Roller’s Salvation From Slaughter – The Rest of the Story

There is plenty wrong with this video:

First, the abject suffering of the horse, 7-year-old Itzhoweeroll: lame, almost all the way around; malnourished, in part due to his teeth being “a mess”; beaten up – cuts, scrapes, ulcers; and criminally thirsty – “when he first came, he was so thirsty that he drank for ten minutes straight.”

Second, in an industry that (mostly) denies the butchering of its erstwhile athletes, this horse was in a feedlot awaiting his personal version of equine hell.

Third, the shameless portrayal of past/present owners Brian and Wendy O’Leary as thoughtful, compassionate folk – at least in regard to this horse. The narration begins:

“This is a story of a Thoroughbred named Itzhoweeroll and how its [italics added] one-time owners Brian and Wendy O’Leary raised him, lost him, and got him back.”

Brian O’Leary: “We made a decision to put him into a claiming race.” After selling, “We kept an eye on him for a while…we kept an eye on him over the years as he went through a few different ownerships.”

Wendy O’Leary: “[After seeing a picture of their former charge in a feedlot for the slaughterbound] Of course I immediately started to cry.”

Brian: “It’s one thing if you hear this happens to a horse you used to own. When it happens and you have an opportunity to do something, it’s even better again to go out there and be able to save a horse that’s been so nice to you in life…”

And now for some conveniently omitted facts:

After using him, earning on him – to the tune of $186,000 – for 21 races, the O’Learys dumped “Roller” into yet another claiming race – though Mr. O’Leary makes it sound like this was a first-time thing, it was actually the ninth time they had done this – leaving their helpless and hapless horse utterly unprotected (again), knowing full well that anyone could buy him. (“Lost him”? Please – they cleared $30,000.) And anyone did, actually multiple anyones, meaning there were plenty of chances for the O’Learys to reclaim him (and on the cheap: in December, “Roller” was worth but $8,000). And when one of those anyones abused “Roller” to lameness and sold him to slaughter, the O’Learys come swooping in, masquerading (or at least being depicted) as “rescuers.” “Rescuers.” If not for the deadly seriousness of it all, this story would be a farce.

To “rescue,” says the dictionary, is “to cause to be free from danger, imprisonment, or difficulty.” While technically true that the O’Learys saved this horse from slaughter, they were the ones who put him in danger, imprisonment (they bought him as a yearling), and difficulty in the first place – both each and every time they had him whipped to run at an unnatural speed and when they hung him out to dry in claiming races. While the O’Learys may be otherwise decent people, let’s not get distracted here: Within Racing, there are no good guys, no heroes. Just exploiters.

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    • Joanne…I’ve provided the link to this gelding’s “story” (when you open the link, you’ll see a video titled “Technology & Passion: Ontario Equine Vets Showing the Way”).

      I hope everyone will watch this video. You’ll see Roller throughout the 9-10 minute piece. Watch him walk. And remind yourself he’s only 7.

      Patrick mentioned how the O’ Leary’s SOLD Roller – “lost” him? – and had multiple opportunities to “find” him again. I’d like to add…only FOUR MONTHS after they SOLD him for 30K, they could have bought him back (via claim – at the SAME track where they sold him) for only $6250. They didn’t.

      Lastly, they “followed” him…but what did they DO?…they nearly followed him all the way to the damn slaughterhouse. And the only reason they were even ABLE to acquire him out of the feedlot?…pure luck. Roller was found at the feedlot by a rescuer who posted his name and situation on Facebook where Mrs. O’ Leary saw it. Luck.

      If the O’ Leary’s are another example of the “good folks” in racing, it’s no wonder so many racehorses fall so far then take their last breath in the slaughterhouse.

      See Roller in this video…not graphic.

      • Joy, thank you for the video link. It is difficult to imagine this poor horse being loaded on to a slaughter bound truck, very dehydrated and in so much pain, to endure a long horrible journey to a horrific end.
        The treatment of these animals is a disgrace to humanity.

  1. Sadly, owners like the O’Leary’s are very common in horse racing. However, the industry is deliberately set up to support the dumping mentality. The industry knows darn well that in order to fill races, in order to keep the wheels of horse racing greased, they must allow this dumping practice to continue because if owners were held responsible for the racehorses they own, and make money off of, then most owners would not invest in the business. It was common conversation in the stable area of racetracks where I stabled that horses need to be dumped if you want to stay in the business. Nick Gonzales had horse of the year, made almost 1 million, and was running at the bottom ($5000) at the Ft Erie Racetrack within 2 years. One of the grooms told me the horse was so lame and sore that it didn’t want to go to the track. Yet, they sent him there Gonzales allegedly saying ” hopefully he’ll break down and die or get claimed.” Although I wasn’t there he was quoted in the paper as saying “their not pets.” These Trainers are revered by the industry. It’s shameful. This is horse racing.

  2. ….and he is only 7 years old. That says it all. He was walking like a 75 year man. Hopefully he will live out his natural life in their “retirement” field.

  3. Wow…seven years old and lame in all four legs. Racing did an excellent job destroying this horse. Thank goodness Roller has a nice personality and, therefore, deserves to be saved.

    The O’Leary’s did step up to the plate but they are responsible for putting this horse into a precarious situation. Patrick is correct. They may be decent people but they still support an industry that maims, and kills, horses. They will get no accolades from me.

    • And none from me either, Mary. The poor horse is now so badly damaged that he will be in constant pain. What the O’Leary’s don’t seem to get is they,stepped in a little late for the horse.

      Claiming, the backbone of this business, is the road to unimaginable misery for the horse,culminating in the slaughterhouse for the vast majority.

      • Yea, definitely Rose.
        Backbone of racing is the Claim Game What is it by number? I think close to 80% of all races written are for claiming. Recently I wrote a few words about a tb gelding named Disbelief…he won 18 of 100 races
        Same owners for over 7 years…..I’d love to know this (retired) runner didn’t end up Free Claimed for meat

  4. Yes Patrick, there sure is a lot wrong with this video! I felt sick when i saw Roller walk and i could see the concern in the vet’s body language who was honest about the option of surgery. You know, the O’Learys declare he will have a good retirement but to be honest i don’t think Roller will be pain free.
    This horse has been very badly damaged by racing and it is obviously irreparable. Roller is just one example of the many thousands out there.
    The O’Learys were well aware of what his future might likely be when they got rid of him, it’s as simple as that! As Patrick points out “some conveniently omitted facts”.

    They say they had too many retired horses already and one wonders what percentage of the horses they’ve raced are in their retirement paddock. It is simply not viable to keep all of your horses after they’ve been “finished with”, they know that! And he was so good to them – the definition of “good” here is that he made heaps of money for them. The O’Learys’ story did not sit well with me and i think it was to say how wonderful they were to have saved Roller from slaughter (as Joy said, it was luck) and a pathetic attempt to declare that there are some “good folks” in racing.

  5. Sad… Sad… Sad… No heroes here… These folks are the reason this horse is in the shape and shambles and permanent pain he will remain in for the rest of his life; this woman cannot offset her guilty conscience by feigning the term “rescue” when describing what’s she done for this horse because she is the whole cause of this horse’s injuries to begin with… No justice here…

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