Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wanna Save a Race Horse? Then Keep it to Yourself!

So you wanna save a race horse huh? Well as the title suggests "keep your mouth shut". Huh? If you are scratching your head at this point, let me share the firestorm that happened yesterday.

Yesterday the message boards and "blog world", including Facebook were lit up regarding an owner that had purportedly dumped her race horse directly to the kill buyer. This owner and trainer were "outted" by this well known, snarky blog author. With a warning to All Racehorse Owners in America, that if you did the same your name, your personal information, and biography would be posted on her blog. The woman's photo was plastered over the Internet and the attacks began. This woman having no way to defend herself, until a few kind hearted people attempted a different tactic and wrote the woman directly. Her response was posted on other blog sites, and the war of words and defamation of character continued throughout the day. Now, I don't purport to have first hand knowledge of any of the dealings that took place, and that in fact is my point-- If you as self-appointed judge and jury have the temerity to "out" all parties, than at least try to find out some facts before posting to the virtual universe.

By outting this woman, and the trainer in the manner it was, the immediate and swift response by the auction lot owner, where the horse was found, was to declare that no rescue group will be allowed on his lot to purchase the Thoroughbreds (ie. racehorses). You see he is a businessman too. And while most of us don't like the business he is in, he is allowed the freedom to have his lot. Its a private lot, therefore his allowing groups that rescue horses including race horses, on it is a mutually and sometimes divisive relationship, it is still a necessary relationship.

What some fail to realize is that an auction lot owner, often BUYS horses from other sources (knowing their market), and then allows rescue/retirement individual access to the horses that can be purchased prior to their either going through the auction ring, or straight onto the back of a truck for slaughter. This businessman, needs a continuous supply of these overpriced horses to sell to those that want to help them. This cottage industry has been going on for some time. Often horses are obtained so that the price can be "jacked up" to accommodate the greed of the auction lot owner and the sympathies of the rescues. Its a symbiotic relationship.

What doesn't factor into this arrangement, is another group of "well meaning" people (often who have never actually rescued a horse off a lot) or worked with the horsemen at the tracks, using their First Amendment freedom to screw it up!

With the advent of Facebook, and popular message groups like Alex Brown's, thousands of faceless people can sit behind their computers and shout from their keypads "FIRE", doing tremendous damage to a tenuous relationship. Quickly and often, when the auction lot owner receives trouble-- threatening phone calls, emails and other personal attacks, the ability to go on the lot is over. What does that mean? The very horses that these people think they are protecting in the future, are in fact often times sending them straight to their demise.

I read many times yesterday rantings about where are the 'Zero Tolerance' policies on horse slaughter and the race track management?. Unfortunately, its a misnomer to think that every single race track in America, has a zero tolerance plan. It would be nice, but it is factually not the case.

For instance MEC/MAGNA prior to its bankruptcy in 2009, stated that they would enforce strict guidelines to ensure that a trainer/owner found to have DIRECTLY sent a race horse from the track to slaughter could lose their stalls and licenses. The immediate problem with loose language like that, is that there can be and is often a three or even a six degree of separation when a horse is found on a lot from the race track. In the state of Washington, where this particular race horse was found, I could not find an umbrella policy in place. Links to rescues in the state of Washington where not on the Washington State Horse Racing Commission website (except for the TRF).
I understand from again, research, that there is one thoroughbred retirement facility that works with Emerald Downs, but that facility is underfunded and is not accepting horses at this time from the track. The Emerald Downs website does have an Industry Links tab, showing several thoroughbred retirement groups; inside and outside of the state. Portland Meadows a Magna owned track, and where the horse last ran on closing day---does not display on their website a policy. It does not provide links to retirement facilities as well. The NTRA has not accredited either Emerald Downs or Portland Meadows to date.

My point being that there are many things that racetrack management, horsemens groups and the Washington State Racing Commission (in this particular case)can do to protect horses. That's a given. If an owner states they no longer want a horse (and it happens for many, many reasons), the owner and trainer ARE responsible for it's safe transition. But racetracks KNOW that there are people on the back side all to willing to take a horse (for good reasons and bad), and with all the retirement, rescue groups that walk the backside, horses still slip through the cracks or onto the backs of trucks. In my opinion, there should be a 'safe haven' program at every single racetrack, funded by purse monies, totes or a program like CARMA (California Retirement Management Account)in tandem with an approved state specific rescue/retirement for the horses to go to. The rescue/retirement would then be responsible for the well being of the horse and its adoption or transition. Then if you find a horse goes to slaughter, despite the ease of all on the backside to place the horse into safety, you have some real "teeth" to go after the owners/trainers that just don't give a damn.

I agree only with the snarky author, that there is culpability to the race horses by owners, trainers, breeders and race track management. I could list many programs that are working, and that aren't. I could list policies that I know are not being adhered too, and I know much but I don't open my mouth, why? Because I want to be an advocate for the horse. Does that make me culpable too, perhaps.

What I do know is that there is more than one party to point the finger too in the "business" of horse rescue/retirement, however screaming and outting one person without facts and following proper protocol, to me is an injustice to the horse and is irresponsible. So if you aren't in the "business" of rescue, placement, or retirement, of race horses do the rest of us a favor....Be Quiet.


  1. You are brilliant! I'm so proud of what you do and really appreciate your support for R.A.C.E. I'm their mom and know that they are only doing what they do because they LOVE the horses.

    I don't have an account so I'll just sign

    Mary Newlander

  2. Emerald Downs does not have a no slaughter stance. The one horse rescue catering to thoroughbreds is a private venture and has in the past received small portions of money donated by the trainers and owners. It is my understanding that this organization has fallen from favor and Washington would very much welcome your organization Ms. Sanders.

  3. Thank you for your input. The Second Race has been asked by private individuals and rescue groups to come to Washington and meet with the race track. Our plan is to make a trip to the WA area in the next few months.

  4. This whole mess could have been avoided by quietly contacting the owner to get the correct information. She did not send this horse to slaughter she gave it to someone to retrain and that person sold it to someone that took it to the Feedlot.
    Instead it is sensationalized by the snarky blog author who set her mob mentality followers off to torment the owner and has yet to admit she made a mistake.

    Sharla the NW Racing Community will welcome your class, tact and professional way of Rehoming our beloved TB's


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