There are worse things

There’s only one way to comfort ourselves, when we think about it:

There are worse things.

A few weeks ago I tweeted and posted Facebook messages asking for anyone connected to horse racing in Puerto Rico to contact me. I found Caribbean Horse Rescue—the one and only Thoroughbred rescue on the island—on Facebook and e-mailed the owner. I e-mailed the person who bought him at OBS as a two-year-old and asked for help locating him.

The reason for my sudden panic: I’d gotten a Virtual Stable alert for a timed work: Royal, our chestnut colt, was training in Puerto Rico.

Despite all this, it took weeks to find him. No one on Twitter or Facebook seemed to have any connections; or, if they did, they weren’t planning on helping me. I got vague responses from the buyer. It took until he was entered into a race to figure out which trainer’s barn the colt was in. I got back with Kellie from Caribbean Horse Rescue, and she promised to check in on him each week when she was at the racetrack.

But it’s Puerto Rico.

We knew.

NBC News: For racehorses in Puerto Rico, it’s win or die.

For thoroughbreds in this U.S. Caribbean territory, being fast enough to win, place or show is a matter of life and death. Losers often don’t even make it off the racetrack grounds alive.

More than 400 horses, many in perfect health, are killed each year by injection at a clinic behind the Hipodromo Camarero racetrack, said chief veterinarian Jose Garcia. The Associated Press on Friday examined clinic log books that confirmed Garcia’s account.

I got an e-mail a few days after Royal’s first start: he’d fractured a sesamoid, and the trainer had him put down.

It seems ridiculous. Royal was solid. His dam was solid. His sire was solid. There was nothing delicate about the entire family. They were built to last forever. They were the freaking black boxes of the racehorse world.

This was a horse who jumped a five foot fence from a stand-still when he was six months old.

This was a horse who was born to do great things.

He was taken from Ocala and shipped to a place where horse racing is little better than the illegal tracks set up in America’s rural countryside.

The sport attracts many small-time businessmen such as Maldonado, who devotes most of his time to running a booth at a flea market in nearby Rio Grande. Garcia said many take on more horses than they can afford in hopes of striking it rich.

There’s no lay-up when you run a flea market booth. There’s no surgery. There’s no second chance. There’s no taking care of your horse. There’s just euthanasia.

And yet there are worse things than euthanasia.

Some horses wind up fending for themselves. Emaciated thoroughbreds, marked by tattoos from the track, have been found among the “chongos”- stray, mixed-breed nags – chewing grass by the roads, according to Amigos de los Animales, an animal sanctuary.

And there is America’s own special way of dealing with unwanted racehorses: the kill pen.

And so that’s what we tell ourselves: there are worse things. That’s all we’ve got.




Filed under Racing

10 responses to “There are worse things

  1. Oh, Natalie–I’m so sorry. I can’t think of anything to say that will help except there are worse things. And, again, I am so very sorry.

  2. laura h

    Lord, Natalie. I am so sorry. It is so terrible. But you are right, at least he didn’t suffer.

  3. Natalie,
    This is so sad, and I’m very sorry.

  4. So sorry, Natalie. Ugh. So tough, sometimes, to be a fan of this game.

  5. Shit, Natalie, I’m so, so sorry. This sucks. Yes, there are worse things, but in the US you could have tracked him and networked for him. Dammit. I’m so sorry. That’s all I can say. Hugs, for real. And I’m not a hugger:( Godspeed sweet boy-

  6. Sandy in Marin

    Dear Natalie, I too am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful boy Royal. I am crying, not only for Royal but for all the other horses that have lost their lives and or are abandoned and neglected. I am having trouble thinking of what could be worse, right now this is the worst. I believe Royal is in God’s spacious and beautiful meadow, grazing and romping around and wishing he were with you. I truly feel your pain. Best wishes for a peaceful heart, Sandy

    Marin County California

  7. expletive deleted.

    I’m so sorry, Natalie.

    Hold onto “it could have been worse”. For sure, it could have been.

  8. Thank you, everyone.

    Sarah: Yes, it would have been easier to get hold of him in the U.S. This is true. With a little more lead time I probably could have networked him out of PR. There just wasn’t enough time.

  9. Kitster

    I was messing around Equineline and Equibase that other night and putting in names of some of my favorite race horses to see where they ended up. I put in my favorite horse “Oh Bye Golly”.

    I worked with him early on in his career. I then saw him 2 years later at Hialeah track with a another trainer, his ankles were looking pretty big. He whinnied when he saw me, I wanted to cry. I loved that horse. I told the trainer when the horse is done racing, I would take him. He said the owner was very nice and would give him a good home when he was done. Well he was claimed and sent to Mountaineer Park. The last time he ran it was for 5k claimers and he was eased. God knows what happen to this poor soul., If he broke down bad that day or maybe he was lucky and given a good home. Mountaineer Park is Dauntes Hell. I am sure the poor horse was shipped right to Sugar Creek Kill sale. I will never know..
    If he is still alive today he would be 18. Unfortunatly I do not know his last trainer or owner of his last race. He was a lovey horse, he earned over 200K. This horse deserved a good retirement. Makes me sick to think he ended up some place bad…

  10. Bob Neary

    ((((((( Royal ))))))) and huge hugs to you, too, Natalie. absolutely heartbreaking. I only wish I would have found your blog and this post last year. I’m here in PR and would have done anything to help. I’m not a part of the racing culture here, but I will definitely become more involved in the rescue of these amazing creatures. rest in sweet peace, Royal.