On its website, the Grand National Steeplechase – a one-day event held every April in Maryland – “encourages picnicking,” with “pop-up tents” and all. On its website, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – yes, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – says: “Join the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for a true Maryland tradition, the 117th running of the Grand National Steeplechase. Enjoy a beautiful day in Baltimore County’s horse country with a classic picnic buffet, signature ‘Southside’ cocktails, live music, and the best view of the Grand National Steeplechase course. It is the perfect occasion to take in an amazing spring day and the excitement of steeplechase racing!”

A true family affair, this Grand National – hot dogs and ice cream for the kids, drinks and tunes for the moms and dads. Alas, though, yesterday’s entertainment also included the live death of a sentient being. In the 1st race – “Three And One Fourth Miles On The Timber” – Ardrahan, according to Equibase, “fell landing [at or on] the second-last fence and was euthanized.” In fact, of the 11 horses who began that race, only five finished, with a few of those who did not also hitting fences, one “hard.”

Look, I fully understand “tradition.” But when said tradition is exposed for what it is – animal exploitation, animal cruelty, and, often, animal killing – there is no longer any excuse. If you attend, bet on, or in any way patronize horseracing, you make days like yesterday possible. Ardrahan is dead, uncomfortable though this may be, because of the good people – including, shamefully, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – who turned out in Butler, Maryland, yesterday. And that’s about the size of it.

Through a FOIA request to the California Horse Racing Board, I have confirmed the following deaths at that state’s tracks in 2018. (Please note: The Board redacted the names of the dead horses; any identifications below came via other channels. Also, because of the sheer volume, I will be posting in increments of 10.)

unidentified 2-year-old, May 3, Santa Anita T
“LEFT FRONT LEG: complete, comminuted fracture of MCIII; severe tearing and hemorrhage of the soft tissues surrounding the area of fracture; LEFT REAR LEG: complete, comminuted fracture of the right tibia and fibula; severe tearing and hemorrhage of the muscles surrounding the area of fracture (that’s two broken legs)

Bella Sierra, May 10, Santa Anita R
“comminuted, complete, displaced articular transverse fracture of the medial proximal sesamoid bone, with: avulsion fracture, axial margin, medial proximal sesamoid bone; longitudinal and transverse rupture, intersesamoidean ligament and fibrocartilage; marked fraying, sesamoidean ligaments; marked fraying and partial transection, deep digital flexor tendon and superficial digital flexor tendon”

Fast Munny, May 19, Santa Anita R
“horse was trailing field and suddenly collapsed and expired at the wire – extensive hemorrhages of the left caudal lobe, hemorrhages in multiple organs, diffusely congested liver and kidneys, and chronic gastric erosions/ulcers” (five years old)

Waya Ed, June 2, Santa Anita R
catastrophic fracture of the right tibia; several variable size bone fragments within the two main fractured bone fragments; severe tearing and hemorrhage of the muscles of the leg surrounding the area of fracture”

unidentified 9-year-old, June 2, Santa Anita
“history of colic for 2 days – owner declined referral hospital visit for further dx and tx; horse had a large enterolith in the right dorsal colon-small colon junction…the area presented congestion, suggesting that there was intermittent and/or partial obstruction, that must have been responsible for the clinical signs observed”

Amada Rafaela, June 7, Santa Anita R
severe pulmonary hemorrhage; horse staggered and collapsed…rapid onset of agonal breathing with white mucus membranes; both lungs presented many sub-pleural hemorrhages; large amount of red-tinged stable froth in the trachea and lower airways; acute hemorrhage, pelvic fracture, vertebral fracture(s)

unidentified 3-year-old, June 14, Santa Anita T
“complete, displaced, articular, fracture of both proximal sesamoid bones, with a focal area of subchondral sclerosis of the medial proximal sesamoid bone (chronic, likely predisposing lesion), with: avulsion fracture, axial aspect of the proximal lateral sesamoid bone; rupture, inter-sesamoidean ligament and fibrocartilage; rupture, cruciate ligaments; rupture, annular ligament”; other leg: “cartilage thinning

Tiffany Diamond, June 17, Santa Anita R
catastrophic left hind fetlock failure – there were over 40 bone fragments of varying sizes; extensive subcutaneous hemorrhage and edema in the metatarsal area and the suspensory ligament; [multiple] tendons were surrounded by hemorrhage and edema.” other back leg: “subcutaneous and periarticular hemorrhage and swelling of the fetlock joint and the proximal interphalangeal joint”

unidentified 10-year-old, June 28, Santa Anita
“horse was found dead by barn personnel following an unexplained struggle in the stall – presumptive heart failure with: severe pulmonary congestion and edema

unidentified 3-year-old, July 8, Santa Anita T
“humerus had a comminuted, complete, displaced fracture of the diaphysis; at the caudal aspect of the bone, specifically in the neck, there was a focal irregular red area, interpreted as a callus – the fracture line traveled through this callus…[then] traveled distally through the teres major tuberosity reaching the distal third of the humerus, then traveled along the musculo-spiral groove back to the neck of the humerus”

Yesterday, during a public-comment period at a California Horse Racing Board meeting, the activists – the true animal activists, that is, the ones calling for an unequivocal end to horseracing – came out in force. Those who spoke – Amanda Lunn, April Montgomery, Wayne Johnson, Ron McGill, Heather Wilson, et al. – even though they did so as individuals, made us at Horseracing Wrongs so very proud. Thank you for your intelligence. Thank you for your eloquence. And most of all, thank you for your unshakable resolve.

I would encourage a full watch, but one exchange is a must. In response to April’s recitation of the decidedly uncomfortable facts – “they (horses) are dying here” – Madeline Auerbach (below), the Board’s vice-chair, came back with this:

“So are the children. Why don’t you get on a crusade about all of the children going back and forth to school who don’t make it home every day?”

April pressed: “Are there dead horses dying on this track every day, yes or no?” Auerbach: “Are there children dying around the city every day?”

Why, good people of California, are you wasting your time and energy on dead horses? I mean, they’re just horses, for heaven’s sake. (By the way, Ron had a great retort to this when he stated the obvious: Animal rights and human rights are not mutually exclusive; indeed, we can and should champion both.)

Ms. Auerbach also claimed that “our horses do not go to slaughter,” revealing herself as either unforgivably ignorant or a cynical liar. Yes, they slaughter racehorses – by the multiple thousands annually.

We knew going in that people like Auerbach would not go down without a fight; this is, after all, a multi-billion dollar business. But when you have the facts, the truth – the right – on your side, you simply cannot lose. We will keep educating and exposing and the Madeline Auerbachs of the world will increasingly begin to fade away.

This past Sunday, Heather Wilson, Amanda Lunn, and Ron McGill organized a vigil for the 27 (now 28) horses who have died at Santa Anita Park since Christmas. We were honored to have Heather read – with unflinching strength and inspiring passion – a prepared statement from us. Thank you, Heather, Amanda, Ron, and to all who came out.

Today, we remember the 27 horses who have been sacrificed at this track since Christmas. But we must not – cannot – lose sight of the greater carnage. To wit:

The over 500 racehorses who have died here at Santa Anita in just the past decade.

The over 5,000 racehorses who have died at all California tracks since 1998.

The 2,000 racehorses who will be killed at tracks across America this very year –

the pulmonary hemorrhages
the blunt-force head traumas
the imploded hearts
the snapped necks
the crushed spines
the ruptured ligaments
the shattered legs
the protruding bones
the blood-soaked dirt
the vans
the carcass pits
the disposal trucks
the pain
the fear
the terror

Then, of course, let us not forget the 15,000 or more who will be shackled, hung upside-down, slashed, bled-out, and butchered this year at Horseracing’s singular retirement facility – the slaughterhouse.

Today we say with crystal clarity – No More. No more abusing unformed bodies; no more extreme, relentless confinement; no more whipping; no more drugging and doping; no more buying and selling and trading and dumping. No more auctions, no more kill-buyers, no more transport trucks, no more abattoirs. No more maiming and destroying. No more pain and suffering. No more. End Horseracing. Now.

Shedrow Secrets

by Mary Johnson

In late July, 2013, a racing official at Beulah Park reached out to me for help concerning six horses that were in danger of “disappearing” off the backside of the track. I immediately contacted fellow horse advocates for assistance with networking since placing one horse, much less six, is extremely difficult. Time was of the essence and we were all under a great deal of pressure to help these horses land safely. Over a couple weeks, five were placed into homes or rescues and we were now down to one – Wakiwickedwarrior.

Waki was incredibly thin as well as lame, and the track vet had recommended euthanasia. In addition, Waki had a fractured right orbital socket that, though it had healed over time, left his eyes asymmetrical, making him look “deformed.” The injury, it was suspected, was due to blunt trauma. He wasn’t a very good-looking horse, at least from outward appearances. However, when I first met Waki, I realized that he was a very sweet horse and, even though he was just a low level “claimer,” he was just as valuable and deserving as the big-money winners. As we furiously worked to help him land safely, Sandy Maddy, a friend of many years, reached out and offered to foster him, and I immediately took her up on it. Waki is now with me, but I will always be indebted to Sandy for stepping up for a horse with limited options.

On July 10, 2013, Waki ran his last race at Beulah Park. From the racing minutes that day, “Wakiwickedwarrior dueled and chased the winner for a half before stopping to a walk in the stretch run.” Waki walked off the track, unable to keep up with the rest of the herd. He was done – defeated and broken – at a mere five years old. Little did he know that in a few short weeks his luck would change.

Waki is one of the lucky ones because, though damaged, he made it out of racing alive and landed in a good, forever home. He is the exception because in the vast majority of cases, the racing industry does NOT – will NOT – step up for its fallen warriors. I have seen Waki’s story play out many, many times with horses that have been sucked dry. Some are crippled and maimed to the point that humane euthanasia is the only option. So what is the solution? End horseracing now. Stop the betting and this gambling industry will die, like so many of its horses, in the dirt. Seems simple to me.

Waki, one month after his last race (yes, he was being raced like this)…

Waki (and me), earlier this month…