Declarations of Change

Follows are some of the heartening comments and emails I have received. Progress.

“I was actually at this race and saw it happen. I happened upon this website because I was searching for information about the status of Cruzin Wrangler. Justa Minyun did bounce up after the crash and walked on its own after the jockey was thrown. I was surprised to see that both horses were put down. Anyway, after seeing something like that in person I will not bet on horse racing again. I was actually surprised to see on this website the number of horses that are put down each year. Please keep educating the public!” – name withheld per wishes, 9/16/18

“Two decades ago, I went to work at Saratoga Race Course. I had no experience with racehorses, but a summer job ‘walking hots’ was easy to find – I held horses for their baths after exercise, and walked them in a circle until they were cool.

Back then, there were few, if any, organized protests against horseracing. At larger races I would sometimes see a protestor or two, but even though their presence made me uncomfortable, they didn’t stop me from going. ‘The thing they don’t get,’ a coworker told me, ‘is that these horses wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for racing.’

I don’t remember if I thought of those words the first time I saw a horse fall, but I do remember the horse. He went down in front of the grandstand. Some fans gasped, while others cheered the dramatic turn of events and their resulting good fortune. I felt ill as the veterinary ambulance pulled its curtain. I said nothing to my friends. The sun was shining, the drinks were flowing. We were having a good time.

Over the years I witnessed dozens of accidents at Saratoga and other tracks, but the last involved a mare who spent 23 hours a day confined to a stall at a training facility near Finger Lakes Racetrack. During her 20 minutes of daily exercise in the EuroXciser – a rotating carousel of stalls – her hind leg lodged between panels. The stalls kept moving, and panicked horses cantered over her. The mare’s leg sustained massive damage, and she was euthanized later that day.

It’s taken years to admit my responsibility in the mare’s death. I had led her from stationary stall to mobile one, yanking her over-the-nose chain to make her behave. I didn’t like her much; she was angry, bored, and difficult to groom. In retrospect, her defiance reflected what I was slow to admit: that I was complicit in her suffering.

Afterwards, I had nightmares not only about the horses whose deaths I had seen, but about those who weren’t good enough, who didn’t win, who stopped winning. Some were sold to breeding facilities, while others were ‘repurposed’ as riding or show horses. Others were too broken to be of use, and I knew they had gone to slaughter.

I understand now that my coworker was right to say that racehorses wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for racing, though not in the way she thought she was. I no longer agree that any life is better than none, or that the horses I saw fall were lucky to have lived. About 2000 Thoroughbreds die annually on U.S. tracks; an estimated 15,000 are shipped to slaughterhouses when they’re no longer useful. Some argue that the solution is to strengthen rehoming efforts, but because the lifetime care of a horse is prohibitively expensive and requires appropriate facilities and experience, there are never enough homes to absorb the industry’s excess.

Hundreds of protestors are expected at this year’s Travers Stakes in Saratoga. No matter their numbers, it’s unlikely that devoted fans of the track will be dissuaded, though I hope that casual attendees who have yet to understand the darker side of horseracing will reconsider their patronage. Saratoga and other tracks will perpetuate exploitation as long as people attend. The longevity of horseracing depends upon the consumer. Years ago, I went to the Travers as a fan and NYRA employee; this year I’ll be joining Horseracing Wrongs in protest.” – Ashley Pankratz, August 2018

“My name is Laura. I have always been a lover of all creatures, vegetarian since age 4, and highly sensitive to any stories of animal mistreatment. Until last Sunday, I knew almost nothing about the horse racing industry. It has been a very heartbreaking week.

My Dad used to work at a track when he was a teenager, and since we moved to Los Alamitos last year, he has wanted us all to go together to see some races. My life partner and I are expecting, and so we decided to take my parents there for dinner and share our happy news.

The night began innocently enough. We marveled at the beautiful horses, enjoyed our dinner, and laughed as my Mom picked a winner five times in a row. It was down to the final race of the night, and for the first time all night, I did not put my $2 on the horse with the greatest odds stacked against him, Unusual Kiddy.

What happened seconds after the horses left the gate has replayed in my mind hundreds of times this week. Unusual Kiddy tumbling several times before coming to a motionless stop. Ambulances. The winner being called over the speakers, no discussion of the carnage on the track. Watching through my tears. A silent drive home. A sickening feeling of guilt and despair. A sleepless night.

When I called in to the racetrack the next morning, the person who answered the phone was sympathetic to my teary request to know what happened. They called me back within the hour with the awful truth: Unusual Kiddy had broken his neck when he had fallen. He was paralyzed and lost consciousness on the track, was transferred to the ambulance and euthanized.

I have spent the better part of this week reading about horses and horse racing, and sharing this story with whoever would listen. I found your site, and wanted to share this poor animal’s story. Sunday I am going to a rescue sanctuary and sponsoring a racehorse that was saved from shipment to a slaughterhouse. This small intervention does not even dent how helpless I feel.

Thank you for all of your efforts to call attention to the dark side of this industry. I wish I could help save them all. The cruelty of human beings towards animals truly breaks my heart. Please feel free to put this story on your website so that this animal may be remembered.” – Laura Snoussi, 8/3/18

“Earlier today I believe I witnessed [Heartspoke] die on Saratoga Race Course. I was there, despite having mixed feelings about going, for my company’s annual picnic at the track. I didn’t actually see the horse fall… I was too busy eating, drinking, socializing and hoping for ‘my’ horse to pay out a tiny little profit on my $2 bet. Then I heard the crowd gasp and when I looked, I saw the horse lying on the track, not moving a muscle. A flurry of track workers surrounded the horse – but it didn’t look like they were able to revive her, and I’m guessing that wasn’t their intention. A big blue curtain was placed in front of her; someone said ‘I think they’re going to put the horse onto that,’ but I think its actual purpose was to shield us from having to watch a euthanasia procedure. One that probably wasn’t necessary, in any event.

And apart from the crowd’s brief gasp, it was otherwise business as usual. The announcer kept chattering, the tellers kept taking bets, the next horses kept moving forward to enter the track for the next race. And it didn’t seem to matter that this particular horse had just given all she had left to give in the service of our quaint little blood sport, and now was being unceremoniously loaded into a truck and moved out of the way. I left after that, unable to stomach the idea of placing any more bets – or even staying there another minute. I don’t think I will be back.” – Tony P., 7/25/18

“Hello Patrick…I am glad you try to inform people of the cruelty of horseracing. I was an avid rider and racing fan from age 11 to my early 20’s. I am now 67. I adore horses. I watched the Belmont out of curiosity and was glad no one was injured. I remember the Ruffian Filly match race in the 70’s when she broke down and had to be euthanized. So sad. I eventually started to realize I did not enjoy watching races. Horses have done so much for humans over the centuries and should be respected as a dear friend as a dog is. They are pushed too hard too early, their legs are too skinny for the half-ton bodies and the tracks made scientifically very ‘fast.’ It is all about $$$$.

I have a dear friend who worked at Aqueduct back in the 70’s and she said the abuse and corruption was appalling! Horses bleeding from nostrils, icing their legs to numb the pain before a race, etc. We live in a world that does not care about ‘human rights’ so what can we expect of ‘animal rights’? People would rather be blind than face facts. All the best and I wish I had the $$ to rescue a horse from the track!” – Vicky Cosgrove, New York, 6/10/18

“I saw Boom Boom Bango break down in the 9th at Santa Anita on March 18th. Looked bad and threw the rider. I am hoping the worst is not true. The track announcer and camera crew are trained to de-emphasize the event. Follow-up news updates are intentionally almost non-existent and information is always minimal. I am hoping I do not see Boom Boom Bango on your list tomorrow [she is in fact dead]. …I am not going back there.” – Randy Bramstedt, 3/18/18

“I don’t bet on racing anymore. I’m saving my money to help rescue those who have been shipped to sale auctions for slaughter.” – Tonya Stephenson, 3/17/18

“I started watching horseracing occasionally years ago beginning with the triplecrown won by the great Secretariat. Recently we moved to New Jersey and we began to attend Saratoga racecourse once a year. Then I discovered TVG. I enjoyed watching the beautiful horses parading in the paddock, and picking winners. Then one day early in 2018 I saw a beautiful gray horse, Electric Alphabet, in the parade. I watched during his race as he took a ‘wrong step’ and went down. I waited to hear from the announcer what had happened. No word except that the jockey was ok. That’s when I found your website and confirmed what I dreaded. He had been euthanized. He was 12 years old and still racing?

I read comments from your site and realized this was not an occasional thing. I still couldn’t believe it. I watched more, horses kept getting hurt, announcers kept under-reacting. The last straw was this weekend. Through sheer luck I did not see the horse collapse at Gulfstream. In what other ‘sport’ do you witness death on a daily basis and think that’s acceptable? Do baseball players going for a long fly hit the outfield wall and slump over, dead? We would surely all be horrified. What if a downhill skier lost control and we witnessed her or his detached leg flying down the mountain alone? I don’t think anyone would enjoy that. But horses collapsing at an astonishing rate is ok? Shame on us.” – Linda Murphy, 2/26/18

“I read your posts and I decided I would not support horse racing anymore. So I am totally out of any industry that promotes gambling or mistreats animals. I would feel good about horse racing going out of business. Thank you.” – Richard Tindall, 11/19/17

“Thanks for your blog. If more people knew about the mistreatment of these beautiful animals they would choose to spend their money on other forms of entertainment. I joined a friend at Lone Star Park last night because she wanted to see the horses in person for the first time. This will be her last trip to the racetrack. In race three the winner broke down right at the wire and was euthanized on the track in front of hundreds of horrified spectators. I saw several children in tears as the curtain came out to hide from view what I knew was going to be the unfortunate death of another race horse. You can see the replay at the Lone Star website. The name of the horse is Hidden Talent. Something was hidden alright, and that was the cover up of this innocent victim dying in front of our eyes. There was no mention after the event of the unfortunate demise of an unwilling participant – only the condition of the jockey. This is horse racing. I won’t be back.” – Brad Forster, 10/1/17

“I was at Laurel Park on December 31st, placed a bet on Just Jack, and watched the race at the rail. Not only was I shocked and heartbroken when he fell and died, but something in me changed forever. I’d seen horses fall before but had continued to enthusiastically ‘follow’ (wager on) thoroughbreds, visiting tracks from Saratoga to Santa Anita, living under the rationalizations that ‘horses live to compete’ and that since we eat cows that betting on horse racing is somehow ethical. That’s all behind me. I will never wager on horse racing again. I used to soothe my guilt with donations to equine rescues, but I was working at cross purposes. Just Jack was whipped mercilessly in the stretch and he died as a result. It is one thing to kill an animal for food, but it is quite another to kill one for entertainment. I could not believe the patrons at Laurel quietly went back to the buffet after the race and then prepared their bets for the next race.

Those in the industry will say that better regulation can prevent these events. They are completely wrong. I have followed this industry for 40 years and it has not really improved. The only way to prevent such hideous cruelty is to stop wagering on horse racing, just as we stopped wagering on greyhound racing in most states. I still feel sick about my presence at Laurel, and in fact I have always felt somehow ashamed of my wagering. I can now look forward to a clearer life and limit my involvement with horses to supporting them in the most positive ways.” – name withheld per wishes, 1/3/17

“I’m a longtime writer and a former horse owner, and I’ve been following Horseracing Wrongs for a couple of years. I wanted to say thank you for the work you do – painful though it is to keep track of these stats, what you’re doing is extremely important, especially in an industry that refuses any form of transparency. I’ve been posting on social media and sending messages to friends and family, to encourage others to spread the word about the atrocities of the racing industry. Some of my friends are following suit, and I hope the movement will grow. If there’s anything else you can think of that we might do to make a difference, I’d be happy for the information.” – name withheld per wishes, 8/27/16

“I came across your website last night trying to research the horse in the subject line. In the 4th race at Emerald Downs on July 1, 2016, Corporal Agarn fell and, to my untrained eye, clearly broke one of his front legs. The only information I know about him now is that he was ‘vanned away.’ I am quite sure he was euthanized. You seem like you are well on top of things, and I commend you for the research you’ve done on your website. I just want to make sure this one doesn’t fall through the cracks – and I’d like to be absolutely sure of what happened to him. As a member of the betting public for the past three years, it was easy for me to justify the risks of this form of entertainment. It’s a lot harder now, seeing it live in real time.” – name withheld per wishes, 7/2/16

“Hello Patrick, I love what you post, you post the truth and only the truth. I am so sick of hearing of the horse deaths. I ride and ride for fun, Thorougbreds, Quarters, etc. My last race was Del Mar 2000, horse went down. Seeing it live was horrible. Never went back, but still ride and love horses. Thank you for posting and saying ‘the truth.’ I hope it helps. Live in Sacramento, CA.” – name withheld per wishes, 5/21/16

“I am writing you because I saw what you posted about Mariano Intheninth. My family and I live in Louisville. I have never been a huge fan of horse racing but my family got free tickets to the track that day and were taking my 85 year old grandma for a day out. I was there when Mariano Intheninth broke his leg…about 30 feet away from me. I will NEVER forget it. Everyone was worried about the Jockey while I was concerned about the poor horse who was obviously afraid and in pain. I have not stopped thinking about it since.

I just wanted to thank you for acknowledging his existence and short life as well as the hundreds of others who have pointlessly lost their lives. I for one will NEVER return to Churchill Downs or any other track ever again, and this experience has only further opened my eyes to this disgusting ‘sport.’ I wish everyone knew the truth. Thank you again Patrick.” – Meghan in Kentucky, 6/15/15