Shedrow Secrets: Anita Vacation

Shedrow Secrets

Shedrow Secrets

Anita Vacation
by Joy Aten

On July 15, I noticed a photo of a chestnut Thoroughbred mare posted on the “End Of The Line Horse Placement” FB page. Her splayed stance and troubled eye betrayed her pain – and then I saw her front ankles (fetlocks). The apologists’ comments were as expected: “NOT the racing industries [sic] fault”; “The ankles are ugly, but I bet she is sound on them.” An industry insider added: “Race trainer didn’t dump her. She was networked for free for broodmare/pasture puff type home. The new home dumped her at auction when she realized trail riding might not be in her future.” Yes, the mare’s appalling condition and the fact that she was in a kill-buyer’s custody – less than a month after her final race (at Mountaineer for trainer Charles Kieser) – had the racing people scrambling. But in this case, there was plenty of blame to go around.

Five-year-old Anita Vacation was raced 32 times, earning 78K. In her last race on June 18, she brought up the rear – “away slowly, trailed throughout.” After that race, an ad shows her “For Sale” at $500, yet only 10 days later, she had been given away – free – and was at her “new home.” The new owner thought she had acquired a trail-sound horse…the true condition of her ankles was not disclosed by the young woman who had networked her. In addition, no reference checks were done prior to placing Anita Vacation: no calls to the new owner’s vet or farrier, no calls to anyone with intimate knowledge of her; and – no visit to her residence, no contract, no right-of-first-refusal. Nothing. Anita was simply dropped off by a transporter who unloaded her on the road and left immediately after. This had bad ending written all over it. For all trainer Charles Kieser and the gal who networked Anita knew, this new owner could be someone who would bring a horse to auction. And she did. Fifteen days later.

But back to those fetlocks. One apologist seemed particularly intent to absolve Anita’s “connections” for her enlarged, deformed joints: “The ankles are big and ugly but most likely set and not causing a problem.” She comments again: “More than likely these ankles are set, and have been set for quite some time.” Then this: “I’ve seen uglier ankles than that winning races…” Disgusting. Truth is, the mare’s connections took a healthy, sound and beautiful filly and in just over two years made a “pasture ornament” out of her. Kieser raced her on those ankles – ankles the veterinarian, after radiographs and a lameness evaluation, concluded left Anita with a “poor prognosis for athletic use” and limited her activity to being “turned out as a pasture horse” and “lightly ridden at a WALK on flat surfaces.” Again, she was RACED on those ankles.

Anita Vacation is safe now, thanks to Mary Johnson (with help from generous others) providing her a true, final home. She is thin from her ordeal, but I’ve no doubt she’ll reach a healthy weight under Mary’s care. For now, she is reasonably comfortable. She is valued. She is loved. And she will not be dumped again.

Anita Vacation was failed by the individual who carelessly placed her and by the woman she was placed with. But she was failed before that pair even entered the picture. While Anita was spared a brutal, bloody, violent slaughterhouse end, she will live with increasing pain – mostly due to progressive arthritis – and she will die prematurely. For this (and for not guaranteeing her safe landing in the first place), we have this awful industry – chew-them-up-spit-them-out, run-them-into-the-ground, use-them-for-every-last-drop-of-worth horseracing – to thank.


  1. Thank you Joy for this post.
    Grateful that Anita Vacation was spared.
    That said, this is COMMON in the horse racing industry as you know.
    It’s common that racehorses are running on injuries, are sore, are in pain, and are suffering.
    This is not unlike dog fighting – the scars are visible.
    There are lots of injuries that aren’t visible, but are clear when further diagnostics are used.
    These ultrasounds, and x-rays tell a sad story – a story of pain, and suffering; a story that the racehorse has been running on multiple injuries long before they are dumped.
    People who have nothing to do with the exploitation are often the ones who clean up the mess that this industry creates.

  2. This is such sad thing for Anita Vacation to have gone through. We unfortunately experienced a good horse named King Hark taken to auction and were sure slaughter in 1990. King Hark also had enlarged fetlock joints but was still sound enough to ride at a walk or even trot a little. We have always been anti- slaughter. At the time we argued and complained to the farm manager for sending him along with Pat Landers to auction where we knew they would be sold for meat. We never forgave Bill Gent for that and we didn`t care if we lost our job saddle training the farms young horses at the time! The owner of the farm didn`t care how or where the horses went as long as he didnt have to deal with it. At the time the farm owner KNEW he couldn`t replace us for $500 monthly to start his young horses. We lived at the farm in the barn with the horses at the time. King Hark had earned $80,000 in 1980 dollars and we had enough feed / property on the farm that we could have maintained the retired horses for an indefinite period of time. We were quite willing to feed them in addition to our duties of starting the young horses at no extra labor cost for the farm owner. But the manager would have nothing of it! He wanted them gone! King Hark would have been a good starter horse for a new horse owner as he was used to everything and didn`t spook or be afraid of anything as he had already had seen pretty much it all. We are so sad at the time that we didn`t have access to property where we could have saved him!

  3. There is much blame to go around in regards to the maiming, and dumping, of Anita Vacation, but the racing apologists (and I will name them later) have opted to bash and trash the adopter who took her to auction after owning her for approximately two weeks. Was that wrong to do? Absolutely, but, if her racing connections (including Charles Kieser) hadn’t raced her into the ground, she would, most likely, have a future and a second career. The racing industry maimed this horse no matter how hard you try to sugar coat it. She should never have continued to race on ankles that have NO flexion. End of story!

    • And her racing connections should have helped her when she was standing in the kill pen. But I assume Charles Kieser & connections decided that she wasn’t his responsibility anymore. She made these people over $78,000, and not ONE penny of it went to help her. Shame on you West Virginia!

  4. Thank you, Joy, for this story about Anita Vacation and exposing what really goes on with these beautiful horses. Such shocking pain and inexcusable suffering all in the name of $2 bets, entertainment, big egos and greed. It is utterly DESPICABLE!

  5. The bottom line (one of many) is that this one mare will actually have a few years of being well treated and loved. This one mare! This profit-driven industry makes its money on the backs(literally) of animals that are still babies – knees still open – babies that should be allowed to live as horses for at least a couple years before being used up. Where are the regulations that should be in place? Sadly, its just another equine discipline that only exists to make money off these wonderful animals that have always done so much for humans. Seriously, is this what it takes to “entertain” human beings?

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