Getting a Handle on After Care - By Gary Biszantz

(Originally published in the February 12, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)    

With great interest I read a recent letter to the editor stating one horseman’s opinion of how to handle unwanted horses (The Blood-Horse of Dec. 25/Jan. 1, page 3832). His reasoning was logical and reminded me of so many people who elegantly tell you about a problem but most times can’t be creative on how to fix it.

I don’t think death is the answer.

The Thoroughbred industry for many years has overlooked after care of these great athletes we watch and that bring us great excitement and thrills. When many of these fine horses can no longer perform, they are often treated like objects to be quickly discarded. Euthanasia or slaughter becomes the quickest and least-costly solution.

Is there a better way?

I think so, and it doesn’t take more committees or meetings to discuss the situation.

Takeout on wagering handle as extracted by the tracks and uncashed pari-mutuel tickets give us numerous opportunities to take a very small percentage of these funds and place them in escrow accounts. At year’s end these funds could be distributed to accredited retirement and rehabilitation farms all over the U.S. that want to take care of the horse and desperately need funding.

“Accredited” farms means what the word implies—adequate facilities, vet care, feed, shelter, and proper care of the animal. We have hundreds of farms today all over the country that meet these quality standards and they need funding.

For more than 11 years Tranquility Farm in California has cared for more than 1,000 horses, many of which were adopted out for second careers. Some had to be euthanized, and all quality horsemen know when death is warranted and appropriate. However, too many horses have gone to slaughter simply for the sake of saving money when they could have sustained meaningful lives.

Many owners, like myself, don’t believe we can ever achieve major league sport status and the public’s trust if we continue to kill these fine athletes that the public comes to see perform.

The gentleman who expressed his opinion that most Thoroughbred owners can’t afford the long-term care for retired horses is correct. Certainly some can, as we have done at Tranquility. However, the accuracy of his opinion is no justification when a small percentage of handle or uncashed tickets could create substantial funds that retirement and rehabilitation farms all over America desperately need.

Let’s rid ourselves of the killer buyers at the tracks who buy flesh for profit, and let’s punish those people who sell to these buyers. The Thoroughbred horse deserves a better and brighter future than the slaughterhouse offers. I know we can do better; we do it at Tranquility Farm.

It is not easy, however.

I applaud the states, and tracks such as Suffolk Downs, that have taken action to protect the horse. I urge all state racing associations to get active and aggressive in finding ways to support needed funding.

I urge all the well-intentioned committee members who meet annually to address the unwanted horse problem, to do so, not with conversation but with action. There is a remedy; it just needs funding so that lots of fine animals will get second careers and better lives before death. Anything is possible if you try hard enough.

Gary Biszantz is owner of Cobra Farm and former chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

69 Comments

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Rita

This is a wonderful idea, very simple.  I pray that it would be considered. These are hard working horses & they need some type of pension fund, social security for their future that they so rightly deserve.  I mean REALLY.

Rita  

08 Feb 2011 2:30 PM
mydora

this is a first rate article and I wish owners that can afford to help do - I love the horse always have - I contribute to Tranquility farm when I can - they are doing a wonderful job.

Mr. Biszantz thank you and I hope and pray they listen to you your idea about uncashed tickets is wonderful.

Thank you again.

08 Feb 2011 2:31 PM
rams2050

What a wonderful idea!  

All too many owners are too quick to take the easy way out, even when horses have earned close to a million dollars for them.  

There is NO WAY that a horse of that caliber should ever have had to fear being euthanized because no one 'had the money' to care for him.

What this writer has suggested makes wonderful sense and I believe the public -- and horse lovers everywhere -- would greatly admire a sport that put at least some of its money where its mouth is and cared for these fantastic athletes who have done so much during their careers to entertain -- and enrichen us.

08 Feb 2011 2:34 PM
Tom Baxter

Wonderful to hear a man of Mr. Biszantz' stature support such a critical issue. There are ALWAYS solutions available if the effort is made. The Thoroughbred

retirement and rehab organizations do a great job, and could do so much more with adequate resources.

Great ideas. Thank you for the article.

08 Feb 2011 2:53 PM
LM

Beautifully said Mr. Biszantz!  Your point that this "sport" will never gain widespread acceptance is so true.  The public knows what happens to too many thoroughbreds and they're not ever going to support a business that treats these animals so poorly.  Whether that means break downs, drugs or a last horrific trip to the slaughterhouse!

Until this industry joins together with the purpose to DO RIGHT by these horses, this industry will continue to decline.  

I'm sure it's very frustrating for you personally, to see so many owners and breeders look the other way when a horse they either owned or currently own is no longer of "use".  You have been an excellent example of a RESPONSIBLE OWNER! Unfortunately, you're an exception and we need more people in this industry to PROVE the horse matters, not just SAY the horse matters.  Thank you for your efforts.

08 Feb 2011 2:55 PM
sceptre

Well said, and I applaud your ideas and concern. Would be interested in hearing more about the accreditation process, and what, if any, oversight exists. I also feel that the states, who profit from horse racing, should be "pressured" to contribute to such a fund. Money and land are the most critical needs.

08 Feb 2011 3:13 PM
tasha0927

Well said. Another idea would be to increase the registration fee for each individual horse, with that money going directly to that horse upon retirment. This additional fee could be added when the animal is named or before it races for the first time. Racing needs to protect its stars before it's gone forever.

08 Feb 2011 3:23 PM
derbyfan

I still can't get over what happened to Ferdinand.  He made over 5mill and slaughter was his just reward.  Shame on his owners. They should have to spend the day at a slaughterhouse.  Every year there are at least 30,000 thoroughbreds born in the USA.  Why  do they have to breed so many horses that end up with no home.  Maybe less breeding would help the situation.

08 Feb 2011 3:40 PM
Gia

People in the horse racing industry need to look at what has and is happending to greyhound racing.  When people found out that these poor greyhounds were disposed of many times before they even turned 2 years old just because they were poor performers and that most all of the dogs are retired at 5 and for years were just killed, many in very inhumane ways, greyhound racing has become almost an embarassment to any state that still permits it.  If horse racing does not clean up their act when it comes to retired horses,it too will fall the way of greyhound racing.  The industries can no longer hide the shameful part of these sports, so things either have to change or ???.  Get more of the public involved in rescue organizations by publizing adoption opprotunities regularily are part of the race programs and on television, radio ect.  If people are encouraged to adopt some of the retired racers, they will, that's how I adopted by 2 exracer greyhounds -- take a cue from the greyhound rescue/adoption organization, most of them have an excellent tack record of educating the public and adopting out huge numbers of exracers, but they are out there in their communutied every day and all of us who adopt these exraces and spokepersons and we really get the word out.  

08 Feb 2011 3:43 PM
JTB

Mr Biszantz solution is perfect. Unfortunately after housing horses for the "rescues" for more than 11 years, I want it to be known that the

majority 'rescues" do not and will not properly care nor provide for these horses. Granted there are exceptions to every organization. I applaud many. CA has become an example for other States to follow.

08 Feb 2011 3:54 PM
JTB

OUR EXPERIENCE: We were forced to absorb cost when there was no margin of profit. Nor did we expect to profit. We donated our labor our passion everyday. We maintained a level of care the horses deserved.

We went unpaid, over $25,000.

08 Feb 2011 3:57 PM
JTB

Because we could no longer provide them with food, water, shelter, electricity, and manage pastures and equipment for less that the cost of care of the horses. Feed and Hay increasing, and an organization that wanted to decrease the meager fee they paid us to provide for the horses.

08 Feb 2011 4:00 PM
JTB

Horses that had resided together for 10 plus years were sorted loaded, moved, and moved again. Many aging, and in need of a trained eye to monitor their health. They were sent away from proper veterinary care, because the organization had mismanaged their funding.  

08 Feb 2011 4:03 PM
janet anderson

Thank U for UR article....when the majority of owners believe this...they alone can make this happen... if U made money on these horses, U owe them..PERIOD !!!

08 Feb 2011 5:19 PM
Rescue Me

Another novel and credible idea would be to mandate that $5 from the winner of EVERY race be donated into an escrow account to be distributed at the end of the year to these same TB facilities caring for ex-racers...the problems is too many are quick to rush off to the breeding shed and too many connections are too greedy for even that $5 measly dollars when who knows maybe that $5 will care for  ahorse they discarded themselves someday! Each winning purse, whether $2500 or $250,000 should MANDATE a minimum $5 donation to an Escrow account for the exact same purpose. If they would also quit breeding mid level and only breed on the upper level the darn sport and industry wouldn't be nearly as flooded as it is!! When they wake up is anyone's guess!

$1 (or even one quarter) from EVERY paid admission at EVERY track could also be donated but like the connections, most tracks are greedy too!

08 Feb 2011 5:49 PM
Gonzalez

derbyfan,

You are showing your ignorance. Ferdinand earned  $3,777,978 on the track.  You have no idea what he earned at stud.

His owners had nothing to do with his unfortunate demise.

In an ideal world less breeding would help the overpopulation problem, but how do you propose it should be regulated?

Last time I looked this is a free country.

08 Feb 2011 5:59 PM
DH Fisch

It sure would be great if they could add a fee to the foal registration with the JC and this could go to helping fund these rescues. How many TB foals were registered last yr. 40,000?  

08 Feb 2011 6:55 PM
Mike Relva

GONZALEZ

You stated his owners weren't responsible,who was? Do you think he should have ended up that way? I don't!

08 Feb 2011 9:53 PM
erhrdt3

Wonderful that someone has a great idea and has the media to get it out! Thank you! I have complained as much as I can about this problem on every racing forum, racing websites, everywhere, about this situation! I say take your idea about the tix, then take a scaled percentage from the winners of races. The smaller races, smaller percentages, the huge races, much bigger percentages. The multi-millionaires that own these big time horses would not miss it anyway! And I also agree with all of you re: the quick trip to stud by any 3 year old colt that wins a darn race. ENOUGH ALREADY! TOO MUCH BREEDING! Everyone out there is claiming their stallion is the next Seattle Slew or Mr. Prospector, etc. but guess what? They're not. I am against breeding mares year after year after year, as I have been known to complain about what is about to happen to Zenyatta. She does what she does for the industry only to be turned into a breeding machine. The big, billionaire-owned farms also need to start kicking in towards the retirement of the horses that are the outcome once you breed your mares to their "super star" studs; not every one is going to be a Zenyatta, etc. There IS money out there for these majestic horses, winners or not, they run their hearts out for these people, & then a trip to die is what they get?! This industry is in big, big trouble because this is the first thing that folks who speak about racing seem to bring up. It needs a big fix, and I mean NOW! So, money making betting parlors, owners, BREEDERS, open those pockets because you owe these horses their day in the sun, not in a slaughterhouse.

Thank you again for writing about this, you are wonderful for what you do at Tranquility. Every state should be mandated to have these farms. There is plenty of farmland to be had as well. There are hundreds of farms just in the Lexington area alone that have been for sale for years. Some are boarding, some vacant. What a waste of land that could be used for these beautiful, deserving horses.

09 Feb 2011 6:28 AM
Brummer

The answer to taking care of thoroughbreds can be as simple as mandating a 1% takeout, possibly less, of all wagers be set aside for their care.

Santa Anita is pushing for an increase of a couple percentage points on exotic wagers.  But that's to increase their own profit nothing for the horses.  I don't think our bettors would react the same at all if 1% of the betting pool was used to fund retirement for the horses.

09 Feb 2011 6:56 AM
karen williams

I cant even bear to watch anything on the great horse Ferdinand and I dont care if he made 3 million or 5 million he should not have been thrown away..there is going to be a story on him Sun nite; I wont be watching hurts too much...I try to contribute to Old Friends and I just made a contribution to save HOTSTUFFTHENSOME....thesewealthy owners/breeders need  to rise up and do the right thing by these horses that gave of themselves and made many of these people richer; maybe they could have some kinds of tax  that so much of it will  go for the care of  these wonderful horses when they can no longer race..I am keeping my fingers crossed and watching for CHARISMATIC to come back from Japan; I hope he will not end up slaughtered over there.....  

09 Feb 2011 7:57 AM
Cc

WRONG Gonzalez.  If you are the owner you are the only one ultimately responsible for your horse's well-being and care. That's your job as owner.  Saying they are not responsible is irresponsible at best.

09 Feb 2011 8:30 AM
racefund girl

great ideas and compassionate article. Truth be known, the horses deserve a % of purse money every day at every track for aftercare. They run for their lives and are broken down and thrown away. They should be first to get a percentage of purse money for long term care. www.racefund.org

09 Feb 2011 8:47 AM
Pasadena

Leave the government out of it!  You know how that goes.  But it is a simple, great idea that the industry that implement on their own and should.

09 Feb 2011 9:07 AM
Casey

It should not have to be up to owners and fans to have to push excellent ideas like Mr. Biszantz's to racetracks in order to see any parimutuel money go towards retirement programs. Racetracks should see the value of these ideas and implement them solely on the basis that they improve racing's image and may comfort the new or concerned bettor.

09 Feb 2011 9:28 AM
Pedigree Ann

Ferdinand and Exceller were excellent stayers who sired the same, which means that they had no market for their offspring in the US. Selling them to reputable studs overseas made sense, since those countries race at real classic distances. It was those overseas studs that were responsible for disposing of the stallions in a way that made sense to them in their cultures but we Americans found horrific. The racing owners knew nothing about the fate of their champions until after the fact; they thought that the horses were placed in situations where they would be pensioned when they ceased to be viable stallions, as they would have provided for had the horses stayed in the States. US fans only found out about Ferdinand's fate because a member of the Keck family inquired about having him returned to the US since his stallion career had not been any better in Japan than in the US.

09 Feb 2011 9:47 AM
Cris

So it will be clear as glass at the very start of a horses life we should impose a fee to the breeder who started this life and is the most responsible at that point. This fee should cover the humane disposal of the horse. If he is a low level claimer or a KY derby winner it should not matter with what care they are given. They should all be treated with respect.

This fee is recorded on their papers and they are microchiped so if at a sale without their papers this fact can be easily checked. Once found the horse should be shipped to a retired horse farm that every state with a racetrack should have funded by the betting done at that track. The care they get should be from the retired grooms who also spend their lives taking care of these animals only to leave the sport with nothing. They are as deposible as the horses, only they don't go to slaughter. They could have decent housing and a doctor on staff with the vet. The rescues don't work well because they are attempting to solve a huge job with unpaid help. Many mean well but they can't handle in many cases a race horse. If the horse is too old or injuried to be content the breeders fee pays for his humane death. If the animal can adapt he has the same standard of care he received when he was running. All are accepted. Everyone has a forever home. The gambling money pays for it all. The retirement accepts visitors and

holds horse shows for the general public. I am attempting just such a program in the next year and am filing for a 501-c3 now. All horses deserve a decent ending with caring people around. All people do too.

09 Feb 2011 9:51 AM
LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

It starts with the horse, it continues with the horse, it ends with the horse.  None of any of the sport would be without the horse.

It should always be about the horse, please, please, protect these wonderful beautiful creatures and let them live all their years in dignity!

09 Feb 2011 10:18 AM
Mike Relva

Cc

Well said and I agree a hundred per cent. Some don't get it!

09 Feb 2011 10:51 AM
CDR

The buck does stop right with the owner.  Exceller and Ferdinand. Those two names stand out.  If the owners weren't responsible there, then who was.  All the money they made and when their stud careers didn't turn out so well, where did they land Sweden and Japan.  Were their any provisions made for them to come home.  NONE.  All these bright stars of the present - I am sure 15-20 years from now, a percentage of them will be sent to slaughter even with the watchful eye of the people from the rescues trying to do as much as they can.  Remember Azeri and how we all waited to see her next race - guess where she is - Japan.  Owners die, trusts take over and people forget and then even an Azeri can slip through a crack.  I am sure many things in Japan are different now.

I am also sure the clauses in the new contracts that these horses be sent home at the end of their careers has a great deal to do with that.  

09 Feb 2011 10:55 AM
Mike Relva

KAREN WILLIAMS

Good points,I feel the same way about watching anything about him. I'm over 4 hrs from Old Friends and I've donated as well and visit there couple times a yr was there last fall. Charismatic's son is currently at OF.

09 Feb 2011 10:55 AM
Truth

all of these are good ideas.  and all of them should be implemented:  a breeding fee; a registration fee; a purse fee; a gambling fee; an admission fee, etc.  a little bit from all of the above would add up to a nice pot.  there is a thoroughbred retirement fund.  so the money could go into that and then be distributed among the TB rescue organizations.  an accredidation system should also be set up so that monies would only go to those rescuse that are accredited.  that way, there is some ensurance that retired tbs going to these farms will be properly taken care of and retrained for other careers.  i also would like to see racetracks host retired tb activities other than racing at the tracks.  patrons would have the opportunity to see retired tbs participating in other sports beyond racing -- such as dressage, eventing, western, polo, etc.  for many people, seeing retired tbs excelling in other sports and having a life after racing would entice them to partake in racing activities. it would be a start in shedding a positive light on the industry.

09 Feb 2011 12:04 PM
MikeM

I can count on one hand the number of owners that becoe rich from owning race horses.Owners do not have the responsibility to care for a horse for life. If you own the horse when he is retired then it is the owners resposibility to do the best that he can to find a good home for him. And while we're at it how about Vet's, feed companies,jocks,state and local govenments do their share.

09 Feb 2011 12:30 PM
Merry

YES YES YES - this is the action the industry needs to take so that fans know that there is everything being done for the horses.  It only grows the industry.  All over facebook are animal rescuers who pull from the kill pens and frantically look for homes.  I love seeing a horse run, and don't bet.  But I would bet if I knew that a percentage of my losses went to the horses care and those farms that are in it not for the money but for the hard work and rewarding life.

09 Feb 2011 12:58 PM
Karen in Indiana

If the sport depended on fans, there would be no issue of what to do with unwanted horses. Fans would have pushed a solution already. Unfortunately for the horse, too many of the supporters are gamblers who happen to gamble on horses. As far as they are concerned, there is no problem watching a horse drop down the ranks of claiming races until they disappear. You are absolutely correct - this sport will never attract major sports status while it allows its athletes to be killed because it is no longer convenient to keep them. How would people react if we started talking about euthanizing the jockeys when their career is over? The gambler mentality has a place, but the fan mentality has a place as well. They both need to be allowed to function where they are most beneficial if the sport is to continue.

09 Feb 2011 1:05 PM
darlene

Throughbred race  horse owners need to step up and be resonsable for these beautiful animals regardless if they won or lost on the track they all need to be taken care of They should provide a home or make sure these horses are ok after they leave the track.  

09 Feb 2011 1:13 PM
Kingfish

I am a fan of Ann & Jerry Moss based on two events -

1) Zenyatta

2) Ruhlmann

Ruhlmann's original owners, Jerry and Ann Moss donated Ruhlmann to Old Friends in 2005 under an endowment.

09 Feb 2011 1:37 PM
Soldier Course

On another thread in the Blog Stable a few months ago, I proposed setting up a guardian program for Thoroughbred racehorses.

This program would be manned by volunteer guardians, serving without compensation. When a horse is registered with the Jockey Club, a guardian would be appointed for that horse. The guardian would communicate with the horse's various owners and trainers to keep abreast of his whereabouts and general welfare. Owners and trainers would have to inform the guardian of any transfers in ownership.

The goal of this program would be to avoid those "cracks" that so many Thoroughbreds have slipped through for want of effective communication. Using Ferdinand's case as an example, his Japanese owners could have notified the guardian of the horse's straitened circumstances. I have no doubt that that one communication would have set in motion a massive and successful effort to bring Ferdinand home to a compassionate retirement.  

09 Feb 2011 2:35 PM
quarterhossgal

The care of the horse is the owners rsponsibility. As an owner of Quarter Horses any horse I sell goes with a guarantee buy back on his papers if the horse is injured or unable to compete in the area he was trained I will buy them back and retire them on my place with full care and dignity. I choose to breed the mare so I am the one that owes the horse.  Racing has other options such as the ones mentioned in the article. There are ways to solve the problem, people need to be responsible. Everyone that is the owner of a horse should not consider them disposable but a living breathing creature that deserves our care. There have been many other top race horses that have lost their lives as Ferdinand

did,  we just were not made aware of their deaths.

09 Feb 2011 4:29 PM
Horse Owner in MO

No matter how much our hearts are involved, it's all about the money.

It takes money to breed, money to foal, money to raise, money to feed, to train, to race, to compete on in any event (it's not just racehorses that are suffering, all horses are subject to inadequate care)and money for maintenance after the animal is no longer sound enough to perform....and finally, money to dispose of.....I live in a state that probably abuses more animals and varmints and horses than any other....and why?  Money....nobody has any money, but they want that horse, and then when they can't afford to feed it, they leave it to starve, and horses can starve for YEARS.....but nobody has the stones to consider end of life measures...you've seen the rescue ads...really, what quality of life does a 26 year old blind draft mare really have?  How many can we pay for?   Stop breeding and stop trying to save them all....maybe we should consider offering better Hospice care, a euthanasia service, FREE, instead of trying to keep them all alive.

09 Feb 2011 5:17 PM
horse lover

States are trying to re open slaughter houses again.We should all fight this with everything we have and see to it that no horse is ever transported out of the states for slaughter either.It has to stop..Fight,fight,fight to not let this start up in the U S again and ban them being sent anywhere to be killed.They want to round up the wild horses and send them to slaughter again.HAVE A HEART FIND YOUR SOUL.

09 Feb 2011 5:38 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Should we have an "Adopt An Ex-Racer" day at the track? Sell raffle tickets to see who could win a retired stakes winning gelding? Offer an "Ornament for Your Field" adoption rebate for a horse that can not be ridden? These all sound like fun but how many people can really provide adequate care for a horse for another 20+ years? Especially if that horse can not be ridden but still requires corrective shoeing every 6-8 weeks. The reality is more like 10,000 horses needing a home. 1,000 homes available. Even dressage, hunter/jumper, and combined training barns don't often have the room, time and resources to bring in more than one project horse a year.

As anyone who has owned horses knows, the initial investment is nothing compared to the cost of keeping a horse. So really, just finding someone to take a horse home isn't always the best option. Most people don't realize how much work it is 7 days a week to keep a horse.

Almost every little girl dreams of a horse of her own. Wouldn't it be great to give a OTTB to every little girl? I personally wouldn't trust a 10 year old girl with training any horse. That's just a tall order. Also, the majority of the little girls scatter from the horse scene when boys and college enter the picture. It's sometimes difficult to find a home within a show barn for a kids show horse.

As a veteranarian once told me; It costs just as much money to feed a bad one as it does a good one.

But then, we are back to the question of... what do we do with the excess? I wish I could take them all but I can't.

09 Feb 2011 6:38 PM
LauraJ

I personally know several people who love horses, but will not go to a racetrack because they feel that attending makes them complicit in the slaughter of TBs. Every thoroughbred that is sent to slaughter is another nail in the coffin of the industry.

Please let's not forget that horses of other breeds need help too. Slaughter is just as horrific for them.

09 Feb 2011 8:23 PM
Derblin

I am upset to read about the death of the broodmare Daijin who was euthanized after not recovering from a C Section.  Yes a C section to save the foal.  She was uubreedable for a few years but they patched her up only to be put her through the rigors of a dangerous pregnancy.  She had to be up in the years.  Reminds me of the Derby winner Winning Colors dying at age 23 while foaling.  These mares are only worth living for one thing. If Zenyatta doesnt turn out to be a breeding machine, may she at least live a good life on the Moss's farm. Others arent so lucky

09 Feb 2011 9:40 PM
Dawn in MN

I do not have any original ideas or suggestions, I have read this article and the comments.  I have read many previous and similar articles and comments.  

I have to admit that I am ashamed to tell people that I love this sport.  I see the look that comes across their faces when I mention my love of Thoroughbred racing.  I honestly answer the question of what happens to the horses after their racing careers are over.  +

It is very true that the demise of the sport is directly related to the quality of care the horses receive after their racing careers.  I agree that there are many, many avenues to generate the money needed to provide homes for the horses.  I agree that there should be a humane euthanasia fund.  

I naively supported the ban on slaughter in the U.S.  The transport of horses to Canadian and Mexican slaughter houses is the disasterous outcome.  I believe it would be better to humanely euthanize the horses that are not healthy enough to have a second chance, at the track or close to it, than to subject them to the end of life that many of them meet now.

Wouldn't it be nice if they could all be retired and cared for?  It won't happen, the number of Thoroughbred horses in need is just too great.  I like Cris' idea about providing jobs for grooms who are ready to leave the track.  There are so many good ideas here, and so many of them were previously suggested in other previous and similar articles and comments.  

The kill buyers need to be kept away from the Thoroughbreds, unless nobody cares whether or not the sport goes the way of Greyhound racing.

It isn't just the Thoroughbred horses that are being slaughtered.  If Thoroughbred racing can clean up their act it will set an example for the rest of the breeds, and create a model for horse owners and their horses everywhere.

Just do it.  

10 Feb 2011 6:08 AM
David

So many issues stem from a fundamental aspect about Racing – far too many horses are bred to participate in far too many races at far too many tracks.  The dynamics of just how and why this continues to happen include greed, alternative gaming, state border wars, horsemen unions, influence from wealthy owners and breeders and more.  The law of diminishing returns rules Racing and current demand cannot possibly support the amount of supply.  An unintended consequence of all this is the issue Mr. Biszantz addresses.  He as usual offers a solution to a problem.  I wish there more Gary’s out there, however, to solve the supply issue that created the problem in the first place.  

10 Feb 2011 10:07 AM
MyBigRed

HRTV is running the story of Ferdinand this Sunday, Feb 13th at 8:30 pm est. PLEASE WATCH IT!!

I am a proud supporter of Tranquility Farms, Old Friends and New Vocations. I barely make $13,000. a year, but I donate all I can to help the horses. WHY ?? Because I have a compassionate heart, & I want to help the horses have a safe & loving home.  

10 Feb 2011 11:16 AM
Soldier Course

Derblin:

And there was Lady's Secret, who died from complications of foaling in 2003, at the age of twenty-one. As a broodmare, Lady's Secret showed early on that she was unlikely to replicate herself in her offspring. So what was the point of continuing to breed this poor mare? Didn't the daughter of Secretariat deserve a dignified dotage?

10 Feb 2011 12:33 PM
fly

While all these comments and suggestions may have merit,mankind hasn't even solved what to with their own unwanted children,homeless,and elderly much less animals.

10 Feb 2011 1:28 PM
Dr. Richards

Well said Mr. Bizantz. May I suggest you and others look at the Kentucky Equine Humane Center located in Lexington as a very good model of one way to deal with the explosion of unwanted horses when their careers are over. I believe they were just awarded high honors from the Thoroughbred Charities of America for their work. Excellent organization. They're on to something the rest of us could learn from.

Continue the good work.

10 Feb 2011 1:34 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Derblin, I understand your point about Daijin, her problematic foaling history and the perpetual overbreeding in the horse industry.  Maybe a horse with foaling problems like what Daijin experienced shouldn't be bred. However, Daijin was a stakes winner and producer so she is what the industry loves to reproduce; Winners to winners to make more winners. Her owners and vet thought it would be safest to perform a C section. Daijin had to be euthanized because of severe colic which was probably related to the foaling or C section surgery. Both foaling and surgery can trigger colic. Unfortunately, like laminitis, horses can colic from a vast variety of reasons and some horses are more prone to colic than others. Horses are so tough and yet fragile at the same time.

The only reason Daijin's death was reported is because she was a stakes winner who produced a stakes winner. The vast majority of broodmare deaths go unnoticed outside of the farm. This is not unlike the latest celebrity/politician brush with the law or death for us humans.

10 Feb 2011 2:03 PM
JlM

I agree with Mr. BizantZ. However, there is something that I think that needs to be addressed.  How about all these trainers that claim horses and all of sudden they are famous and have won graded stakes.  What is heart breaking is to then see them in the claiming ranks again. I have seen this time and time again.  These owners made a lot of money with them, it is time to see them give back instead of looking to claim a horse.  Why not put the horse on the farm with some of the earnings that he made.  p.s tired of seeing horses running for $2500 or less after they have made hundreds of thousands.  You claimers know ho you are.

10 Feb 2011 5:33 PM
slee

This statement in the article:

Some had to be euthanized, and all quality horsemen know when death is warranted and appropriate.

has a great, if sad, truth behind it.  I support Old Friends, too, and all my cats and dogs are rescues.  The people who put their time, money, effort, skill and love into rescue are saints.  But one of the hardest things they need to do is also one of the best - "know when death is warranted" - put an animal down when their quality of life is too low.

I was called the other day by a rescue group I work with and they're trying to raise $10,000 for an operation to TRY to save 1 house pet.  I don't doubt the heart or special nature of this pet, but at some point it becomes better (and I use that word cautiously) to let one animal go in order to save dozens of others.

A cousin of mine has a retired t-bred and while he's a good looking gelding and nice to be around, he's "pasture candy" because his legs are so bad he can never be ridden again.  She loves him and he's safe there forever, but she wonders if spending thousands of dollars on his care every year to keep him pain-free enough to wander the pasture would be better spent on 2 healthy horses instead.

There are many questions to be answered here, and we can answer them best by keeping the channels of communication open between breeders, owners, officials, rescue groups and fans.  Love of the breed lives on in many of us - let's use that as common ground to solve the biggest problems.

10 Feb 2011 6:36 PM
diastu

The owners - all of them through the chain of a horse's life - are responsible to step up. If you own a TB that is on the track, you have more money than I do, and yet, I send hundreds to rescues every year because I feel I have to do SOMETHING! And stop overbreeding. When I read in an add that so-an-so stallion covered 125 mares in this hemisphere and 120 more in the southern hemisphere, I cringe! I feel sick to my stomach. When I read of a 20-something mare being bred - again instead of being pensioned, I feel like throwing up. The insanity has got to stop. 30,000 TBs a year is criminal.

10 Feb 2011 8:53 PM
Brett

I think this is a wonderful idea.  If someone has already shared this opinion, I am sorry, but I think it will not only help the horses, but I also believe it could benefit the Casinos as people might make an extra bet or two just for the love of horses and to feel as though they have contributed to these farms.

10 Feb 2011 10:39 PM
James

As an owner and breeder I can personally say I own and care for every racehorse I have ever owned. I have purchased a farm for their care. I would love to donate my facility to retire horses however I am afraid of what might happen if the money runs out and I am unable to feed 20 unwanted horses,  therefore I am not able to do so.

I have over the past 20 years offered suggestions such as:

A registration fee and escrow account for every horse bred.

An escrow account paid to every horse entered in a race.

A tracking system by the jockey club for every horse for its' entire lifetime.

Responsible breeding principles.

An adoption day at the races, to prescreened individuals.

Unfortunately most of these ideas fall on deaf ears as the problem is still being discussed. It is a shame.

When owners and trainers can dump horses right off the backstretch at Los Alamitos most nights and at the end of Del Mar it turns my stomach. When owners breed hundreds of inferior horses so the horse can carry their last name, then get caught dumping horses to the killers without a slap on the hand it says volumes of what the industry really thinks of the horses. When trainers drop a filly in class and they breakdown yet no discipline is given it tries your spirit. When prominent owners film a commercial during the Breeders Cup and are asked what their favorite horse is and a week later that horse is sold to Japan it breaks your heart. When a horse is rescued at Los Alamitos running on three legs and after the rescue the prominent couple are contacted and asked for help caring for their first stakes horse they refuse to return the call it tests your faith in folks. When televised racing programs refer to the horses as 4,7,9 trifecta without mentioning the horses names tells all.

Racing is an industry based on money

Gamblers betting on numbers, owners dumping horses that can't pay for themselves, trainers drugging horses so they can collect their 10% and tracks looking at handles.

Unfortunately people like Mr Biszantz are rare. I commend him for everything he has done for the horse and hope that finally someone will listen.

JRG

11 Feb 2011 2:25 AM
Linda in Texas

Jrg (James 11Feb2011 2:25 AM)

Your veracity is stunning. Your statement "Racing is an industry

based on money" says it all.

Even well known breeding farms and 1 in particular that just received notoriety for their winner, was contacted to help bring one of their stallions home from Japan and offered nothing to help bring him home when contacted, 'said they didn't own him anymore.'

Cc,Cris,Dawn in MN, Mike

Relva, Karen Williams,

James, et al posting for the humane care of all horses,beginning with but not ending with thoroughbred race horses, hang in there.

I totally agree with all who feel that there should be a percentage of every betting ticket go to a super fund to care for these magnificent giving and obedient servants of the public.

Their humane treatment must begin at the moment of their conception.

And peacefully end when their lives have been lived.

They did not ask to be conceived,

they were programed to be so.

Those who breed a horse to another should be required to see that it

is cared for in a humane manner for the entire life of that horse.

And if found otherwise, the breeder should be fined severely.

Slaughter is repulsive and reprehensible in our modern age.

It has been a mission of mine for

many years, all the way back to The Bureau of Land Management running mustangs off of cliffs to thin the herds in the 60's.

Barbaric to say the least.

As Americans, there is no lesser solution, it is imperative we do better. All they require is a little hay and water each day and

maybe a couple of companions to keep them company.

Thank you Mr. Biszantz for your article and suggestions.

I have been involved many years with the closing of the Foreign Owned but American Tax Supported Slaughter plants. What people do not realize is that there is a strong lobby for Horse Slaughter plants in the U.S. and in particular an ex Representative with a ranch in Texas is one of them. They are supported by The Cattle Raisers Assn. and many more because their fear is if the loons (us) who are against Horse Slaughter win, soon we will go after the slaughter of cattle and

try and shut that industry down.

Or that "people who own horses should be able to dispose of them as they wish, since they are their personal property."

Horses are not bred for human consumption, cattle are.

11 Feb 2011 6:48 PM
ttimsan

I agree wholeheartedly with the article and with James. And let me add: tack a percentage fee onto EVERY breeding. At the expense of the mare or the stud farm, matters not. The more mares bred per stallion, the higher the fee. 30,000 foals per year is utterly irresponsible.

As an owner of 3 geriatrics aged 27-33 (one retired OTTB) who've been with me between 25-31yrs, I agree it's not always easy maintaining a horse for life. But as an owner, I take personal responsibility in guaranteeing them a quality life. And it doesn't take independent wealth to do it.

11 Feb 2011 7:24 PM
Paula Higgins

Some excellent thoughts and comments. I donate to Old Friends as well. Escrowing money for their care is something that should be done and soon. It is true that the industry is hurt by the issue of what happens to our horse friends at the end of their careers-and rightly so. It's time to step up to the plate. However, limiting breeding/numbers needs to be discussed as well. It is the crux of the issue. There are just too many horses that end up needing care. Once these beautiful creatures are born, we need to take care of them for the rest of their lives. It is a moral imperative.

11 Feb 2011 11:49 PM
erhrdt3

Great comments. This situation is INFURIATING!

Put MAJOR limits on breeding.

The multimillionaire and billionaire owners know who they are & need to step up. They have enough money from their businesses that they can use the money the horse *aka TOY to most of them, makes to put towards the horse itself. I am starting to HATE this industry. There is money, as the author of this article & others of you greatly have emphasized, to not have these equine athlete's have a damned 4 inch killer buyer's captive bolt get injected into their pretty heads, not all the time this works to render the poor horse senseless. They do not HUMANELY EUTHANIZE them!! They slit their necks open & the poor animal dies slowly bleeding to death that way. While they are strung upside down by a leg. Bet the owners would not like to go that way, would they? So come on, big time owners, TRAINERS, jockeys, reach in your deep pockets when your horse is racing & give back to the animal that is making you that money. Look at the ridiculous stallion industry, for example. The horses are running at age 2, bones not even fully developed yet, so they can make MORE MONEY for the GREEDY owners, & if by chance a colt wins a stakes or graded race, Oh my goodness, here's the next Seattle Slew, bring your poor, tired, constantly pregnant mares to this already over the hill at age 4 new stallion, pay our large fee, and make some MORE horses that a large percentage will end up in slaughter. I did not know Winning Colors died that way, & I am majorly PO'D to learn this. Any mare that age needs to be given a break. This is what poor Zenyatta has to look forward to now. Constantly knocked up, drop a foal safely IF she is lucky, then get re-bred right away. Tell me, owners of such Greatness, what happens if she dies trying to have a foal?! Year after year after year. You will have an uproar like you have never seen before. She is safer at the KY Horse Park. And Lady's Secret dies the same way?! And HOW MANY OTHER mares die the same way? Have your rich wives get pregnant year after year after year and see how they like it. Bet they won't. Now I've recently learned the owners of the gorgeous black Mayakovsky have sent him to Chile, against the farm's wishes as they wanted him kept here safe. They loved that boy. The owners did not even care enough to make arrangements to bring him back if things do not work out. Sickos!

The head honchos of this industry need to get their heads out of their butts & realize there is a MAJOR problem here. First thing, put a hard limit on the Breed breed breed problem first of all. Then pick up the phone & talk to the wonderful author of this blog & have him tell you what needs to be done. I'm sure he will mentione the other great ideas on here as well. Oh, also, forgot to mention, did you all know that a BREEDERS CUP WINNER named Cardmania was found at a feedlot?! Why? Because he was a gelding! If any of you know who his owners were, please do post. He won them over a million dollars. And ends up in a feedlot on the way to slaughter. Thank God he was saved by a great rescue org. I can't believe this is happening in this country. This goes for ALL breeds too. Too much breeding means that YOU the major breeders are putting horse steaks on the plates of the wackos that eat them. This is sickening.

Like others of you great folks here, I donate what I can to the rescues, both housepets and horses. We all can't do this alone, the industry needs to get off their butts and make some serious changes....NOW!!!!

Mr. Gary Biszantz, I commend you so much and thank you for bringing this much needed issue up. Please, PLEASE, keep the pressure on, you have the media outlet to do it. You can see there are alot of us out there behind you. Thank you.

12 Feb 2011 3:55 AM
twtman

So!who is really this owner that should pay the bills for old slug to live in comfort the rest of his or her life?? Is it the person that makes all this money at conception, the owner of the mare, the person that buys the foal as a yearly,the pinhooker that trains the potential runner to sell as a  two year old,the agent that puts the phoney deal together for the trainer,the sucker that pays all the bills while it is trying to win the Kentucky Derby (presented by Yums), the person that buys the horse from the trainer after the sucker owner finds out that old slug can't run,the new guy that runs the horse in a few claiming races before he drops him down in class, the person that claims old slug, who is usually an owner trainer, or as mentioned in many blogs some how old slug ends up going over seas to an owner that for some reason has the responsability to send the horse at some point in his or her life back to the states to be cared for buy the owner. So! who is this owner?? Gary has a great idea, but its just another step in the current movement to slaughter the TB and the TB industry. You Loons are wearing us Sickos out. We love our TB's more than you will ever be able to comprehend. Let us put down our swords and work toward the salvation of the TB industry and not the retirement of every horse.

12 Feb 2011 9:52 PM
katethegreat

I have owned and cared for horses for 30 years.  My oldest horse is 29.  While I respect everyone's right to their own opinion, they are my property, my responsibility, and therefore it is up to me to decide when and how they should die.  Caring for horses can be joyful and painful if

you are in it for the long haul.

12 Feb 2011 10:06 PM
erhrdt3

I see no one else has anything to say. Let's keep the pressure on.

Let's make a bet. The big "it" horse of this year, the one the media is trying to push up on that already a Derby winning pedestal, Uncle Mo, will be "standing" somewhere next year, if nothing bad happens to him.

He has not even won the Derby yet, and favorites rarely do for goodness sakes. I'm sure there are already farms out there squabbling for his breeding rights. Give me a break. There are already too many stallions "standing" and "shuttling" (where the hell did that term come into the industry?!) to breed breed breed.

Mr. Biszantz, what are the best places to call, write, email, etc. to keep the pressure on? Is there somewhere we can find a list?

To Linda in Texas: I applaud you for your efforts reg. the slaughter issue. Can you please post who the representatives are that are FOR the horse slaughter industry? I'd like to give them a call and chat with them also...thank you for what you do

Breed breed breed = kill, kill,kill

Our four legged friends that run their hearts out do not deserve a horrible end, but rather, a loving, peaceful one when they reach their later years, when the time comes. If you can't afford it, don't breed then!

I heard someone say on a forum that they had to "cull" their older mares, and I asked her if she meant "Kill" her older mares, they are all used up, did their job, year after year, and then they become nothing but "culls/kills"?

Indeed, this industry is in BIG trouble.

13 Feb 2011 5:42 AM
derbyfan

erhrdt3                                                                                                   well said!

13 Feb 2011 1:00 PM
Sunny Farm

I think this is a good idea of Mr. Biszant's ; in that everyone contributes a very small amount that collectively, will add up. Those who can afford to & don't own a horse, can also send thier own private contributions .

In this way, the burden is shared and not directed at just one person.

13 Feb 2011 1:17 PM
GoldenBroom

It's called the sport of kings for a reason. To buy, raise, train, care for a horse, let alone a race horse is very expensive. Too many owners don't have emergency funds or have any plans to cover injuries or retirees, they just want to geth their horse to start a race. They don't belong in the business but as it's a free country, not sure how to keep them out. Common sense ain't so common.

13 Feb 2011 7:34 PM
AngelaFromAbilene

People all over the world eat things that we in the US do not.  That doesn't make them wrong, it makes us different.  

14 Feb 2011 7:49 AM
Becky

Agree with both this article and those who suggest a fee at registry.  Breeders/owners cannot afford the after care of 40,000 new thoroughbreds every year.  A fee may help curb the number being bred to a more managable, affordable number.

14 Feb 2011 7:50 PM
Mary Rose Smith

Bravo, Mr Biszantz you have make excellent points and suggestions.I have often thought of how to fund retirement for these amazing animals. I have asked my brother, who races thoroughbreds,to at least set aside money from winnings to help when they retire.

I currently have four thoroughbreds that were facing very uncertain futures. They will not go to slaughter. I will see to that.

12 Mar 2011 8:43 PM

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