Shedrow Secrets

Shedrow Secrets

By Joy Aten and Jo Anne Normile (author of “Saving Baby”)

In the fall of 2003, with track licenses as “vendors,” we were doing our weekly walk of the shedrows in the backstretch barn area of Great Lakes Downs in Michigan. We were in search of horses needing to retire from racing. The goal: save them before they are forced to race on accumulated injuries and/or before the onsite kill buyers take them to auctions.

Five-year-old Hestosmartforyou stood quietly in the shedrow aisle while the trainer pointed to his enlarged, fractured ankle. We told her that if she donated the horse we would immediately x-ray the ankle and arrange for surgery and rehabilitation under our care, with the hope that he could be adopted out to a nonracing home. The trainer, who was also a CPA, had no interest in a donation. Instead, she wanted to know what we were willing to pay for the horse. With limited funds, we offered half of the going meat price of $400, knowing that our final cost – after factoring in transport, surgery, and rehab – would be well over $2,000. The trainer accepted our offer.

We informed the racetrack veterinarian that the rescue would be purchasing Hestosmartforyou and that we would need x-rays to take with us. He knew the horse and agreed. When preparing to leave several hours later, we stopped by the onsite clinic to pick up the x-rays. We were astounded to learn that before the vet could take them, the trainer had changed her mind and sold Hestosmartforyou to another trainer – and well-known auction collector – for $400! This poor gelding, who prior to his injury had earned over $38,000, was denied medical treatment and a new nonrace home just so the owner/trainer could pocket an extra $200 in blood money.

Outraged, our rescue formally notified the Michigan Racing Commission that this horse had a known fracture and that his new trainer (whom we identified) was taking him to race at another bottom level track, Beulah Park in Ohio. We stressed that not only was his life at stake, but the jockey’s and the lives of the entire field as well. The new owner/trainer told the racing commission to mind its own business – the horse was his livestock and he would do with it what he wanted. The Commission backed down and did not forewarn their counterparts in Ohio.

With no help from the supposed “oversight authorities,” we put out the word to the onsite meat buyers at Beulah Park that we would buy Hestosmartforyou. In the end, this poor gelding – so close to being saved – was forced to race two more times with fractured bones in his ankle, earning $123 before disappearing completely from the online racing services. Mostly likely, he was taken to nearby Sugarcreek auction in Ohio and sold for meat. Hestosmartforyou, just another in a long line of racing casualties.