Wednesday, June 11, 2014

No Giant Hats and Mint Juleps for This Chickie

I waited until after the last race and let the excitement and conversation die down. I didn't want to ruin the fun of following yet another Triple Crown hopeful for anybody else. There was no reason to insert my opinion. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure what it is. What I do know is this. I am done with racing. I didn't watch, read or discuss the horses or the races with anyone.

It's hard. The most influential books in my young Horsaii life was Walter Farley's The Black Stallion series. He described races so exciting I would find myself jumping up and down on the couch, clutching my book and screaming, every single time I read them. I think the last time I was forty or so. 

This is probably the most exciting television moment of my life.






I started becoming more aware of the lives of race horses to a large extent from Cathy Trope and Her Fugly Horse of the Day blog.

I learned about a mare, named Press Exclusive,  with nearly half a million dollars in earnings and nine foals on the ground, getting trampled on a slaughter bound truck.

Her eyes were swollen shut from blunt trauma sustained enroute to the slaugherhouse

This is what she looked like when she was unloaded. She also sustained four fractured ribs and was covered head to toe with deep cuts and abrasions. She had a body score of zero. Yes, zero.




“Two-year-olds, as we know, can be here today and gone tomorrow.” -Gai Waterhouse, leading racehorse trainer."

Then, I started to learn about the injuries sustained by these horses from beginning their careers as two-year-olds.

In Australia, a study of two and three-year-old thoroughbred racehorses reported that 85 percent suffered from at least one episode of illness or injury.

See more eye opening stuff here: http://www.horseracingkills.com/the-issues/two-year-old-racing.

Did I mention drugs? Drug use is so prevalent race horses are no longer being bred with concerns over long term health. The standard practice is to race them young, race them hard and then drug the crap out of them until they die. 



None of this stuff is new anymore. I've been uneasy with the race horse industry for many years. I saw improvements, rescues trying harder, signs of the racing industry stepping up....and it made it easier to just feel uncomfortable, but still catch those races, have a favorite, root for an injured horse without looking too closely.

This year I learned about something I had never heard of before.

Have you guys heard of Nurse Mare Foals?

I hadn't.

According to The Last Chance Corral Website (http://www.lastchancecorral.org/foal-rescue)

A nurse mare foal is bred and born for the sole purpose of bringing it's mother into milk. This milk is produced to nourish the high-bred foal of another mare. The original foal is usually pulled from the nurse mare and killed.

The big buyers into this practice are thoroughbred breeders. The Jockey Club requires that mares are bred by live cover. In order to keep those babies popping as close to January 1 as possible, they are routinely bred back during their foal heat. So, mares can be shipped to be bred as early as seven days after foaling.

The newborn foals are too fragile and valuable to be shipped anywhere. So, their mom is hauled away, baby is left behind and in comes the Nurse Mare. Her brand new baby was just taken out with a sledge hammer, or tossed outside to starve to death, and she is given the thoroughbred baby instead.

I had no fricking idea. Something inside me snapped and I am done. I won't watch another horse race. Unless it's a couple of buddies taking off down a dirt road. I'll still read my beloved Walter Farley, but I'll hold firm to my childhood conviction that Alec and Henry took care of every horse that came though their hands.



I won't ruin the conversations about the next triple crown winner around the office. I won't show up and spoil anybody's Big Hat Party on Derby Day. But don't talk to me about horse racing. Because I am done.







31 comments:

Becky said...

That video - her voice, those words - did more to make me consider my stance on the subject than anything else I've ever come across.

mugwump said...

Hit me hard.

MichelleL said...

I was 21 when I lost all my illusions re: foals getting a fair chance to grow up. Mind numbing to me that anyone would euthanize a three day old foal because of a blue eye. He would have been outstanding but an aberrant gene got him killed.

There is a place called Central Virginia Horse Rescue or something like that who just picked up a couple of nurse mare foals to be buddies with a rejected foal they had.

As long as they can make money off the mares the babies are a means to and end, not unlike the PMU mares.

Clancy said...

Thank you for writing this. I completely agree with you. From what I understand, things are the same with harness racing and probably not that much different in any of the horse 'sports'. Three of my horses are 'ex' - a Standardbred, a TB and a QH (ex western pleasure). They were all young when they came to me (6-11), all wonderful and all very lucky to not have gone to slaughter. The whole industry disgusts me.

When I was a kid we used to listen to the races on the radio every weekend, and Melbourne Cup day (Australia's biggest race) was nearly a religious event - even school stopped for it. Since I've learnt what racing means for the horses I don't watch listen or talk about the races, don't go to our local race meetings (big community events out here) or join the Melbourne Cup activities at work. And if people ask why I tell them.

Thank you for the vid of Secretariat, wow, what a horse.

Francis said...

I think it is time to pull out my Black Stallion books and reread..

Lauren R said...

Mugs, I've been reading your blog for many years now. I serve on Last Chance Corral's board and have been involved with them for ten years. I can't thank you enough for spreading the word. This year we have finally seen our adoption rates begin to pick up again thanks to some serious Facebook publicity. Most everyone in our area who knows about our foals already has one (or 7 lol) so the challenge has been to get the word out to new areas and groups of horse people. If anyone out your way is interested in adopting, we adopt all over the country, and I will help with transportation if possible. They are so much fun to raise. If anyone has any questions about how the nurse mare farms work, feel free to contact me. Thank you again!!

mugwump said...

Lauren - Write me...j.hntington@q.com,lets talk. I'm very impressed with you guys and would be happy to help promote you. I'm not kidding, I didn't know anything about this practice. It's time to spread the word.

mugwump said...

oops..Lauren it's j.huntington@q.com, my u is sticky.

EvenSong said...

The only saving grace in the PMU industry (if one could call it that) was the ranchers who at least went to the trouble of breeding halfway decent foals (mostly cross breds by a registered QH or paint stud, out of draft mares--more urine) and at least *tried* to market them, often through rescue groups. But these same "responsible" folks were probably the ones that got out of the business altogether when the synthetic form of Premarin started cutting into profits.

Heather said...

There are so many things wrong with the racing industry.... And so many things that could be fixed simply, but those fixes cost, so few owners are willing to do it.

For instance, if they simply waited one more year before starting and racing those babies, statistics say they'd reduce their injury rates by a huge amount. But that means they have to support the horse one extra year and that's too expensive. So they start them at 18 months and they're broken down by the time they're 4 (if they make it that far).

They are essentially creating horses that are good for exactly 2 things - racing and then dog food. And I wouldn't feed my dog horse meat because of all the drugs in it.

By racing those horses so young and breaking them down, for many of them, they're stealing the potential for any possible post racing career.

Another thing they're doing is not paying attention to the bodies they're creating. Many racehorses now have little teeny legs and horrible feet. (Both hugely genetic traits.) They don't breed for big bone - they breed off of statistics, winners, and fads. So again, instead of breeding for big bone that can hold up to abuse, they breed tiny legs that crack easily.

Just for fun sometime, compare an American and an Irish Thoroughbred. The difference is astounding. The Irish still breed for bone and body, so they're creating a horse that compete as a racer or a jumper and hold up to the stress.

Just so many bad choices piled up on one another.... And then they wonder why Americans are loosing interest in racing. Back in the day, it was a family sport. But then parents had to start explaining to their kids what happened to Ruffian, and Barbaro, and Three Bells. No one likes to explain that the horse had to be put down because it broke it's leg. (Because the trainer wanted to try for more money instead of resting the horse an extra couple of weeks.)

So I guess that's the good news - racing is dying and the track people are too short-sighted and money hungry to do the things that are required to revive the sport.


ANW said...

And, there's this happening repeatedly http://allnamedwildfire.blogspot.com/2013/11/just-sad.html

gardenofgoodandevil said...

As you often do, you took the thoughts out of my head. I too just learned about the nurse mare industry when someone on FaceBook commented on a Last Chance Corral post and it showed up on my wall. That was my final nail. I can overlook the throw away breeding, too many other types of breeders do it for me to single out racing. I can overlook the injuries and the doping; human athletes do the same thing. (Not to say I agree with these things but I could still argue that it's a legitimate sport.) I can't overlook an entire generation of horses born every year with the sole purpose of killing them for nothing. Not even meat. I tried not to be the buzz kill during the races but I'm going to re-post this now. People need to hear this.

Heidi the Hick said...

I haven't been a fan of horse racing for a loooong time. Probably since my teens. Can't even remember why I was so turned off of it. (Actually I have huge problems with the Black Stallion too, but I feel pretty awful admitting it…) Most people are surprised that a horse lover like me doesn't like the racing industry, but there it is. Having said that, Secretariat? Big fan. He was truly amazing. They aren't all like him though, and don't get treated as well as (I assume) he did.

Becky said...

LaurenR: When I looked at your site originally a couple of months ago, it looked like you had to show up in person and trailer the foal yourself? You couldn't pay for professional haulers, or a friend, or whatever to do it? Has that changed? I'd be very interested in doing this some day (I'm very, very glad right now that my husband does not read these comments.)

Dennis said...

Because of what is at stake horse and even dog racing should be stopped/not allowed....It is the animals who are paying a price for human entertainment. This is not only sad but pathetic. Not just regarding the nurse mare concern, but the barbaric ways horses are treated......For example...is anyone aware of what happened to some of the greatest horse ever in race history...Sent to slaughter. Yep. That was the thanks they got for winning their "ownwers" the big bucks. Not some quiet, green retirement for a loving thanks...but sent to slaughter...Same with show horses. They run out of their "worth" and off they go....No chance of adoption or someone giving them a forever home. Again, sad and pathetic. Certain individuals are not only greedy and heartless...but have no compassion what so ever on what all their animals have done for them and not asking for anything in return. Undying loyalty, forgiving and non judgmental....unconditional love to please their owners....And the thanks they get is death, starvation, abuse, torture and so forth...Just because they can not speak up or out and defenseless should not be the reason to do them as many have. Sickening to see the hats, champagne glasses and the dress up of phony people just to watch a race that can be also dangerous both to animal and ride. Horses sustain injury and many times their career is ended...Oh well, off to the slaughterhouse bring in another. This has to stop....There are other means of entertainment than to watch the downfall of beautifal animals. Which by the way, are gifts of God. And we do them they way we do...

Dennis said...

Because of what is at stake horse and even dog racing should be stopped/not allowed....It is the animals who are paying a price for human entertainment. This is not only sad but pathetic. Not just regarding the nurse mare concern, but the barbaric ways horses are treated......For example...is anyone aware of what happened to some of the greatest horse ever in race history...Sent to slaughter. Yep. That was the thanks they got for winning their "ownwers" the big bucks. Not some quiet, green retirement for a loving thanks...but sent to slaughter...Same with show horses. They run out of their "worth" and off they go....No chance of adoption or someone giving them a forever home. Again, sad and pathetic. Certain individuals are not only greedy and heartless...but have no compassion what so ever on what all their animals have done for them and not asking for anything in return. Undying loyalty, forgiving and non judgmental....unconditional love to please their owners....And the thanks they get is death, starvation, abuse, torture and so forth...Just because they can not speak up or out and defenseless should not be the reason to do them as many have. Sickening to see the hats, champagne glasses and the dress up of phony people just to watch a race that can be also dangerous both to animal and ride. Horses sustain injury and many times their career is ended...Oh well, off to the slaughterhouse bring in another. This has to stop....There are other means of entertainment than to watch the downfall of beautifal animals. Which by the way, are gifts of God. And we do them they way we do...

Dennis said...

Because of what is at stake horse and even dog racing should be stopped/not allowed....It is the animals who are paying a price for human entertainment. This is not only sad but pathetic. Not just regarding the nurse mare concern, but the barbaric ways horses are treated......For example...is anyone aware of what happened to some of the greatest horse ever in race history...Sent to slaughter. Yep. That was the thanks they got for winning their "ownwers" the big bucks. Not some quiet, green retirement for a loving thanks...but sent to slaughter...Same with show horses. They run out of their "worth" and off they go....No chance of adoption or someone giving them a forever home. Again, sad and pathetic. Certain individuals are not only greedy and heartless...but have no compassion what so ever on what all their animals have done for them and not asking for anything in return. Undying loyalty, forgiving and non judgmental....unconditional love to please their owners....And the thanks they get is death, starvation, abuse, torture and so forth...Just because they can not speak up or out and defenseless should not be the reason to do them as many have. Sickening to see the hats, champagne glasses and the dress up of phony people just to watch a race that can be also dangerous both to animal and ride. Horses sustain injury and many times their career is ended...Oh well, off to the slaughterhouse bring in another. This has to stop....There are other means of entertainment than to watch the downfall of beautifal animals. Which by the way, are gifts of God. And we do them they way we do...

redhorse said...

garden of,

They don't kill them for nothing, remember 5 or 6 years ago when the fashion industry was hot for "pony" skirts and purses ? Those were nurse foal skins. I'm glad I don't live anywhere near that rescue. Some of them look like they'll grow up to be nice riding horses.

KD said...

I just recently found out about nurse mares thru Stacey Westfall's blog and she gave a link to the Last Chance FB page. I've been trying to let people in my circle know, just like I have always tried to keep any women I knew off Premarin. Between this corporate indifference and a recent posting that someone's horses were injected with gasoline; I just don't know what to think. :-(

Becky said...

RedHorse: Obviously, when the time comes, you and I are gonna have to go in on a pair.

redhorse said...

Becky,

I rescued a foal 8 years ago, who wasn't weaned yet. His (Paint) breeders were going to take him to an auction where most buyers are kill buyers and it's half an hour to Canada. His sin was, he doesn't have enough white. I don't think he would have survived the trip to the slaughter house. After many trials and false starts, having my trainer die, breaking bones and tendons, turning 62, my foal is now 16 hands, muscular, athletic, and even more beautiful than Caspian (yes he is!). We have an understanding now, and I find him pretty easy to ride. I don't think I would ever do it again. But I'm really glad I don't live near there. I love babies, all babies, all species. I wish I could ship one to you.

LadyFarrier said...

Any futurity event. Any. ANY! Futurity event equals human greed. Period. I've lost clients over this. I currently work for a past AQHA president. They stated "Oh, we sent someone down to Mexico to inspect the slaughterhouses. They weren't that bad. I mean, what are you supposed to do with all those horses?..." That's pretty much a direct quote. They do NOT even see it and don't want to :( Im trying to use this as an opportunity to nudge someone in the right direction. Sigh.

Ive reached the point where frankly, I dont give a damn if I ruin some thoughtless person's Big Hat party. If I had the means I'd put a verrrry interesting display up on the big screen at the Kentucky Derby myself.

mugwump said...

LadyFarrier - I appreciate your passion. I'm just...tired. I try to do what's best by the animals that cross my path, and the people too. But I have so much trouble dealing with voluntary ignorance, hate, name calling, the amazing depths of cruelty I have seen, felt, experienced. It crumples me. At this point, all I've got, is the example I set. I try to make it a good one. Keep on nudging though, you're important

Unknown said...

I'm bloody glad that here in NZ the age date of horses 1 August - which means that its spring time (rather than the dead of winter) when the foals start hitting the ground. Also the mares are sent to the stud farms in foal and foal at the stud, so the foal stays on the mare.
We still have the issue of horses being started young etc, but the drug use is much more restricted here. There have been cases of top horses that had bleed being sent up to the US to race as the anti bleeding drugs are allowed there, while banned in NZ and Australia. The mare Lets Elope was one I remember doing this. I'm also glad we race on grass here, it's a much kinder surface than the ones in the US.

Bif said...

My friend has a Last Chance Corral nurse mare foal; he is very nice, raised with great manners, not mouthy at all. They do a wonderful job saving those they can.

It's horrible that they need to save any.

For those too far away, the milk replacement powder is very expensive and they use an awful lot, you can always donate :)

Anonymous said...

I'll dip my toe in here very carefully (background: I work at a TB racing stable in NZ and own two off the track standardbreds).

I am appalled to learn of the nurse mare phenomenon. I had no idea that existed. That video....it is sickening to me. I believe we have a similar thing here with dairy cows being put in calf to bring them into milk then induced, with the newborn calves either left to die or slaughtered.

I will say this about the place I work: all of our horses are rehomed or go back to their owners once they finish racing. ALL of them. We kept one mare for several months so that the injury that ended her career could heal ahead of her finding a home. At the moment our horses range in age between 2 (one of these, unraced, has trialed twice, turns three in August) and 8 years, with the oldest we've had retiring as a twelve year old. I don't usually have the nerve to watch races until I know that all of the horses in the field finish safely.

Ultimately, if you want to stop 2 year old racing, you have to make it uneconomic or regulate it out of existence (either is fine by me). It will not stop two year olds being trained, but they would thereby only race as three year olds. Two year old racing is a way for owners and breeders to get a quick return and does not lend itself to sound horses in the long term. It is about greed.

The racing industry produces thousands of horses each year that have (for whatever reason) reached the end of their racing careers. There will never be enough good homes for all of them, ever. The industry does not care about this at all. They just produce, and it is left to the rest of us to try and pick up the mess. Speaking from a NZ context, I would rather see some of them go to slaughter than see them neglected. It breaks my heart to say that.

foffmom said...

I guess because I live in Lexington I knew about the nurse mare practice. My beloved gelding is the offspring of a former nurse mare. Sweetest mare, Percheron, who was missing an eye. Apparently someone hit her with a baseball bat. I lost any interest in horse racing after Ruffian.
On a sillier note, my daughter sent me this link. I liked the fact that they were wearing helmets, and they were real riders and real horses. Couldn't figure out what the song had to do with riding, but that may be too much to ask.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUpUQz4USzU#t=25

foffmom said...

An addition or two.
Some nurse mare foals are adopted and bottle fed. An acquaintance did this. It doesn't justify the practice.
And as a horsewoman, think about what the phrase "bred back in the foal heat" means. It means a nursing mare is pulled away from her frantic foal to be trailered off the farm to be bred. I know of one mare who lost her eye when she freaked out, broke the tie and the catch ruptured her eye. The trauma this inflicts on the foal as well as the mare is rather amazing to me. The standard accepted cruelty is astonishing.

Bif said...

They do send mares to foal out where they're going to be next bred, or are bred nearby or at home farm. Statistically, nurse mare foals are the minority.

Veronica Underwood said...

I cannot get the image out of my head of that little filly walking with her handlers to the euthanasia stall...
I know it was necessary, but what a tragedy for everyone involved. The nurse made industry is a barbaric entity that would be completely unnecessary if the jockey club would get their heads out and allow artificial insemination.

LadyFarrier said...

AI is not the answer.

It just makes it easier to make more :(

And, Mugs, Im tired, too. But I will never give up. I'm fortunate to be good at what I do and well enough established that I dont have to work for anyone I dont want to work for. However, I realize that can be an easy way to surround oneself with like minded people and be even more isolated from the real world.

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