Monday, January 09, 2012
Let’s Resolve To Do More
SALEM, New Hampshire, January 8, 2012--Exceller. Ferdinand. Sadly, we all know the horrible and cruel fate that these two noble racehorses, one a Hall of Famer and the other a Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, met in a slaughterhouse. How many more whose names we don’t know or remember have met a similarly tragic end?
The answer is estimated to be in the high hundreds of thousands. No matter the tally, it is far too many. And how many others, from champions to cheap claimers, have endured abuse, neglect, abandonment, pain, suffering and starvation once they were too slow, too old or too injured to run?
Again, the answer is more than we care to know.
And that’s unacceptable.
They give us so much and ask for so little in return.
In recent years, the industry has recognized that it was facing an enormous and ever-growing problem, exacerbated by these tough economic times, and has rallied to the cause. For this a great deal of credit is deserved.
Racetracks across the country, with Suffolk Downs at the lead, have instituted “Zero Tolerance” policies designed to protect the horses on the backstretch and keep the killers from literally getting their hooks and other implements of torture into them.
Many wonderful aftercare programs, like Michael Blowens’ Old Friends farms in Kentucky and New York, provide a dignified and lovely retirement home for Thoroughbreds. The Illinois Equine Humane Center, run by the tireless Gail Vacca, is only one of many dedicated facilities across the country providing shelter, kindness and veterinary care until good and safe adoptive homes are found for horses no longer wanted or affordable.
As detailed in a recent Forbes Magazine article by Teresa Genaro, racetracks are partnering with aftercare organizations similar to the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoptive Program and a percentage of purse money at other tracks is being allocated to retirement, rescue, retraining and re-homing.
At the NYRA tracks, jockeys donate $1 from every mount; the Jockey Club has its check-off program for owners and breeders to donate to their horses’ aftercare; Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs operation has instituted its individual retirement program; and Blue Horse Charities, funded by the buyers and sellers at Fasig-Tipton auctions and supported with matching funds from the company, contributes to the care of horses once they become unwanted. On a national basis, the NTRA has stepped up and instituted its humane aftercare program and the HBPA and other horsemen’s groups have come to the fore.
While these and many other programs are all laudatory endeavors and are helping to alleviate the intolerable suffering of racehorses, they are simply not enough.
Whether we’re involved in the breeding or racing side of the business; own, manage, or are gainfully employed by a racetrack that stages the show; put our money through the windows; wax poetically from the press box; or simply watch a Triple Crown race on TV once a year, we all can and must do more to help the horses.
While we all don’t have the resources, the facilities, or even the time to adopt a racehorse, we can still do something. Whether we write a check, volunteer our time, buy a bag of feed, spread the word, or do whatever is within our means, every contribution- no matter how big or how small- is significant and helps much more than is realized.
Please contact any of the organizations named above or any other of your choice.
No, we can’t save every horse in need, but surely we can help some. And that helps the entire industry.