Horseracing Wrongs is proud to present the first in a series of guest posts from two of the most respected equine advocates in the country, Joy Aten and Jo Anne Normile. Both on their own and through their rescue, Saving Baby Equine Charity, Jo Anne and Joy have positively impacted the lives of countless animals, undoubtedly saving many from cruel and bloody fates.
The pair will publish under the heading, “Shedrow Secrets” and with this picture of Baby as their symbol:
Winds of Love
By Joy Aten and Jo Anne Normile
On November 6, 2007, Winds of Love labored to a last place finish, beaten soundly by eight lengths. The nine year old gelding had run twelve times in just 5 months, managing only a pair of third place finishes for earnings of $2,493. Entered as frequently as every seven days, it was very clear that his racing days were over. He was running at a small low-level track in Michigan, far from the Florida racetracks where he had been a winner ridden by high-profile jockeys such as Pat Day and Cornelio Velasquez. But while the local betting public saw only an aging gelding running for the smallest purses, the stakes were actually much higher…Winds of Love was running for his life.
He had become an unfortunate member of a stable belonging to an owner/trainer duo known for running injured and ill-kept horses. Walking through their shed row, one would find the horses waiting until noon for their first meal of the day. Horses with big ankles and dull coats stood in urine-soaked stalls for hours on end. There were those that had only ever been cheap claimers, and there were former stakes horses bred by the most well-known and respected farms in Kentucky, Florida, and California. But royal pedigrees and impressive earnings were forgotten here. All of the horses were expected to “get a check,” and running with accumulated damage to joints and limbs was commonplace. Failure to run successfully and produce purse money would be tolerated only so long, and for Winds of Love, the clock was ticking.
On that cold late autumn evening, Winds of Love ran in his 102nd start. His lifetime earnings were $194,475 from 14 wins, 9 seconds, and 19 thirds. He had been racing for at least four years with three screws in his right front ankle, and he was tired and sore. During the race, his jockey heard the dark bay whinny, a sign of distress if done while running a race. He was eased across the finish line and brought back lame to the barn. On a heart-wrenching journey down to the lowest of the claiming ranks, he had run out of time.
Now the big gelding with the heart of a lion and the temperament of a lamb was headed for the auction and most certainly, the slaughterhouse. His years of faithful service- fattening the pocketbooks of his owners and trainers- meant nothing to those responsible for him. The quickest and cheapest way to rid themselves of the broken-down Winds of Love was their one and only concern.
On November 7, 2007, less than 12 hours after his last race, Winds of Love loaded willingly onto a trailer. He trembled from head to tail, but stood patiently while waiting for two other broken Thoroughbred racehorses to join him. But this trailer was not headed to the auction. A Thoroughbred racehorse rescue organization had purchased Winds of Love for $250 from his owner, and the three occupants of that trailer were headed to the safety of the rescue’s farm.
Winds of Love lived for another week. Evaluated by two veterinarians, including an equine orthopedic surgeon, the gallant gelding was diagnosed with severe end-stage arthritis that would make it impossible for him to live without pain. His ankles had been destroyed by the multiple steroid injections administered to them over the years. He was humanely euthanized. Winds of Love was loved and carefully attended to by his rescue caretakers those cherished last days of his life.
Winds of Love did not die before millions during a world famous race. There was no media coverage and no public outcry. The fact that he died due to multiple injuries sustained from racing was not acknowledged or recorded anywhere by the racing industry. Only the rescue cared, only the rescue recorded. Unlike Barbaro or Eight Belles, the only tears shed for Winds of Love were by the rescue’s volunteers. Though his suffering and death were not their fault, they told him, “We’re so sorry,” as they whispered kind words and gave him his last loving strokes.
Shortly after Winds of Love was euthanized, Joy Aten contacted the gelding’s breeder/former owner. The two had a lengthy conversation that consisted primarily of the owner’s memories of the “sweet, black horse.” Within several days, Joy was surprised to receive a package from the owner. There was a language barrier noticed during the telephone conversation, and that barrier must have led to some miscommunication because what was included in the package was never requested by Joy…a veterinarian invoice for Winds of Love detailing steroid injections into the gelding’s hocks, stifles, and ankles on March 7, 2003. How many injections Winds of Love endured over the course of his short life we will never know, but we do know the corticosteroids caused the lethal deterioration of his joints. No thought was ever given to a life beyond racing for the “sweet, black horse”…and Winds of Love never got that chance.
I loaded Winds of Love on my trailer (with the 2 others) that morning. Pat, I had
loaded literally a hundred or so horses by that time…and I won’t forget any of them. But Winds of Love stole my heart that morning. He was really big, close to 17 hands and big-bodied. He could have pulled me around easily, but with just a simple rope lead hooked to the bottom of his halter, he limped alongside obediently like a meek puppy dog. Once on the trailer, he stood rock-solid while I unhooked his lead. It was then I saw him trembling…and I mean trembling. I had experienced “jittery” before, but not trembling from head to toe while standing like a statue. It was then I told him he was safe, forever safe.
All of them have a place in my heart…Winds of Love just has a bigger place. And he is forever safe there.
Thank you for allowing us to tell his story.
Joy, you have a heart as big as the Thoroughbreds you save. Thankyou, thankyou for sharing Winds of Love’s story.
Thank you for coming to this site, and for reading his story. It helps me to have other people know he shared this earth with all of us, and that his life AND death were important.
R.I.P. “Winds of Love” who never experienced love until his end, until he was rescued and humanley euthanized. IF you race horses treat them fair and take care of their life after racing. They are NOT disposable objects, they are alive !!! They work hard for their owner, they risk their lives while racing, so treat them humanely!!!
Thank for that validation.
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Thank God Winds of Love had at least found some love and care for the little time he was alive, I have tears reading this, makes me so angry in one breath and just sick to my stomach knowing how so many of our beloved horses are treated, What on earth has happened to mankind’s caring and humanity to let money and greed win over our own respect and honor of these Majestic Animals,,,, No matter what Country we live in if we can’t show love and caring for our animals how in god name do we expect to give a crap about our own kind human’s.. We human’s are the predator’s in this life…. Just so so sad, will it ever change?? I pray it will…. Thank You for helping so many horses, what a unbelievable feeling this must be for you…..
Thank you for shedding those tears for Winds of Love. Thank you for understanding.
Really, why aren’t those racing owners jailed for animal abuse? You don’t send an animal to its death after it has run its heart out for your sake. There is no sport in any of this – how vulgar :-(
You are absolutely correct, this is not a sport.
It was VERY VERY NICE of you,Joy and Jo Ann to save Winds of Love.. Even if he didn’t have the loving care he deserved soooo much, you gave him MUCH much more love that he EVER HAD.. Even if I don’t know much about horses it is ovious that the poor horse was abused and was suffering horribly.. ;-( I have tears just thinking about all the pain he had to endure because of that FU… ing! hearthless person that calls himself the owner.. <3 <3 Dear Winds of Love you are finally able to be in peace with no more suffering. Rest in Peace DEAR Wind of Love <3 <3 <3 We'll never say THANK YOU enough for all those horses that you save..But Thank you very much for being there for them.. It is to rescue like you that I don't mind cutting in my small budget to help with small donation… Thank you for caring so much.. <3 <3
Thank you, Linda, for your kind and thoughtful words. Winds of Love was incredibly kind and he worked so hard….he deserved so much more.
I cried….because….just because….
Thank you…we want tears shed for Winds of Love…it has been a long time coming. Thank you for caring enough to cry for him.
What a sad yet wonderful story. Several years ago, I worked with Joy Aten to save another wonderful horse destroyed by the racing industry. His name was Slade and Joy was able to obtain him from his low life owner/trainer, John Grace, and I fostered him for 3 weeks until he was humanely euthanized with me by his side. He had won $250,000 for his various owners and trainers but was now racing with severe end stage osteoarthritis, multiple fractures, and new bone growth. However, during the last 3 weeks of his life, nothing was expected of him except to just be a horse. Slade’s death was a defining moment for me. No longer could I support an industry where slaughter, drugging, and racing compromised horses into the ground happens to be part of the corporate culture. The story of Winds of Love is not unusual. It happens day in and day out at tracks throughout the country.
Thank you for the added insight, Mary.
Yes, beautiful and gentle Slade. Thank you for bringing Slade to the attention of readers here, Mary…his story is yet to come.Thank you for everything you do.
Thank you, too, Joy, for everything that you do. You not only “talk the talk” but you “walk the walk”. You have helped so many horses over the years and you really are a savior for these noble athletes. You speak the truth about what really goes on behind the closed doors of the racing industry in an attempt to shine a light on the dirty secrets.
This story has made me shed tears of sadness for a horse who was put through so much pain but without complaint,of anger knowing that there are more owners out there doing the same thing but will never answer to justice,and of joy for the people who care enough to save these creatures and show them the love and respect they deserve. You are heroes and you are making a difference. Anybody who had a heart appreciates what you are doing. I hope in the future people will answer to their cruelty.
Thank YOU for reading Horseracing Wrongs, Ashley. It is difficult to be aware of the pain and suffering the horses endure in this industry, and there are many who choose to look away because it hurts…you didn’t look away. I read somewhere something like this; “we must see with our eyes and know in our hearts what they must endure with their bodies”. It was related to horse slaughter, but we can apply that to ANY abuse that ANY animal suffers…we cannot simply walk away and pretend the abuse does not take place. Thank you for not walking away. You are making a difference, as well, by reading and learning and sharing. Thank you, Ashley.
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