Marion Altieri

Mare is the visionary Partner, Editor and Radio Host for Alpha Mare Media. Mare is a New York State-licensed Thoroughbred owner. Her membership in NYTHA (New York Thoroughbred Horsewoman's [-men's] Association; NYTB (New York Thoroughbred Breeders; Thoroughbred Women, Ltd. and the Saratoga Thoroughbred Club all inspire, educate and contribute to her depth of knowledge of the breed and the Sport.

Her volunteer interests are all Thoroughbred-related, of course: she should probably get a hobby off the track, but there's just no time or interest. Her mantra is, "If it don't have four legs and a maneit ain't an athlete!"

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Rants and raves, one darned opinionated Broad--er, Woman--who loves Thoroughbreds; loves the sport; and freely expresses her exasperation. The Alpha Mare wants to see good things all around for everyone in horse racing, and will use her proverbial pen to start dialogues and perhaps even instigate a revolution or two...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

California Screamin’:  Ignorance + Denial = Death

I have had it. Officially done with stupidity, ignorance and complacency. There was a time when I tried to put my faith where my mouth was—occasionally—and attempted to show a little tenderness to people who didn’t deserve it.

No More Ms. Nice Guy: I’m angry as Hell, I’m packin’ heat—and I’m naming names. I’m up at an ungodly hour of the morning, writing this rant because I just saw something that sent me over the edge.

This video online (Yahoo! News) is about 100 horses being starved to death by their owners in California.

Not “just any” horses—these are Thoroughbreds. OUR Thoroughbreds. Every person who has a stake in Thoroughbred racing—whether you’re the breeder who made the horse; the owner, trainer, jockey, exercise rider, groom--or the bettor who makes money off their sweat—you are responsible for the welfare of our equine athletes. If you make your living from your involvement in the sport—you are responsible for their welfare. You can’t have the perks without the responsibilities: that’s a lesson we teach three-year-olds.

(No, I’m not kidding. There are all kinds of ways we can step up to the plate and take responsibility for the horses—it’s up to you to find your way, I can’t help you there.)

Back to the starving Thoroughbreds in California. Oh, let’s name names: they were/may still be—on Cochema Ranch in Frazier Valley, California. Owned by Cecilia Bor and her family, this Thoroughbred puppy mill is a member of California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association. Three of their stallions—General Gem, Giant Asset and Cat in the House—are listed in the 2008 CTBA Stallion Directory.

We must note here that Giant Asset’s pedigree is Affirmed, out of Nashua’s Frolic, a daughter of Nashua. This horse was no slouch.

Ah, yes: “was.” Giant’s Asset is dead. In 2006. Apparently of starvation. The other two are probably dead, too—just a wild guess. I tried to find them at Pedigree Query, but nothing beyond their pedigrees there. That awkward silence on the ‘site, when there’s no information about a horse. (“He, uh, ‘slipped through the cracks.’ Yeah, that’s it, he slipped through the cracks..”)

Responsible breeders and owners are happy to provide info to accompany their horses’ pedigrees. Ergo, it’s a good guess that, when a horse’s information is missing—the horse found its way to the killpen, starvation or some other unsavory end.

The story out of California is that a good citizen—and no doubt, horse lover—Patty Wallace—collected a stack of complaints about Cochema Ranch and the horses locked on that farm, starving to death and suffering from myriad unthinkable diseases and rot. Ms. Wallace handed over the stack of complaints to the local Humane Society, which apparently took its time getting investigators out there. So Patty called the Sheriff, who looked at the complaints and descended on the ranch.

That’s the only Good News of this piece: that someone (Patty Wallace) has a heart of compassion, and did something. And that the sheriff’s department got involved, and began removing horses from the clutches of the human vermin who owned them.

Now for the Bad News: not “news,” per se—just my observations. Now is the time to flip the channel or hang with me, pick one. I am livid. My eyes are practically filled with blood, as rage about this incident floods my heart and mind. I cannot fathom anyone—the Bors, the owners of Cochema Ranch—having 100 horses (Thoroughbred or other) and allowing them to starve to death. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for it. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Noyle.

If you have horses and you can’t afford to feed them—if life’s gone down the dumper and you can’t provide food, clean water, medicine and shelter for your horses—give them away. Hand them over to TRF or any of the myriad wonderful charities that will gladly find homes for them.

Stand on the roof of your house and scream, “HELP!” until someone comes to the rescue. But do not—DO NOT—tell me that you love your horses, yet you allowed them to rot like so many corpses in a Wes Craven film.

I don’t want to hear your excuses: “the price of gas is high.” “The price of hay is high.” “Feed is going through the roof.” “We love our horses, but…”

Clearly, the Bor family is nuts, simple-minded or both. No one with a decently-high IQ would allow this to happen, and actually go on record as saying, “We love our horses. They’re our children.” Cecilia Bor said that to a TV reporter. Obviously, Ms. Bor is either a liar or an idiot—there’s no middle ground.

The Mansons were a “family,” too.

Now for the Big Indictments: where is the CHRB and the CTBA in all this? The California Horse Racing Board—while a governing board that oversees the racing aspect of the industry—must surely have its eyes on the breeding operations in the state? And if not—why not?

And the California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association? To wag my finger at them and say, “Shame on you,” is not enough, clearly. Believe it or not, Cochema Ranch is actually a member of CTBA.

Those three stallions are listed in THIS year’s California Stallion Directory. Including the dead one.

Seems the California Thoroughbred Stallion Directory needs to hire a fact-checker.

The CTBA had under its nose at least one Thoroughbred breeding farm that was killing its horses by starving them to death—and either didn’t know it, or ignored the fact. Does no one from either CHRB or CTBA take a drive and do spot-checks on farms? Or was it so important to add the names of those three emaciated stallions to the roster of state-breds that they took the Bor’s membership fees and ran into that comfy state of denial?

At any rate, someone, somewhere, dropped the ball. 100 horses—including foals, mares in foal and stallions—have been starving to death on Cochema Ranch since at least 2006. These horses have been dropping like flies, too weak even to neigh, too discouraged to nicker. And some stupid, self-absorbed, money-grubbing pig of a human at every step along the way—either ignored or denied the plight of these horses.

Oh, I know that the pro-equicide people will say that Cochema Ranch is a good example of why America “needs” equicide (horse slaughter for money). That “unwanted” horses starve to death, so slaughter is the viable option. And that, as we know, is a load of crap—because, while the pro-slaughter people hold their thumbs and middle fingers together, chanting “Ohm” and “unwanted horses”—they know, as do you, that horses in the shape of those on Cochema Ranch aren’t “fit” enough to make it onto the killerbuyers’ trucks.

Think about that for a minute: these horses were too weak and sick to walk onto a slaughterhouse-bound truck—so even the killerbuyers, the scum-suckers of the Earth—wouldn’t take them.

(So the “unwanted horses” argument is invalid. Don’t send me a comment ranting about “unwanted horses” and why equicide would have been “better” for the Cochema horses. That’s non-sense, and you know it.)

Can you hear it? Can you smell the money in the air: Breeders’ Cup Season is upon us. For the next month, the industry will be fawning over the richest owners and breeders. Kabillion-dollar horses will do battle on the untested artificial surface of Santa Anita. Wealthy women with way-too much money will don Versace and Prada, their men proudly displaying their fillies—and their horses. Conspicuous consumption will mark the party to which the masses are not invited, the soiree for those who can afford the best caviar, champagne and feed.

Rome burns. Nero fiddles. 100 miles away from the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita—100 horses are dead or dying. One-hundred miles, 100 Thoroughbreds—children of Affirmed, grands of Seattle Slew—call out to the California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and California Horse Racing Board. Their cries are drowned out by the sound of All That Money flapping in the breeze at Santa Anita.

The two governing bodies whose responsibility it was to oversee breeding farms in the state of California have failed miserably. I cannot be convinced that they didn’t know this was going on: the chain of evidence from two years ago indicates that the first reports—when Giant Asset was found starved to death—had to have gone straight from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to the CHRB. There is no valid reason why, two years later, Cochema Ranch is still in existence, the Bors locked in a Cal State detention barn.

If every Thoroughbred farm in California offered to take, love, nurture and feed just ONE of these horses—the problem would be solved. But I’m sure it won’t happen, because there’s no money to be made on a sack of bones that was once a racehorse. The only reward to stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility is the knowledge that you did The Right Thing.

Shame on you, CHRB and CTBA, for expending every ounce of energy, money and attention to those two days at the end of October—and for ignoring 100 of your own charges, suffering for over two years.

You Thoroughbred “experts” haven’t stepped up to the plate—I am ashamed to be in the same sport as you. You don’t deserve your fat jobs overseeing the California Thoroughbred industry—and 100 horses don’t deserve to die for YOUR sins.

Written by Marion (Mare) Altieri

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