Who Cares

I had an experience recently that caused me to feel a huge sense of guilt for being a handicapper, and left me wondering how I can possibly make a difference in the lives of the horses that give their all to the game.

About two months ago, a woman who owns a quarter horse, and boarded him at the barn where my horse stays, injured her back when her horse bucked and she fell off of him.  She was riding around the half-mile racetrack that is on the property, and lost her balance when her horse spooked at something.  This woman is in her early fifties, and had been a regular rider on the show circuit when she was younger.  She had decided about a year ago that she missed being around horses, and bought the eight-year-old quarter horse.

Her injury healed pretty quickly, but she wanted nothing to do with her horse  after her accident.  She called a man who is a known "killer buyer" in Ohio, and he came to our barn to haul her horse away.  I found out about the sale after a few days had gone by, and I was horrified that this woman who had seemed to be a responsible owner, had disposed of her horse so casually with no concerns about his safety.  This was the exact situation that I had been trying to educate people about whenever I discussed horse slaughter--and, I felt that I couldn't let the horse go to slaughter without at least trying to save him. 

Through a network of bloggers on Alex Brown's website, and also with the help of a friend at my barn, we were able to track the horse down to a trainer at Thistledown.  This trainer had traded the killer buyer FOUR THOROUGHBREDS for the quarter horse which he gave to his wife to ride around on while they were at that track.  They were planning on going back to Texas in a few weeks, and at that time the quarter horse would be put back into the hands of the "killer buyer".  The woman from our barn had sold her horse for $650--basically a meat price for a healthy 1200 lb. quarter horse--and, my friend and I began to negotiate with the trainer to buy the horse back.  We ended up paying $900 to get him back, and the horse is back at our barn where he is being shown to prospective owners through a rescue organization. 

The woman who sold the horse to the "killer buyer" was upset with us that we brought her horse back to the boarding barn, but I feel no obligation to show her any courtesy in this matter, as I am the current owner of the horse.  This woman is talking about buying another horse now, and I am wondering if she will be able to find one that doesn't "spook", or do any of the other things that horses do when we are riding them. 

The whole point of this story is (I know I have rambled on and on) that the trainer traded the poor thoroughbreds, as if they were nearly worthless, to the "killer buyer".  This is what has brought on my huge guilt complex, and I am struggling to find a way to justify being a participant in a game that glamorizes and markets the horse, while at the same time allowing them to be brutally killed in slaughter plants.  This is not the first time I have felt intense guilt over this issue, as some of you may know, but it is the first time that it has hit so close to home.  When it becomes this real, it is much harder to say to myself--I don't want to know about that part of it. 

In closing, I have to say that I am beginning to think that some of the horses that break down on the track are actually the lucky ones--at least they are quickly euthanized without having to endure the fear-filled, brutal death that thousands of thoroughbreds and standardbreds suffer every year.  Right now, I own a horse that I cannot afford, and I am hoping that he will be adopted soon by a person who will give him a forever home, or at least see that he is never sold back to a "killer buyer", but I'll continue to take care of him until a responsible owner can be found.

How do I continue to support an industry in which horses are one day valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, and before they reach the age of five are so worthless that they are handed off to killers?  The people who want horse slaughter to continue have rich lobbyists to speak for them in Washington, but the horses have no voice...the NTRA chooses to remain silent about the issue.  As long as this goes on, horse racing cannot be called a "sport" or a "game", because it's a downright "shame".



Wake-Up Call For Tournament Players

Please pass on this article to other tournament players--especially those who play on the NHC Tour.  Thanks!  The article link is at:





Perfect Gift

My 8-year-old grandson, Matthew, plays third base on a little league team made up of 6, 7, and 8-year-olds.  They had a very good season, and only lost two games--both to the same team.  After each of those losses to the "aqua team" as my grandson called them, the boys cried.  As in all sports, underdogs have a way of making comebacks, and my grandson's team rallied and made an amazing comeback by beating the "aqua team" (who had been the undefeated champions for two straight years) in the championship game last night.  This time, it was the parents and the grandparents who cried as they watched the little boys jump with joy, and receive their trophies. 

As I drove home from the game, I began to wonder what I could possibly give my "little champion" as a gift for playing his heart out.  I vaguely remembered an item that I had seen online while searching for Secretariat memorabilia--and the answer came to me when I revisited the website this morning. 

I am going to order him a Louisvillle Slugger baseball bat that has an image of Secretariat on it, along with his race record.  I will also add a personalized message that will read, "To my champion, Matthew, from Grandma  2009"  I know that the gift will mean alot to him when I present it to him, but years from now when I am gone, it will be much more valuable to him.  Someday, when he runs his hands across the image of the champion racehorse, he will hopefully think fond memories of the grandmother who loved to cheer for the longshots...


Grinding On My Nerves

Some horses melt your heart with their amazingly beautiful eyes.  Some horses break your heart by losing a battle with colic, or navicular, or any number of afflictions that strike them when you least expect it.  And some horses become a memory that is so ingrained in your life and your character that you will actually jump to their defense at the very hint that someone has insulted them--if it is even possible to insult a horse.

I found myself ready to swing my fists at my brother-in-law over his overly dramatic reactions to "Grindstone's grandsons" winning Triple Crown races.  It was the day before yesterday, and I had been excitedly telling my two sisters that Mine That Bird would be racing in the West Virginia Derby, and that we would actually get to meet him in "person".  My brother in law (who no doubt had listened to many a Grindstone story from my sister over the years) had simply begun to make fun of us by screaming in a girl's voice, "OOOH, Grindstone's grandson, oooh, we get to see Grindstone's grandson".  It went on like this for several minutes as I tried to talk above his screeching voice, and let my sisters know when the West Virginia Derby would be taking place.  Suddenly, the screeching and sarcasm hit a seriously big nerve somewhere near my heart, and I yelled, "DON'T EVER MAKE FUN OF GRINDSTONE!", and I felt myself clenching my fists...over a horse.  My brother-in-law stared at me silently for a moment, and said, "I wasn't making fun of Grindstone--I was making fun of you girls."   Oh.  Then...never mind.

As you know, Grindstone was my father's pick in the 1996 Kentucky Derby, and the happiness on his face when they put up the official winner is one of my most cherished memories.  Yesterday was Dad's birthday, and maybe my brother-in-law's tauntings were just aggravating an already open wound of loss and sadness.  I thought about the anger I showed as I stood at my father's grave yesterday, and wondered if maybe I should have just let him go on with his rantings about our beloved horse.  But then I decided--no.  I will always defend the winner of the 1996 Kentucky Derby--Grindstone--because I am defending a cherished memory, not the ability of the horse or his offspring. 

Tomorrow is Father's Day, and if any of you decide to go to the races with your dad--be ready to forever defend a horse...





Triple Crown Photos

This Triple Crown season has been fun for my family and I, because we are big Grindstone fans.  (Grindstone was my father's derby choice in 1996, and he passed away in 1997, giving Grindstone a permanent place in our hearts.) 

Now, even though I usually place a small bet on Grindstone's offspring when I see them entered in races, I could not for the life of me play Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby from a handicapper's perspective.  I placed a bet on Summer Bird, because he seemed to have more talent than Mine That Bird.  (I really thought that the track ponies had more talent than Mine That Bird, but, what did I know?)  My sister, however, had a dream that the eight horse won before she even knew what the horse's name was, and she played Mine That Bird.  She was thrilled to find out that the eight horse that she had dreamed about was a grandson of Grindstone, but she ended up splitting her $10 bet between the two Birdstone entries--Mine That Bird and Summer Bird.  I bet Pioneerof The Nile and Summer Bird. 

When Mine That Bird came flying up the rail, I thought my sister was going to have heart failure, and suddenly we were all cheering for him.  We laughed after the race, saying that my dad had been influential somehow in the outcome.  When everyone began doubting that he had real talent, we all felt sad that Mine That Bird wasn't getting any respect, and we were glad that he ran well in the Preakness.  Then, to have another grandson of Grindstone win the Belmont was just icing on the cake for all of us. 

My mom just had a hip replacement last week, and my two sisters and I told her that she'd be on her own as far as recovering if Mine That Bird got a chance to go for the Triple Crown--we were kidding...I think.  We imagined Grindstone opening a photo wallet in his pasture at OverBrook Farm for the other stallions to see.  "Have I showed you my grandkids?"  He's got the right to be a proud grandpa.






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