Week after week we see the “Casualty Lists”…the “Weekly Reports” – the horses who were “pulled up lame,” “in distress,” “vanned off,” “went wrong,” “fell,” “returned sore,” “bled,” and most ominous of all – “broke down.” As Patrick has stated, many of the horses on these lists will later be identified (in the FOIA reports) as having been euthanized. But not all. For some, a fate worse than humane euthanasia awaits. Dealers. Auctions. Kill Pens. Slaughter. In early 2014, the gelding Tyme Champ was on course for that final finish line.
The 4-year-old leggy chestnut with a lackluster record of 0-1-2 in 21 starts raced for owner/trainer James Duncan at Beulah Park on February 17, 2014. Tyme Champ was on the Casualty List that next week, as the chart noted his next-to-last-finish with “in distress late and subsequently vanned off.” He was, in fact, first on that list – that, and his location, caught Mary’s [Johnson] and my eyes.
After being told in a phone exchange with Duncan that Tyme Champ “could not be transported” due to his “injury” – a vague (no details were offered) assessment reached without diagnostics – I contacted Greg Veit at the Ohio Racing Commission. Our concern for the youngster’s physical state and questionable future relayed, I was assured he would look into things and get back to me.
Within just several hours, Veit called back with the news that Tyme Champ’s ownership had been transferred to a “good friend” of his and that the gelding was “going to a rescue” (curiously, Veit did not know the spelling of his good friend’s name or even how to pronounce it – this I learned when I called his “friend,” T.R. Haehn). With a “good friend” and “going to a rescue.” Hands washed.
As it turned out, Tyme had been passed from Duncan to Charles Lawson and finally to Haehn. In a matter of days. And the rescue organization Veit boasted about? Didn’t exist…only an individual who, according to more than one credible source, was questionable at best, moving as many as 40 horses “in and out” in only two months’ time. A dealer…Tyme Champ’s fourth owner in eight days was going to be a dealer.
Mary and I were able to acquire Tyme Champ from Haehn before he was brought to that dealer. The much-loved and good-natured gelding lives here in Michigan with a colleague of mine – an emergency room physician – and his family.
Killean Cut Kid, a 12-year-old Standardbred, was just acquired from the Bastrop, Louisiana, kill pen last Wednesday, August 30. According to the “Save Our Standardbreds from Slaughter” FB page, the gelding was due to ship to slaughter the next morning. The photos of Killean Cut Kid standing tied at the kill pen are heart wrenching – his rope halter’s lead secured short yet with slack, the compliant bay’s front ankles have massive wounds that encircle them entirely. There are large areas missing hair and hide, some with the rectangular pattern of the purposeful shaving before a joint injection…swollen and angry-red proud flesh is present…as are the scars of multiple freeze or pin firings. One can only imagine the pain he has endured – and for quite some time.
Any equine helplessly awaiting the tortuous transport to and the unspeakable butchering in a slaughterhouse is beyond horrific. But there is, at least for me, an additional and indescribable insult when that slaughter-bound sensitive being is one who was worked his entire life…the earnings of his labors, taken. Every cent. That is Killean Cut Kid. A Standardbred racehorse – a pacer, I read. 258 starts. Yes, that’s right, 258 starts. Won over $300K. And only four months after his last race, he stands tethered and in pain at that notorious kill pen.
But there is more…actually, Jason Moore, Killean’s owner. On August 15, two weeks before the gelding was discovered at Bastrop, Moore had this to say on a social media site: “As many of you know I grew up racing dogs and I remember hearing people talk about horses and bonds they shared with them. So 4 years ago I decided to try the horse racing business.” After detailing his claim of Killean and the “bond” he formed, he concludes with this: “I’m saying my goodbyes to him hugging his neck with all my strength, balling my eyes out…[he] was trying to comfort me as I was falling apart.” Of course as I’m reading this, knowing where Killean was just found, I’m mystified, wondering how Moore is going to end this loving tribute to his “champion war horse” he just said goodbye to. “Bonded”? “Hugging and crying”? “Falling apart”? Yet he’s sending him to AUCTION?
Moore’s sob story? He and his “best friend,” Mandy Jones – Killean’s driver – both claimed on social media that the gelding was euthanized! Here, Moore, ending his August 15 “tribute”: “Horses are amazing animals and they [sic] will never be another one like Killean Cut Kid!!!!” And Jones on that same day: “Fly high my sweet angel. You’ll now be pain free and run wild with the clouds.” And on August 24, in a post about another horse she had just acquired: “I found him the day after Kid was put down. He makes the hole in my heart a little smaller.”
And still another individual takes part in this outrageous lie. A Kenneth Terpenning to Jason Moore on August 17: “At Jason Moore’s request (and I hope I do this justice)…In memoriam…Killean Cut Kid…here he is winning at Miami Valley Raceway this past January.” Terpenning ends the tear-jerker with this: “If there was ever a role model for what the Standardbred breed represents, it was Killean Cut Kid. Rest in peace buddy. You are no longer in pain and are running freely over the rainbow bridge.”
Can this get any more contemptible? Yes, actually. Back in April, from a Jones’ FB post about Killean winning a race, Moore replied to a comment of “Congrats” with, “It’s all heart cause if [you] saw his legs lol.” Lol. And earlier in the year, Moore and Jones reminded each other that their over-worked gelding was “just a 3 claimer.” “Yep. Just an old crippled rat.” “An old crippled rat.” Horrible people, horrible industry.
“Anyone looking for a horse?” was the April 28 Facebook post’s opening line. But who could read on when distracted by that photo – a tall chestnut, very thin with a dull, poor coat. And his eyes. Defeated. Resigned.
The post continued: “5 year old thoroughbred…ran last wed and was beat by 45 lengths…JC name is Redneck Margartia [sic]…terrible feet…small bump on his RF lat susp branch…owner wants $500…located at Belmont track.” With that photo and write-up, finding a “good home” didn’t look very promising.
I shared the post, but within a few hours it was gone. Deleted. So I sent a private message asking if Red was still for sale. The poster: “I deleted the post because…someone said they talked to the owner…he had found a home and been shipped already.” SHIPPED? She added she was only posting for a friend and knew nothing more but was hoping to have additional info in the next day or two. She never did.
“Rehomed” within just days of his crushing defeat, with a possible injury and in obvious need of food? “SHIPPED already”? To those familiar with that ominous industry word, it was clear that Red’s life was in jeopardy.
Recognizing the poster didn’t sense the possible danger – or simply didn’t care – I decided to call Red’s owner/trainer for that final race, Naipaul Chatterpaul. On April 30, Chatterpaul confirmed Red was already “gone” and had been for “several days” – “he went to a good friend of mine who runs a kids’ camp on Long Island.” I then asked if this good friend – “Wayne” (but whose last name he didn’t know) – might be willing to sell Red to me; I acted surprised when he said he might. Chatterpaul: “Wayne retrains and resells horses.” I asked for Wayne’s number but Chatterpaul said he would call himself. Two hours later, he texted, “he still have the horse” (and WHY wouldn’t he?…he can RETRAIN and sell a fresh-off-the-track TB in just DAYS?…or was there a chance he WOULDN’T still have Red because Wayne is a dealer?).
Fellow equine-advocate Lynn Hadfield confirmed my fears about Chatterpaul’s “good friend” Wayne…Wayne Dougal – the go-to guy on Long Island for “lesson barns,” to swap out horses with, or if an owner just needed one sold at auction. Dougal would let me buy Red for $1500, not a penny less. He had, he said, “put money into that horse.” Fund-raising began in earnest, and we quickly reached the necessary funds. Kelly Smith of Omega Horse Rescue agreed to take Red. I felt better knowing he would soon be receiving desperately-needed veterinary care and that, when recovered, every effort would be made to finding Red a loving, forever home.
Over the course of several conversations, Dougal changed his stories many times. He had gotten Red a week ago, he said, and had had his teeth floated and had given him ulcer medications (that he couldn’t remember the name of) “for a few days.” Another time, Red had been with him just three days. And when discussing payment and transportation – when Dougal told me to “hold off because the horse is sick; he has got water running out of his nose and the last horse I had that did that, it died” – he claimed the gelding had arrived at his place just that day.
Kelly, Lynn and I agreed we couldn’t wait on a professional transporter. The next day, May 3, Kelly made the trip to Long Island and called me as soon as Red was on her trailer. “He’s in rough shape,” she said. “He struggled to load, like he didn’t know where his feet were.” The video she made of him, in his spacious, well-bedded stall upon arrival to her farm, was heartbreaking – Red stood splayed out, his entire body trembling, with copious amounts of water running from his nostrils while he downed two buckets of water.
The next morning Red was taken to New Bolton Center. A bad tie-back surgery was just one obstacle he faced. A 2 on the Henneke scale (1=the poorest/thinnest, 9=obese), Red’s issues were complex and puzzling. A decision was made to let him “de-stress” at the farm where Kelly boards some of her rescues who may require follow-up visits to the clinic. Red shared pasture time with another quiet gelding and was across the aisle from this same horse when in his stall. Eating, drinking, resting, sharing days with one of his kind – in the hope that he would gain weight, build strength and “come down” from whatever he had endured. After some good nutrition and time just to be a horse, another and more complete evaluation would be performed and a diagnosis hopefully reached.
On May 11, a week later, I was able to make a trip to see Red. All the while, I had been communicating with Chatterpaul. Once he realized I was now aware of Red’s condition, he mentioned a couple of things. For one, Chatterpaul KNEW Red had neurological symptoms: “Oh yea, he had EPM” (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis).
While hand grazing Red that afternoon, Kelly and I observed his “clumsy” gait and how he seemed unsure about how to stand when just nibbling grass. This 17.3 hand, 5-year-old horse reminded me of an awkward foal. I told Kelly about Chatterpaul’s EPM comment, and the decision was made with the veterinarian that Red would undergo a lumbar puncture at New Bolton the next day. He never got there. Early on the morning of May 12, Red became severely neurologic and required euthanasia. The veterinarian: “At the time of euthanasia he was extremely ataxic to the point where he was unable to walk with assistance from ropes and multiple people.”
Not quite two days later, I texted Chatterpaul:
“You had mentioned he had EPM…do you know when that was diagnosed?”
Chatterpaul: “EPM situation he had it all along.”
“OK. It would be helpful if I could speak to the individual you got him from…Do you think you could get me that person’s name and number?”
Chatterpaul: “He looks to me like he had EPM, my vet thinks so, also the person who I get it from.”
These are the last texts I received from Chatterpaul; two more I’ve sent have gone unanswered.
On May 25, the veterinarian called with the necropsy results. Noted in Redneck Margarita’s brainstem: multifocal microgliosis and astrocytosis, which, sparing the technical jargon, indicates that Red suffered some form of injury or insult to his neuronal tissue. The specific pathogen or injury was not identified. The vet: “Usually when we don’t find anything specific we suspect degenerative neurologic disease.”
After a 19-month disappearance from racing, Redneck Margarita resurfaced at Aqueduct on April 21. Dead-last, 45 lengths back. A week later, malnourished, he is listed “For Sale,” though that posting quickly vanishes. Just five days after that, he is rescued from a dealer’s pen – by now, emaciated. Nine days later, ataxic, unable to walk – euthanized. Horseracing did this, all of it.
Sad – and very, very angry.
(To everyone who supported our efforts to help Red through your donations, thoughts and prayers, we are so incredibly grateful. Thank you.)
On July 31 of this year, 7-year-old Whistle Included was a cheap “claimer” toiling at seedy tracks for bottom-feeder “connections.” In other words, exactly the kind of horse who would simply disappear when Racing was done with him. That day, they were. In his 46th time under the whip, Whistle was “vanned off” after the 9th at Mountaineer. “Vanned off” – then disappeared. Here, I will let Joy Aten, our featured Shedrow Secrets contributor, pick up the story (from her FB page):
I know you’re probably “numb” to my posts by now – the majority done with hopes of educating an unknowing public about the horseracing industry – but just look at him [below]…his name, Whistle Included. He’s dead today.
“Whistle” was a racehorse. He was last raced on July 31 at Mountaineer in West Virginia; he tried very hard in that race to protect his injured left front limb – likely a cumulative injury from the repeated pounding he absorbed on American tracks – and after the race, he required the “horse ambulance” to get back to the barn.
Less than three months later, Kelly Smith found Whistle at the infamous New Holland auction; he was headed to the slaughterhouse. But Kelly intervened and bought (rescued) him. She says Whistle was a sweetheart – just LOOK at his face, his eyes; he’s got sweetness written all over him. But she knew that left ankle was in very bad shape, and Whistle went directly to the vet clinic. X-rays confirmed Kelly’s fears: the ankle [below] had multiple fractures; it was irreparable. Any hope for a comfortable pasture life was gone. So Kelly did the only thing she could do – the compassionate thing: Last Friday, Whistle Included was humanely euthanized.
For those who may not know, Whistle would have been loaded onto a trailer FULL of other horses for a LONG trip – hours and hours with no food, no water, no rest; with unfamiliar horses all jostling for a comfortable, stable position while the rig sped toward the border. Once at the slaughterhouse, he would have been roughly unloaded – again, horses who don’t know one another will attempt to establish hierarchy and will bite, kick and strike. Imagine Whistle and other injured horses trying to protect themselves in that situation. Then, he would have waited in a paddock until it was his time – the “kill box,” a metal bolt to the head, a knife to the artery. Look again at Whistle’s face and imagine that…
Which brings me to this – there were many people responsible for this damaged racehorse being delivered into a kill-buyer’s hands. Certainly the individual who brought him or had him brought to New Holland bears responsibility – but THIS is where racing apologists want to absolve Whistle’s past owners and trainers from any responsibility. Just because his last racing owner might not have physically brought him there, she certainly and WITHOUT QUESTION set him up for a “bad ending” – as did ALL his former “connections.”
Why didn’t Whistle’s last owner have him euthanized after his injury? GREAT question and one I used to ask myself when I was new to rescuing broken racehorses. Why don’t they? Because they would have to PAY for radiographs and then, if warranted, PAY for euthanasia…and they certainly don’t want to put out any money for a horse who cannot make them any. So what do they do? Some pretend to “care” by giving their “damaged goods” away or maybe even sell them for a dollar (yes, ONE DOLLAR) – making sure to draw up a contract in order to protect themselves (see, it wasn’t me who brought the horse to auction). In other words, they cover their asses. And by moving out the injured, they make room for fresh – revenue-producing – legs. Convenient for them, not for horses like Whistle.
Whistle, I’m sorry the racing people ever got their hands on you. I’m sorry you had your life stolen for entertainment, for gambling, for jobs. I’m sorry you never even had a life. You will not be forgotten, Whistle – and we will not stop trying.