. I have honestly never been to a horse race. Knowing all that I have learned over the past 14 years or so I will never go. I do applaud the tracks that have a no slaughter policy but it’s a shame that it’s so hard for them to catch and prove the above. I am ashamed that this is still happening without any real penalty. in sad that So many horses have to die. I have one off track thoroughbred and if I want to see her run so I have to do is look out my window and watch her v run like the v wind with no rider, no whips, just her will to run. That’s good enough for me. Otherwise she’s just a sweet kind mare who loves me for me. She will never see any competition for the v rest of her life. She made her money. Now it’s time for her to just relax and be a horse. And guess what…she’s ejoying and doing just that.

  10. Wow Megan said it loud and clear and the whole truth , Money is the name of the game they want 3 year old run when in fact they are two , Owners want the their money back as fast as they can get it . And great horses in the past know to have bad legs they will breed to that offspring where that horse with bad legs will appear in that pedigree time and time again . They don’t care Money is what they care about

    • And some 2 year olds are racing when they’re not even two years of age from their foaling date. Most 2 year olds are in training from about 18 months old and some break down from the stress on their immature bodies (and minds) whilst being prepared for racing. But the racing industry hides this ugly truth.

  11. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for writing this. I had a very similar experience to yours that opened my eyes to the horrors of horse racing. I wish more people would understand the horrors of this industry. Thank you again!

  12. Meghan, I applaud you for saying the ugly truths about the racing industry. I wrote a paper in college over 20 years ago about the same topic and unfortunately the killing is still going on today. It’ a shame that the general public doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to know, what really happens to race horses. The majority of owners and trainers think of the horses as nothing more than commodities and treat them with the same disdain they would anything that no longer serves a financial purpose in their portfolio of assets. As soon as they become a liability they are discarded, if they aren’t killed in the course of training or racing. 30,000 foals are born each year and only a minute fraction become viable money makers for their owners. Even fewer than that reach the level of Triple Crown contenders. The odds are slim to none that a thoroughbred will make it to the winner’s circle at one of these races. But that doesn’t stop the wild breeding of a new generation of doomed horses. It has got to stop and people such as yourself can make a difference…we just need to keep making noise. Thank you for giving voice to this heinous issue.

  13. Being an animal lover I know all about the “sport” I get a email daily that tells me what horse was injured or euthanized and what race track it happened on.

  14. Thank you all again for reading and for standing up for the horses with me <3 I dream that someday we will live in a cruelty free world. Until that day, I wont stop speaking up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s