A few weeks ago I wrote about the equine neglect case occurring right here in the Horse Capitol of the World. Immediately after the news stories, the social media posts, and the blogs came out, numerous comments were left underneath of that fact that more aftercare was needed in the racing industry. That we need to do better in taking care of our own. And again, the mass breeding and over population of the thoroughbred breed was brought up.
I drafted a blog then, frustrated that the thoroughbred industry as a whole was yet again taking the bad wrap for one. That even though these horses were not dumped from the track, nor were they neglected while on the track, the finger is immediately pointed towards the metaphorical us of the industry. I ranted and I raved, and then I never posted it. I never hit submit.
Because even worse than reading the comments was witnessing first person the fact that a large portion of the horses involved in this particular case were not even thoroughbreds. Ponies, stock breeds, draft crosses, and even a few Andalusians inhibited this property. Flea-ridden cats and semi-feral hogs wander the barns, none of which were receiving the proper care needed.
This was not an us versus them. This was not racing versus sport. It was, quite simply, good versus bad.
The only true tie that this situation had to the breeding and racing of thoroughbreds was the single human being that had led them to this state. Her actions were not supported by the rest of us. They were not reciprocated by us. The industry is not her.
And I left the farm that first day so frustrated. Frustrated that I couldn’t do more. Frustrated by the legal system and how long it takes. Frustrated at the comments that I was reading blaming the industry that I loved. The industry that had stepped up. The industry that had done so much for so many – thoroughbred, or not.
Because even though the farm was full of ponies, crosses, and equines that didn’t have a drop of Northern Dancer in them, it was the thoroughbred industry that rallied.
It was the TCA that took the reins and took over the ride. It was Keeneland, The Jockey Club, and NTRA that met and brainstormed, uniting together to form a cohesive body. It was KTA and KTOB that made that first pledge and backed it up with even more. It was Rood & Riddle and Hagyard Equine Medical that put all competition aside and sent vets to assess the horses.
It was bloodstock agents, and farm managers, and their supportive staff that showed up to treated wounds, gave antimicrobial baths, and weed-wacked the entire property. And then it was the equine companies that exist because of this industry who stepped up and donated so many supplies – from medicine to feed, and everything in between.
It was the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation that took in those first exceptionally thin horses. Old Friends who took another two. And the Kentucky Horse Park who stepped up for those creatures that didn’t have that pure thoroughbred blood pulsating through their bodies.
And at the end of it all, it is the random group of men and women who showed up on a Saturday and just got to work. Who couldn’t afford the big donation or the massive pledge, but who know how to muck a stall and bathe a yearling. Girls that I have seen at the sales, or acknowledged at the races, but didn’t know well. Women that I now consider good friends. A day of hard work, strained muscles, and a lot of sweat bonding us forever.
I have written of my experiences within this industry that people love to hate from every angle. I have tried to publish the good with the bad, and have acknowledged our flaws and inadequacies. But, this past month has given me a new perspective. Because at the end of the day, outside of the drama and the bad press, we are good. We are strong. We can come together and fight evil.
We are often categorized as money-hungry and only out for the titles and the trophies, but this past month has been adequate evidence to the contrary. None of these people were in it for the fame. They were all in it for the horse. Horses that they might have never known, or may never see face to face. Horses of all breeds, all sexes, and all appraised values.
We are almost there. So many of the horses left for safe haven’s, and the others are being cared for by the most amazing team – led by the powerful force that is Angie Cheak. But just like the industry, there is still a ways to go. Thirty horses still reside there, fueled solely by a team of volunteers, and backed by this industry.
But fields still need mowed and baled, teeth need floated, and the road into the farm needs fixed. Horses still need daily care and nurture, in addition to some loving care to remind them that humans are in fact good.
But I know it can and will be done. Because just like this industry that I love so much, these horses are tough. They have been created by centuries of care and intelligence. They will not falter because of one road block. And if these horses are being supported by the toughest group of men and women that I know, then they will get there. They will survive. This, I am sure of.
If you would like to make a pledge, please visit Thoroughbred Charities of America here.