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…

Southwick’s run in the 8th at Mahoning yesterday, as relayed by the Equibase writer: “SOUTHWICK…suffered a catastrophic injury and was euthanized.” Southwick was three years old; his entire “career” – all under trainer/owner Brooken Brinsfield:

Dec 19, last of 9, 36 lengths back
Jan 9, last of 8, 47 lengths back
Mar 25, 7th of 9, 25.5 lengths back
Apr 17, dead

Made. Abused. Killed. Sleep well last night, Mr. Brinsfield?

This from the NYS Gaming Commission, April 11, Tioga Downs: “Atomic Sealster fell over after completing a training mile, subsequently stopped breathing on track.”

This is horseracing. Every day.

The most recent Stewards Minutes from Santa Anita reveal this: “Veterinarian Report, 4/1-4/7, Fatalities 1.” Yes, that’s right, while the increasingly desperate racing world has been busy congratulating SA for a “safe” couple of weeks, implying of course that recently implemented “protocols” are working, yet another horse has died, leaving SA at 28 dead (and counting) since Christmas. Now, because the above is the extent of the current information (I will FOIA current-year necropsies soon), we do not know how this (unidentified) horse died. What we do know, however, is that he or she died in the servitude of Horseracing – making him or her a Horseracing casualty. Period.

The Los Alamitos Minutes, though still anonymous, were nonetheless more specific: “One equine death was reported this week due to racing injuries.” The “week” in question comprised three days – April 5-April 7 – during which three horses were “vanned off”: Jessa Sweet Dasher on the 5th, Texting and Thorny on the 6th. It’s a good bet that the dead horse is one of those.

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.)

Mourinho, March 12, Santa Anita T
fracture of both proximal sesamoid bones; rupture, inter sesamoidean ligament and fibrocartilage; marked fraying and partial transection, straight and lateral oblique distal sesamoidean ligaments; complete transection, short and cruciate sesamoidean ligaments that were attached to the lateral sesamoid bone; marked fraying and hemorrhages, lateral branch of the suspensory ligament; rupture, medial collateral ligament and the medial collateral sesamoidean ligaments”

Onde Ah Mo, March 17, Santa Anita R
acute catastrophic failure of right carpus: radial carpal bone fracture, complete, comminuted; intermediate carpal bone fracture, complete, comminuted; 3rd carpal bone fracture, complete; articular cartilage excoriation/ulceration; pre-existing degenerative lesions, [both front] fetlock joints; gastric erosion/ulceration, chronic

Boom Boom Bango, March 18, Santa Anita R
“open, comminuted, completed, displaced fracture, MCIII; open, comminuted, articular, displaced fracture, medial proximal sesamoid bone; avulsion fracture, lateral proximal sesamoid bone; rupture, intersesamoidean ligament and fibrocartilage; marked fraying, flexor tendons; marked fraying, suspensory apparatus; marked fraying, straight distal sesamoidean ligament; moderate fraying, oblique distal sesamoidean ligaments; marked fraying and transection, cruciate sesamoidean ligaments; transection, collateral sesamoidean ligaments; closed, comminuted, complete, displaced, articular fracture of the proximal epiphysis, metaphysis, physis and diaphysis, proximal phalanx; biaxial linear cartilage erosion, both sides of the sagittal ridge, distal articular surface of MCIII (Chronic), [both front limbs]”

unidentified, March 19, Santa Anita T
“comminuted, complete, displaced fracture, distal MTIII; plantar osteochondral disease, MTIII (likely predisposing lesion); comminuted, complete, displaced fracture, medial proximal sesamoid bone; avulsion fracture, lateral proximal sesamoid bone; rupture, intersesamoidean ligament and fibrocartilage; marked fraying, distal sesamoidean ligaments; rupture, cruciate ligaments; marked fraying and hemorrhages, suspensory ligament; focal hemorrhages around the superficial digital flexor tendon; comminuted, complete, displaced fracture of P1; [other back leg]: subcutaneous abscess; plantar osteochondral disease; stomach: ulcers, chronic

Dial Me In, March 23, Santa Anita R
“complete, comminuted, articular fracture of the scapula through the neck and distal end of the spine; the major distal fragment is split into two major fragments by a fracture that enters the glenoid and splits the glenoid into halves; in addition, the caudal fragment is split into 3 major fragments longitudinally”

unidentified, March 26, Santa Anita T
fracture of medial proximal sesamoid bone, complete, articular, displaced, comminuted; fracture of lateral proximal sesamoid bone, complete, articular, displaced, with pre-existing lesion; hemorrhage and fraying, lateral branch of suspensory ligament; rupture, intersesamoidean ligament and fibrocartilage; tear and fraying of straight distal sesamoidean ligament; tear and fraying of oblique distal sesamoidean ligaments; fraying of dorsal side of deep digital flexor tendon”

Smart Knows Smart, March 30, Santa Anita R
catastrophic breakdown of the left forelimb with: fractures of the proximal sesamoid bone; rupture of the palmar annular ligament; rupture of the superficial digital flexor tendon with fraying and hemorrhage and longitudinal tears of the lateral half of the tendon at the fetlock joint; full thickness ruptures involving the medial and lateral margins with fraying and hemorrhage and longitudinal tears of the center at the fetlock joint; longitudinal fissures with hemorrhage of the lateral and medial branches of the interosseous ligament; complete rupture of the intersesamoidean ligament, and complete rupture of the cruciate sesamoidean ligaments; longitudinal fissures and hemorrhage of the collateral ligament of the fetlock joint, the lateral collateral sesamoidean ligament, of the proximal third of the straight sesamoidean and lateral oblique sesamoidean ligaments; hemarthrosis of [both] fetlock joints” (that’s one horse, one death)

unidentified, April 13, Santa Anita T
“horse presented non-weight bearing with the leg dangling – catastrophic right tibial breakdown; severe tearing and hemorrhage of the muscles of the leg surrounding the area of fracture; MCIII bone [in both hind legs] presented osteochondrosis characterized by thinning of the cartilage; the stomach presented many, irregular ulcers; horse had been kicked by another horse on RH and had laceration repaired with 6 staples 1 week ago; horse has chronic history of LF lameness” (seven years old)

My Sweet Emma, April 15, Santa Anita R
“avulsion fracture, proximal sesamoid bone; rupture, inter-sesamoidean ligament; fraying and hemorrhages, superficial digital flexor tendon; fraying, lateral branch and medial branch, suspensory ligament; fraying, both oblique distal sesamoidean ligaments; marked scoring, all articular surfaces of the fetlock; multiple ulcers

Xten, April 20, Santa Anita T
“thoracic lumbar trauma (horse collided with another horse, fell) – given several hours to attempt to rise, unable to; exhibited tremors post-injury; a severe, comminuted (+40 fragments) fracture of the thoracic vertebrae; extensive hemorrhages in the spinal canal, bones and adjacent skeletal muscle; due to the large numbers of fragments, it was not possible to evaluate for predisposing lesions”