The Abuse of You Got the Silver

The following is our latest installment of “Shedrow Secrets” – first-hand accounts from the heroes who work tirelessly to save Racing’s broken bodies.

Shedrow Secrets

Shedrow Secrets

You Got the Silver
by Joy Aten

Three-year-old You Got the Silver reportedly had pleuropneumonia when he was two and subsequently required the removal of two ribs. Pleuropneumonia – an inflammation both within the lung(s) and within the pleural cavity – can cause thoracic abscesses which might require the removal of a rib portion or the entire rib in order to access the abscess for drainage and treatment. This procedure requires 2-3 months for adequate healing, but complications include formation of a draining tract. The little nearly-black You Got the Silver did indeed develop such a tract – but that didn’t keep him from enduring the rigors of racing.

You Got the Silver was advertised for sale on Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds (August 2, 2015) after “his connections have agreed that he is not racing material.” His bout with pleuropneumonia and rib resections that left him with a chronic, pus-draining hole in his side was glossed over in the ad…“A hole remains at the surgical site which we are told doesn’t bother him and requires once or twice daily cleaning. The current trainer has had him since December and the hole remains unchanged.” Not racing material per his connections, the ad states…yet they raced him two more times after that ad – August 7, coming in 30 lengths behind, last of 6, and August 14, last of 8, 23 lengths back.

You Got the Silver – “not racing material” – was then acquired by yet another racing owner/trainer, Tito Rivera. Rivera raced the little colt EIGHT MORE TIMES – 3 times in October. With a chronically infected hole in his side, it was surely only his heart that propelled him to his first (and only) win on October 14. On that night, with a 5K price tag on his head, You Got the Silver earned Rivera $5400. But that STILL wasn’t enough. October 26, 6th for $90. November 9, 9th – no check. And then on November 25, You Got the Silver “weakened,” finished 7th, and gave Rivera another $90.

On December 5, this Facebook post on my newsfeed caught my attention: “Another URGENT OTTB” (although, this was NOT an OTTB…in fact, the post went on to state the horse was going to be running two days later, on Monday, December 7) – “needs home ASAP. You Got the Silver…had surgery to remove 2 ribs and has a permanent drain [there was no drain] in his side…Finger Lakes racetrack is shutting down and he has nowhere to go. SOUND, he is running Monday!” Pictures accompanied this post, and a close-up photo of this “permanent drain” clearly showed a moderate amount of purulent drainage coming from a girth-area hole just caudal to his left shoulder. I was appalled this little black colt was entered to race when he was unmistakably battling infection. To add insult to injury, he was going to be “homeless” in less than a week.

An “Action Alert” was posted on the Horseracing Wrongs Facebook page about You Got the Silver. The comments revealed other advocates were just as appalled as I was (and their phone calls to Finger Lakes Racing Office/GM/racing secretary ultimately led to the colt not having to run on December 7). But shocking were the comments by so-called racehorse-welfare advocates who DEFENDED Tito Rivera and his handling of You Got the Silver. The colt described as “not [being] racing material” with a “permanent drain” in his side couldn’t even get into a trot when prodded to do so by his handler in the video accompanying the ad…yet, the person who made the “URGENT OTTB/NEEDS HOME” post said (on the HW Action Alert) in defense of Rivera: “His surgery was several years ago [the colt is 3, he had the surgery when he was 2 – “several years”?] and was related to an infection at the time. He is sound and has no issues under saddle. He even wins!” Regarding Rivera, she added: “He cares about his horses and they are well treated”; on the colt: “[he] was sound to race.” Yet another irate “advocate” – the executive director of a TB racehorse retirement and placement program – stated: “[Rivera] did nothing wrong” and on the Horseracing Wrongs supporters: “[You] bitch about horses in need, but don’t do anything to help.”

I couldn’t believe that individuals who claim to be equine-knowledgeable would honestly consider a draining hole in a horse’s side to be of no concern. They should certainly know that intact skin/hide is the body’s first-line barrier defense to pathogenic microorganisms and a potential subsequent infection and/or full-blown sepsis! And there is NO equine body that will not try to heal a wound – clean and surgically made or infected. In addition, while attempting to defend Rivera’s callous treatment of this colt with a chronic and obvious infection – “he’s sound”…“he wins!”…“[Rivera] did nothing wrong” – their other comments included: “This horse was headed to a bad place” and “Plenty of Finger Lakes horses head to the killers.” So what was it? Rivera “cares about his horses” or he sends them “to a bad place”?

In the end, the HW supporters’ phone calls demanding You Got the Silver NOT race on December 7 were successful. The depleted little colt – battling a year-long infection – was spared from being raced one last time. And our opinion that the draining hole in his side was NOT just some insignificant “remnant” of an illness he once endured was confirmed. Once again, recent quotes from those who previously minimized You Got the Silver’s compromised physical state and defended Rivera: “[You Got the Silver] raced 15 times this year with a draining infected chest wound”…“the surgeons at Cornell were concerned about the chest wound” and “the vets spent over 3 hours debriding the infected tract; and when entering the thoracic cavity, encountered an infected piece of bone that had been festering for over a year.” Lastly, “He’ll be on antibiotics for at least 3 weeks…he’s not out of the woods yet…the surgery ended up over $1500.” Clearly, You Got the Silver was a colt in trouble while in Rivera’s grasp YET was forced to race an additional eight times in twelve weeks.

Imagine having to race. For a place to live. To be fed. To simply have a chance of not being sent to slaughter. Now imagine having to race with an infection in your chest – for a year. Troubling, yes?…but not surprising in this industry. But even more troubling is the minimizing of this little colt’s suffering and the defending of his abuser by “advocates.” That’s downright inexcusable.


  1. That’s so mean and heartless it’s scary
    What kind of abuse do these people inflict on their horses because of greed
    It’s no better than a greedy kill buyer barbaric
    Inhumane treatment of GODS horses
    tutored and thrown away for money
    Someone please stop them please

  2. I agree wholeheartedly that the colt should not have been raced. He should have been pulled from racing after his surgery. I do want to lend some facts to your article. The 2 women that defended Mr Rivera did so because they were in the process of being given two of his horses that needed to land with people that had the ability to geld them and provide medical attention. If Mr Rivera felt they were supporting the calls made to the track, there chance to help two horses would be over. They angered many but they did so out of commitment to these horses. I know both of them personally. They work tirelessly to make sure the horses nobody else wants because they are perceived as damaged goods go to only the best homes that are 100% checked out. They both have contacts with organizations that provide grant money to help the horses that need it most. If funding isn’t available, they will go without and pay for the necessary care themselves. Yes it is a good thing that you voiced your concerns so the horse was scratched. He and his stalemate are both gelded and receiving much love and the best of care. So I ask, please set down your swords and think about what you would do if two lives were on the line? Would you defend a trainer so the horses would be able to still come to you to get the help they need or would you let them slip away so you wouldn’t look bad for doing so? I know what I would do. Whatever it takes to help the horses. If you would like to help You Got The Silver, please consider a donation in his name to Second Chance Thoroughbreds in Spencer NY. The antibiotics he is on are very expensive. This 501c3 organization took in 7 warriors off the track when the season ended. It takes a village to help those without voices. We can make a tremendous difference if we work together.

    • Tammy, I did donate to Second Chance Thoroughbreds for Silver’s surgery. I called Cornell the day of his surgery and Cornell credited the rescue’s account. I do appreciate what Collette did for him. I asked her if her rescue got a discount from Cornell and she said that they didn’t which I found very troubling.

      • Thank you Mary. What a wonderful and caring thing to do. Although its troubling that Cornell does not offer a discount, it isn’t surprising. They would be inundated by requests for discounts for rescues. I took a horse there 2 years ago for a local 501c3 rescue that needed a CT Scan and MRI. No discount, however, the staff was excellent and we were treated very well. We are very fortunate to have an equine hospital of this caliber in our backyard.

      • Tammy, I have an equine hospital in my backyard, too, and they do give discounts to legitimate 501c3’s. That facility is Ohio State. It isn’t a huge discount (20%) but every little bit helps. I just personally feel that it is the right thing to do. Every rescue seems to struggle financially and a discount might make a difference between helping an animal or not helping one.

    • Tammy…

      The very first plea that came across FB for You Got the Silver had these comments in it; “SOUND, he is running on Monday” and “[the] racetrack is shutting down and he has nowhere to go”. Included were photos of YGTS that showed the purulent drainage exiting the hole in his side. “SOUND” encompasses more than the condition of a racehorse’s legs…the description of YGTS’s surgery along with the photo of the pus-draining hole was NOT a “picture” of a “sound” horse. Right off the bat, the person who posted the plea for his life was misleading the reading public and covering for the abusive owner/trainer. But then to make matters worse, the lies about YGTS continued in their comments…“his surgery was several years ago” – SEVERAL years ago? – YGTS is only 3 and his surgery was when he was 2. And about Rivera…“he cares about his horses and they are treated well” and “[he] did nothing wrong”. It is one thing to plead for a horse’s life using accurate facts WITHOUT defending or covering for the horse’s abuser – simply state the facts and say nothing about the abuser. But Rivera was defended, was described as a caring individual, and was justified in racing a sick colt. And that was an outright betrayal of the little colt who had no voice and no one defending him. What if someone believed the words of the poster and decided to take YGTS?…according to Rivera’s defenders in the comments, that “hole” was nothing to worry about and only needed daily (once or twice) cleansing! A “free” colt would quickly turn into a horse who required expensive surgery and costly long-term antibiotic therapy. Then what?…that kind of misleading will only hurt the horse.

      Defending the abusers is never the answer…it only enables them to abuse other innocent, defenseless beings. In defending this industry, we will only ensure it continues to abuse more horses. We as rescuers will have a never-ending “job” as long as horse racing continues to exist – the racehorses we rescue are just “drops in the bucket” that we’ve caught from a monstrous waterfall…it will never be enough. Every racehorse we rescue is deserving of that rescue…and every racehorse needs rescuing. Let’s call it like it is and expose the abuse – educate the public – and assist this dying industry to its demise. Protecting the abusers betrays the horses and makes certain there will be countless horses waiting for help that will never come – the help we can provide will NEVER be enough. So let’s STOP the abuse.

      Lastly, the Action Alert concerning YGTS was not an attack on the rescuers – it was exposing the critical situation the sick little colt was in and his abuser. “Working together”, as you suggest, seemed unlikely the minute the “Horseracing Wrongs supporters” were accused of “bitching” and “[not doing] anything to help”. I don’t support the industry and will not wear a muzzle to get crumbs from the 40-billion-dollar industry. Isn’t it incredibly frustrating that organizations who choose to defend that same industry are the begging recipients of those scraps? That speaks volumes.

      • Joy, the woman that posted was likely going on second hand information from a person on the inside that is quite ignorant. I’m sure when she saw for herself what was going on she was appalled. Although her words are often toxic and posts embellished, she does always put the horse’s well being first and foremost. I really wish your article left out the slam on the ladies that work hard to do the right thing for these horses. I truly believe it would make more of an impact

  3. Would like to see horse racing go away like dog racing is . . They care little about the horses – it’s only about the money. The majority of horses are so used and mistreated, then thrown away. Even many of the winners are sent to slaughter as a thank you. The industry is a huge part of the problem. Makes me sick

  4. The bottom line is that You Got The Silver NEVER should have been racing…NEVER, and yet someone was posting on a FB page that he was “healthy” which was a lie. I have been involved with horses for well over 50 years and I watched Silver jog in a video at the track. The handler could barely get him to trot for a few strides. I knew immediately that something was wrong…very wrong. I donated to his surgery at Cornell because I had offered to help when his precarious situation came to light. Silver is the type of horse that I would have taken in a heartbeat if I wasn’t already at my limit with discarded horses from the racing industry. I hope and pray that he has found a soft place to land.

  5. Horrific. You would think his connections would have found him a good home. Instead, they made him race in his condition?
    Horse racing is a just a factory farm with the only difference being the animal.
    Total disregard for a living, breathing being.
    This is horse racing.

  6. Let me get this straight. A horse with respiratory disorders is sent to have surgery to ‘breathe’ better by draining blood and puss? It’s a horse. An ANIMAL for crying out loud. Being overran, exercised, raced WILL cause bleeding of the lungs. He should have been rested for months from the start. Hiding the problem and continuing to race him is what cause the need for surgery.
    To sell him was a dumbass idea. Yall can all rot in hell where desperate money-grabber sociopaths go.

  7. This is horse racing, folks! No, of course not everyone involved, but the good folks don’t ever stand up and drive the scum out because the corruption goes SO deep.

  8. Better question how and why did he win with the hole in his side? The other horses had to painfully slow.

  9. So is he at Second Chance??

    BTW….Face the Fire is doing great in his new status as retiree. He is an absolute dear!

    • Faith, yes, You Got The Silver is at Second Chance Thoroughbreds and is being cared for. Glad to hear that FTF is doing great. So glad he is with you!

  10. The horse is a race horse, he was bought by me cause I liked him as a race horse, he had and operation don’t before I got him, I care gor him and train him for a short time , and was treating him for what he had, He did everthing all horses do, He was never in distress at anytime, the person making up a big stink got invo on the horse doesn’t care or do anything for this horse but crys like she gives a shit! The only people who no this horse and how he was cared for are the people at Fingerlakes myself, my vets, the track vets, and his jockey . Just remember just because a horse get beat 30 lengths doesnt mean he’s trash, He is my pride and my work when I got him to win, which Shock everyone who said his leak eas killing him! You want to save something lady go save the dying in the hospitals, go save the dogs and cats that are being gased daily, go save the hungry children who have no food to eat, Go save all your turkeys the slaughter for your own life to eat on your kitchen table! Bitch about that, Silver is alive and well and its not cause of you lady!

    • “Silver is alive and well and its not because of you lady” !!! Is it because of you Tito ?? I don’t think so !!
      The horse was sick, too sick to race. What you did is indefensible.
      So you think all the other wrongs in the world should get all the attention but you and your “business” should be free to abuse and mistreat horses ad-lib ?

    • Rivera, you are an animal exploiter and you exploited You Got The Silver, plain and simple. You raced Silver, multiple times, with an infection and a chronic, pus draining, hole in his side. Again, in case this is one of your “slow” days, you raced a horse with an infection and a hole in his side through which pus was draining. An equine vet, who was told about Silver’s condition, states that Silver was in discomfort/pain since the horse acquired the infection which we know was close to a year. Your horse lived in discomfort/pain and yet you expected him to race. By the way, an infection usually means that the animal or human is NOT functioning at a normal level. Even without exertion, Silver would have been uncomfortable. If anyone doesn’t give a “shit”, it is you…Rivera. Got it?

      You further incriminate yourself by saying that, “he is my pride and my work when I got him to win”. Was Silver not your pride when he didn’t win? Remember, Rivera, that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut. What continues to be troubling is that you have other horses in your care. What a shame!

      Thank goodness Silver is now with a rescue who is caring for him and has provided for his needs. As far as giving a “shit”, how much did you donate to the rescue who took him in? His surgery cost over $1,500 and he may require a second one. If you gave a “shit”, then you would donate, right? Silver won for you so a donation isn’t too much to ask, is it? Anyone with minimal intelligence knows that there is no such thing as a “free” horse. As soon as you take the lead rope into your hands, the costs begin to accumulate. I’ve been doing this rescue thing for a long time so I do know what I am talking about. Share some of your horse’s winnings with those who truly care…the rescue! Show us all that you give a “shit”!

      Finally, I help people and animals all the time. Unlike you, I donated towards Silver’s surgery so I guess I give a “shit”. I am a vegetarian and working hard on becoming a vegan so that also proves that I give a “shit”. I haven’t eaten a turkey in years and years and I rescue dogs, and cats, too. Now, Rivera, it is time for you to follow YOUR advice. Go save some animals and feed some hungry children. Got it?

    • Mr. Rivera, I neglected to thank you in my previous reply for commenting here. You gave the readers – especially those who aren’t familiar with industry “insiders” – a brief glance at the type of individuals who permeate this industry. You didn’t let us down – your self-incrimination spoke volumes.

      To think Rivera and company have defenseless, voiceless animals in their hands. Frightening.

  11. Mr. Rivera….to address your suggestions for me…
    – I do save the “dying in the hospitals” – I’m a nurse

    – I also save cats and dogs “being gassed” as I only adopt from shelters

    – I give to my local food banks for the “hungry children”

    – I help “save all your turkeys” from slaughter because I don’t eat them (I’m vegetarian)

    Now I’ve got a suggestion for you – save horses from your abuse of them and ignorance about them and race cars instead of the sentient beings that suffer in your “care”.

  12. Well Miss Joy! You have the wrong name because Joy your not! As all can witness Miss Joy takes animals she wants home, She”s a nurse so that make her a Savoir? .O.K.! You “not eating turkey don’t save them, Saying you give to your local food banks doesn’t mean you do. As far as car racing ,I know you don’t drive cars!

    • Well, Tito, you opened your mouth and proved, without question, you are not a decent human being.

      If you ever need a nurse you will eat your words. Nurses are professionals and take care of good and bad. That is what they do and they would give you the care you needed. However, if it were up to me, I would have to hold my nose !

      I’m a nurse, former ICU and military air-medical evacuation. I served many years in the military. The same military that defends your right to be a jerk. However, you do not have the RIGHT to inflict suffering on any horse. What you did to You Got the Silver is just plain wrong..

    • Well, Tito, you opened your mouth and proved, without question, you are not a decent human being.

      If you ever need a nurse you will eat your words. Nurses are professionals and take care of good and bad. That is what they do and they would give you the care you needed. However, if it were up to me, I would have to hold my nose !

      I’m a nurse, former ICU and military air-medical evacuation. I served many years in the military. The same military that defends your right to be a jerk. However, you do not have the RIGHT to inflict suffering on any horse. What you did to You Got the Silver is just plain wrong..

  13. Well Tito read all of your crap and I can tell by your post that you are one selfish heartless,uncaring person on Gods green acres. Horses are not machines or have you not realized. They need tender loving care understanding and love, of which you Sir and I call you that mildly certainly have no compasion for equines whatsoever. You should be subjected to the pain your horse felt, and you should be banned from ever owning training,buying a horse for life. The racing commission needs to get tougher on uncaring SOB’s like this one, and put the horses life first. If you want something to race go and buy some mattel cars that you can throw around and abuse. Sue

  14. Well said Sue, my sentiments exactly. He wouldn’t last one day if he had experienced all the pain that he has inflicted on “You Got The Silver”. He should be suspended indefinitely for what he has done, and should never be permitted to be around any living, breathing, animal for the rest of his life.

    You should burn in hell Tito, along with all the other unscrupulous trainers and owners. You are just another predator, draining every ounce of life from a magnificent creature, who you don’t deserve to be in the presence of. You are a sick bastard who deserves no mercy. Remember “what goes around, comes around… and you are overdue to get yours, for what you have done to this horse.

    Marlene Thornley

  15. This TITO RIVERA bloke has proved to be a cruel human being. He is also typical of the sick culture in the horseracing industry. He is also a sadist – looking at YGTS day in, day out when he was so sick and then watch him race knowing the suffering this young colt was enduring. I bet he was the big fat creep who thought it was hilarious when trying to make him trot up in the video when this colt could barely lift his feet off the ground and his feet were in a shocking state and no doubt causing him pain, as if he wasn’t suffering enough!

    And as for the so called “vets” and racing officials who thought nothing of permitting this poor baby to race – how any person could think it was okay to race this horse is beyond belief. And these people are supposed to be looking out for these horses. It is unforgiveable what they did to this young colt.

  16. Silver’s “advocate” was me, Pam Brace Merrick. i am the one who went to the track and picked him up, took him to Cornell for his surgery and his other “advocate” the Executive Director of Second Chance TB’s raised grant money for his surgery and his gelding operation (donated from One Horse at a Time) and nursed him back to health afterwords. Its now July 2016 and Silver has a home back with me, is in training and is entered in the Retired Racehorse Competition in Kentucky this fall. He is doing amazing! I guess Silver really did have advocates who cared about him and made sure he was safe and well taken care of. The real villains here are not the ones who escorted Silver off the track and got him his medical attention, its the racing officials and track vets who allowed this colt to race at all. Tito really did care about the horse which is why he allowed me to take him home last December in the first place. Tito was not the owner when the horse had his original surgery and we were happy he called me to come get the horse. Your stories are inflammatory and the name calling and finger pointing serves no one and only hurts the chances for the next horse down the line that needs assistance. Do you think that trainer will ever risk calling on us for help again after this debacle????.

    • Another futile attempt to defend the inherently cruel horseracing industry. Trying to justify the unjustifiable. Our stories are inflammatory? Our stories are reality and undoubtedly you and the racing apologists cannot stomach the exposure of the often unspeakable cruelty inflicted upon the horses. Racing has lost its social licence. We are living in the 21st century and animal cruelty is unacceptable, it cannot be justified in any way whatsoever.

    • I totally agree with Carolyn.
      First of all Pam there wouldn’t be thousands of unwanted horses if horse racing shut down.
      Along with this cruelty circus, and death camp would go so many other ugly sides to this industry.
      Second, you are all living a delusion and to defend it only accepts this delusion.
      Third, comments here are not stories – they are indisputable facts when it comes to catastrophic breakdowns and racehorses dying in the dirt for $2 bets.
      Fourth, any supporter or participant of horse racing doesn’t love the horse. They love horse racing. They love what they can exploit from the horse. Once they can no longer exploit the horse, once the horse is no longer profitable, then the dumping begins as you well know.
      If whipping/beating, doping, dumping, and dying is love then I wouldn’t want to see their hate.
      Any Trainer who participates in this industry subjects their horse to all or one of the above, and not one aspect of the mandatory operating procedures eludes love. It eludes evil – pure evil.
      Furthermore, the multibillion dollar horse racing industry should be mandated to fiscally care for the racehorses that are bred for this antiquated cruelty circus, and death camp.
      I find it disgusting that you seem to actually blame this blog, and some people on it for this story that you have told.

  17. If anyone is still reading this, please know that there was a happy ending in all this for You Got the Silver. He ended up healing from his ordeal very well and is now my beloved trail horse and is very well cared for.

    • This is very good to hear!
      Please send us a photo of him trail riding.

    • EWWhite, thank you for the update. Silver touched my heart. Of course they all do but some more so than others and, as Carolyn said, we would love to see a photo of him in his new career. Email Patrick a photo and ask him to post it here. It would make my day to see that sweet boy enjoying life!

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