Shedrow Secrets: Hestosmartforyou

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.


  1. I live in England but remain VERY concerned that so many beautiful horses die in US racing each year. Are the fields too large? What can and MUST BE DONE? Any ideas to stop this carnage.

    A Newman

    • People like you and others who follow these stories must spread the word about the atrocities that surround this industry…our voices need to rip apart the shroud of mystery that conceals the awful truth…if it doesn’t happen, who will bear the blame of their silence?

  2. Who was this “trainer”, this ruthless person ? It just makes me sick to imagine what happened to Hestosmartforyou …. with a rescue at hand he still went the “meat & torture” way …

  3. How can anyone, with a conscience, defend the scum bags in the racing industry when horses are abused in this horrible manner? This story reminds me of Marsella Delight who was raced into the ground at Beulah Park and ultimately destroyed by her owner/trainer. I continue to hope and pray that racing dies a quick death.

  4. Just checked on Equibase who last owned/trained this horse. It was the scum bag himself – Reid Gross – who once said that he would rather send a horse to slaughter than work with a rescue. And where were the horse “advocates” at Beulah Park? Where was the track vet? Everyone failed this horse just liked they have failed so many. Thank goodness Gross is now gone. I believe in karma and I heard that he suffered greatly before he died. Yes, karma is wonderful!

  5. By the way, the racing industry loves the Reid Gross’s of the world. People like him fill the race cards and that is what is important in racing.

  6. When I read tragedies like Hestosmartforyou, I want to create flyers stating the facts with the faces and names of the perpetrators and put them in people’s mail boxes, under windshield wipers on people’s cars, take out newspaper advertisements and shout these criminal’s cruelty to the world. These criminals include the race track people who do nothing and are guilty by association with these lowlife trainer/owners. It is this feeling powerless of not being able to help while innocents are exploited and abused. I am thankful for Joy and Jo Anne and Patrick who expose the abuses of this industry and remember its victims.

  7. Unfortunately, the HSUS is too busy chasing its tail to devote any time to the horses abused and neglected by this industry…and the AHS sends reps to each movie set where animals will be used during the movie just to ensure no animal will be harmed during filming…and PETA is eyeing farm animals, lab animals, and rodeo/circus/carnival animals…why isn’t there an organization available to police the racing industry? Is it because it is easier to look away since there is so much money involved…to be gained rather than spent to provide proper, responsible care of these animals? Who is filling their pockets with ill taken ”hush money’ to allow this industry to prosper over and above the innocent lives lost and blood spilled? I cannot believe our Creator meant for us to use such beautiful creatures in this manner..with no respect and total disregard for their welfare.

  8. What’s wrong in our society when people cry over the loss of a couple of seagulls that were injured during the filming of a movie and insist authorities watch over the remainder of the filming to prevent any further loss….and no one has a cry loud enough, a heart large enough and a conscience sensitive enough to step up and demand something be done in the racing industry? At the very least, the seagulls’ injuries were contributed to accidental and unintentional reasons and yet the thoroughbreds in the racing industry are forced to repeatedly run on poorly maintained tracks, under the discretion of trainers who stand to gain financially as long as the horse is sent to race, and under this thinly veiled attempt to purport such activity as glamorous by supporters of racing. What is the legacy of those, who have succumbed to mankind’s greed? Will the copious numbers of injured or dead continue to rise? Will this sport continue to claim more victims or are there those who will rise in defence to end this bloodshed….once and for all? It all starts with a single step….to shine light into the darkness hovering over all the shed rows of this country.

  9. Debbie Coleman…I simply want to thank you for voicing your outrage and concern for the thousands of racehorses laboring for a GAMBLING industry. You are absolutely correct in your questions and suggestions…there needs to be exposure of all that the horses endure. And I truly believe the recent attempts by the racing industry to appear as though they care about the horses’ welfare is only because of the spotlight being directed at the abuse by advocates. This blog is a part of that spotlight, as is your voice. Thank you for that…and please continue to speak out.

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