Tag Archives: horse rescue

Thanks for all the broken toys

I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

It’s a famously liberal, tree-hugging sort of community, where anyone who is anybody dutifully works their shift at the Food Co-Op in exchange for membership (I am not anyone) and there are still placards in the windows of million-dollar brownstones that say HOPE and CHANGE and SAVE DARFUR. There are tables set up on the street so that you can stop and change your electricity over to sustainable up-state wind-farms while you’re on your way to enjoy some locally farmed veg and eat a chicken who probably had a name and came when he was called. Yes, I live in Portlandia.

One of the fun things about Park Slope is the “All the streets are my Good-Will” mentality. If you have something you don’t want anymore, you put it out on the sidewalk, or your stoop, or hang it over the fence around your little garden. I’ve gotten many great books this way, including, interestingly, a hardcover of A Horse Around the House and a tattered paperback of Sam Savitt’s Vicki and the Black Horse, which will eventually be chopped up and used to decorate my already horse-centric apartment.

People put out everything. Clothes (I do not take clothes), furniture (I have a great book-case in my kitchen serving as a pantry/baker’s rack), and toys. Usually baby toys, but every now and then there are things a little more interesting, that catch the eye of my eight year old and myself…

We brought home Mouse Trap one night last summer. We were so excited. I told Calvin “Don’t bother playing the game part, just build the Mouse Trap. That’s the fun part!”

And it turned out, of course, that the Mouse Trap game was missing one piece. Just one piece, but a necessary one. The Mouse Trap wouldn’t work without it.

Thanks, I thought. Thanks for your sweet broken toy.

***

Every day, broken horses are put out on the virtual stoop.

They’re listed on Craigslist, they’re posted on Facebook, they’re put onto free classifieds ad sites. One thing they have in common? Their listings are always free. No use putting money into these broken toys.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say I’m tired of seeing horses offered cheaply, or for adoption, or for free, when they’ve been broken by someone else. Horses do not fall apart without warning signs; bodies do not give up without symptoms of stress. Horses speak up, but are frequently ignored. Things that should never be thought, but are anyway: Just jump one more course, just run one more race, just get through one more season.

Okay, says the horse. I will try.

And that’s the part that doesn’t break, the piece that never goes missing. The try. That’s the thing about these broken toys: when they’re put back together, they’re just as wonderful as when they were new.

Luckily, there are good people out there who can’t help but pick up a broken toy. There is something in them that makes them want to fix it. There is something in them that helps them see what else the toy can do.

Maybe it can’t be Mouse Trap anymore, but maybe it can be something else, and we can all still have a good time.

So hey, all you dealers and dumpers and shady traders and low-life trainers, from every discipline and every walk of a horse’s life: You’ll get yours.

But in the meantime…

Thanks for all the broken toys.

Rillo jumping, Canterbury

My first broken toy.

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Filed under Retirement Options, Selling Horses, slaughter

When Has a Racehorse “Done Enough?” Weighing in on Stream of Gold

This morning’s New York Times racing blog, The Rail, has a short entry from Alex Brown regarding the former stakes horse, Stream of Gold. For those who aren’t on the mailing list of two dozen horse rescue groups on Facebook, Stream of Gold is a ten year old horse with a pretty impressive career spanning three continents, from England to the UAE and then on to the United States. His last stakes placing was a third in a Grade 3 stakes back in 2008, and after that dropped down to Allowance company.

Now it’s 2011, and Stream of Gold is running against a much lighter crowd than he did was he was a kid. The last entry on his Past Performance (here, via The New York Times) was in a $3200 claiming race at Fairmount Park. He came in third place, and the notation says that he made a “late gain.” He didn’t exactly come in last, coughing on the dust of his opponents. He came in third, gaining on the leaders. Horse welfare advocates, including Alex Brown, have become vocal on the cause of retiring Stream of Gold, based upon his history as a stakes horse.

My intro to the story came via Ed DeRosa’s blog, in which he made the comment:

The conventional wisdom on Twitter was that a horse of his stature should not be toiling in bottom-level claiming ranks—that his $738,021 in earnings had earned him a dignified retirement.

I disagree on the basis that all horses deserve a dignified retirement.

I have to side with Ed. What bothers me is that because Stream of Gold made a ton of money, he’s “done enough.” That because Stream of Gold ran in G1 company against the likes of Einstein, he’s “done enough.” What if Stream of Gold had an equal win rate, but had done it his entire life at the claiming level? There wouldn’t be a conversation. Because you never even would have heard of him. He’d just keep running.

And yes, I can say that, because every day there are horses filling races at every track who have never won. Some come in second or third now and then – that’s not bad. Some never come within biting distance of the last horse in the pack. They run for years. They run ten, twenty, forty, sixty times. I guess they haven’t “done enough” yet?

Alex Brown writes:

For $5,000 this horse can be claimed and retired. Surely he has served our sport well, both in the United States, in Europe and in the United Arab Emirates. This horse deserves our support.

I have to respectfully disagree with Alex here. Asking a rescuer to step in and claim a horse because he has run at the upper echelons of the sport isn’t a good enough reason. What about all the horses who run for years and years but never break out of the claiming ranks? How hard do they have to work to deserve retirement? There are thousands of horses who can be bought for a song or picked up for free. Their names do not appear in black-type, or next to the titles of great stakes races. They haven’t done enough yet.

Maybe the $5,000 could even claim his competitor, Keystone Kid, a 7 year old gelding who hasn’t won a race since 2009 despite ten starts in 2010 and two already this year?

I’m not saying that Stream of Gold should or shouldn’t be running. I don’t know the horse, I’m not his vet or his owner or his trainer or his rider. I’m saying that the popular outcry for retiring him, basing it solely on his graded company performance, doesn’t hold up when there are so many hard-working, but unsuccessful horses in the country today.

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Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Racing, Retirement Options

Using the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Connect

You might have seen the articles sprouting up about the Jockey Club’s new Thoroughbred Connect, an online function which is supposed to be “connecting Thoroughbreds with their futures.” I felt a little skeptical at first; I mean, the Jockey Club has never shown the least little interest in tracking Thoroughbreds – their whole function is to register foals bred and maintain the stud book. What they do after they’re born and duly noted in the registry books, or produce offspring, is their own business.

But eventually my curiousity got the better of me and I decided to log in and check it out. And hey! It turns out that it’s wickedly simple to use and gives me the one thing I wanted: a chance to help the horses I’ve bred if they ever need new homes!

Screen for Thoroughbred Connect in Interactive Registration

Basically, you log into Interactive Registration. If you aren’t already a member, all you have to do is come up with a name and a password. It’s one of the few things about the Jockey Club that won’t cost you a packet.

Once you log in, you click on “Thoroughbred Connect” up at the very top of the screen, and you’re prompted to enter your contact info. After that, you have two options: enter in the horses in your care (who may need assistance in the future) or enter in the horses you’re willing to offer assistance to.

I chose the latter and the search option was simple: registered name, dam’s name, and year of birth. My four babies came up and were added to the list. And that was that!

Once horses are added, you can see your list

So now I suppose I just wait and hope no one ever contacts me, and my babies live long and productive lives as racehorses, and later as breeding stock or sporthorses. But if anything should ever happen to one of them, I want to know about it! I may not be able to take them in myself – I mean, I don’t exactly live on the farm anymore, do I – but I can at least work on their behalf to find them safe harbor and new homes.

The Jockey Club has made Thoroughbred Connect so ridiculously simple that if any horse goes to auction or slaughter now, the guilty parties haven’t got any excuse. Not that they did before. But there’s simply no longer a reason for Thoroughbreds at the racetracks to “disappear” from the radar. Every owner or trainer should be registering their horses, and every breeder should be following up on them.

Not to mention, it makes it very easy to put your name down for one of those campaigners you’ve been watching and longing for when their retirement comes!

Upper West Side galloping

Keeping an eye on my babies!

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Filed under Jockey Club, Racing, Retirement Options

Nobody Wants Me, It’s True

I have to ask. I really want to know the different arguments on this one.

What do you think of euthanasia for a reasonably healthy animal?

I can’t help but notice all the listings to SAVE HORSES NOW, HORSES GOING TO SLAUGHTER TOMORROW are all followed by HORSE IS SAVED, NEEDS A HOME, HORSE IS SAVED, NEEDS TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS IN VET WORK, etc. And, as I’ve been looking for some help in re-homing the dog that was abandoned at my farm, I’ve seen numerous web sites that declare “Life is precious – save every life!” and basically decry euthanasia in all its forms.

In 2008 Fugly Horse of the Day published this piece on NorCal’s effort to set up a low-cost euthanasia clinic for owners who could not afford to put down horses with medical issues. A quick Google search only brought up NorCal as an option for low-cost euthanasia. Which means that throughout the country, people who don’t feel like they have $400 or so for euthanasia and disposal are sending their horses to auction instead. Or – they feel like they’re giving the horse a chance.

My question is, what if the horse doesn’t have medical issues? Is it wrong to put the horse down? Is it worse to put a horse down or “give it a chance” at auction when you’re absolutely out of options? We all know about the auction side of the argument.

Let’s say that you are a breeder who has lost their farm. A common enough scenario. You have thirty broodmares to rehome. 20 yearlings. 20 weanlings. A teasing stallion, maybe a few retirees. So now seventy-odd horses need to be distributed amongst the population of horse-owners.

Now let’s say ten breeders in the same ZIP code lose their farm. A common enough scenario, in 2010. Hundreds and hundreds of horses need to be distributed.

Meanwhile, you are seeing ads like this: “Rescued last year, adopted out, now owner can’t afford to keep, going to auction, needs to be saved.” OR “Surrendered back to rescue, has EPM/Strangles/Bowed Tendon [insert disease or lameness here], needs funds for vet.”

You have to ask, at some point, when we’ve reached our saturation point with unwanted horses. Unwanted is becoming the new word, but it may not be the most accurate word. We all want all these horses, we just can’t have them. I want every single TB that is in every single kill pen and I want them in my yard and I want to kiss them and hug them and give them cookies. But – there aren’t enough pastures out there for all the pasture pets, let alone fat wallets for all the chronic veterinary cases. Are there?

So – is it wrong to put down a pasture pet, who technically has no distressing health problems? Should there be euthanasia clinics for horses that are economically unfeasible to keep alive? The average age of horses has crept up from 22 towards 30, according to some pharma companies. And – this should be an interesting question – should the slots at crowded rescues be reserved for younger, sound horses who have a shot at a being riding horses? As horses, their ability to perform or reproduce is their currency to a happy, safe life. Without those two options, they’re dependent on charity – and charity is the first thing to go when people are forced to cut corners.

Thoughts?

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