Shedrow Secrets: Diva’s Kitten

Shedrow Secrets

Diva’s Kitten
by Joy Aten

Aftercare. The TB racing industry’s buzzword these days. Recognizing the public’s ever-increasing awareness that vast numbers of racehorses are sent to slaughter, the industry and its apologists boast, ad nauseam, of their drop-in-the-bucket aftercare initiatives. Their incessant chatter on the subject begs some questions: If racehorses are the “beloved family members” the horse people gush they are, why are they not providing their spent and injured horses with post-racing homes? Why does this multi-billion dollar industry not fully support the horses it bred and used, but instead plead with an over-solicited public to help foot the bills?

And we see them every day. Racehorses begging for homes. Everywhere. Still at the track. At auction barns. In kill pens. In rescue and placement programs. On social media. Listing services. “Watch Lists.” Craigslist. Endless lists. And if a home is secured? The financial demands to meet the horse’s needs for the next 20 or so years will far surpass what any racing owner’s were for that same horse. Bred for racing, used in racing, but ultimately, not supported by racing.

Diva’s Kitten was one such horse – no longer wanted, in desperate need of a home. Here is what a listing service had to say about the 4-year-old filly: “**Please Note she has a chip in her Upper Knee Joint** Extremely Classy Dappled Beauty!! It was found recently that she’s got a chip in her Upper Knee Joint. She could continue to Race but her connections would rather see her retire. Great Broodmare Prospect!! She could also be a ridding [sic] horse for someone willing to give her a chance since a chip doesn’t mean they can’t still have a career! Our meet is ending and needs to Move ASAP!!” She was priced at $650, but within a day, it was changed to “Make Offer.”

So what do you think? Clearly, the ad depicts the following as facts: 1), R&P Racing Stables (owner) and Rodney Faulkner (trainer) appear considerate (“She could continue to Race but her connections would rather see her retire.”); 2), the “chip” is dismissed as inconsequential as not only could DK “continue to race,” she is also a riding prospect; 3), a $650 price tag, given the preceding, seems more than reasonable (with negotiating room – “needs to move ASAP” – to boot). Looks great, right? Buyers see a bargain in a young, serviceable filly, and apologists will praise the connections for retiring her when they could still be racing her. Red flags, anyone?

from the ad…

First put to the whip as a 2-year-old, Diva’s Kitten would be raced 32 times in all for Faulkner, R&P, and Skipper Hamilton, “earning” over $100,000 along the way. But in her last race, September 17 at Thistledown, she “trailed, stopped, jogged to wire” – finishing last, nearly 30 lengths behind. At some point between then and October 15, her connections had knee x-rays done, and by the latter date she had been put up for sale (the ad’s info coming directly from Faulkner). So, while it looked a great deal to a prospective buyer, the outcome was more likely to be pasture pet/money pit, and with that, a huge risk of Diva landing in the slaughter pipeline. This is where rescuers Mary Johnson and Rose Smith come in, ultimately purchasing (and saving) Diva.

right after rescue…

Having been told Diva’s Kitten came out of her last race lame but without possession of the x-rays (Mary tried unsuccessfully to obtain them several times), it was decided to take more films – and of both knees. The diagnosis was as bad as anticipated. For this 4-year-old to have any chance for a comfortable life, she needed surgery.

Diva’s Kitten underwent bilateral knee arthroscopy on November 14. Her left knee had taken the worst of the pounding. From the operative report: “large defect on the weight-bearing surface of the intermediate carpal bone, along with a large fragment…loose cartilage on the entire dorsal margin [and] a distinct fragment buried deep in the joint capsule [that] could not be removed.” Diva’s Kitten was, obviously, not sound to race. And “riding” horse? Not without surgery, followed up with a series of joint injections and monthly supplements. And then, only maybe.

That is how her “job” left her. At four. Without surgery, she would have quickly deteriorated to “broodmare only” condition, followed by “pasture-pet” status – while, likely, in her teens, if not before. In less than one month, the cost of her post-racing needs has climbed to just shy of $5,000, and, of course, that’s just the beginning. Bred for Racing. Used by Racing. Maimed by Racing. But not a penny in help from Racing.

Had Diva’s Kitten not been rescued by Mary and Rose, it would only have been a matter of time before photos of her at an auction or in a kill-pen surfaced (if, that is, she was lucky enough to be noticed). There would then have been a scrambling for donations to save her life. But with the revelation that her last race was several months prior, the apologists would have made certain to absolve her “connections,” prattling: “Her racing owner didn’t send her there! She’s been off the track since September – couldn’t have been Racing that dumped her at auction!” Not responsible? Please. Didn’t they use her? Take her “earnings”? Wasn’t she maimed in their care? Yes, yes, and yes. Not only did Faulkner ignore the injury she suffered while making him money, he set her up for disaster by presenting her as something she was not.

Diva’s Kitten, of course, is not unique. Racing owners don’t attend to their horses’ injuries unless it’s to salvage for breeding or continued racing; they just pass the “problem” on to the next guy. Countless racehorses found at auction have the same story as Diva’s Kitten…and while their connections might not have personally delivered them into the kill buyers’ hands, they might just as well have. They set their spent, injured, and unwanted horses up for bad endings; they open the door to slaughter and send them through it. Again. And again. And again.

Where is the aftercare for Diva’s Kitten? Racing didn’t supply the funds to cover her purchase, veterinary expenses, board, transport, and follow-up care. And racing isn’t going to provide her with a home for the next 25 years. Bred for, used in, damaged and discarded by Racing – moral bankruptcy defined.

Mary and Diva, after surgery…

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  1. Thanks to Mary and Rose this beautiful horse has a better life. No surprise the devious manner she was described. When will this cruel so-called sport be banned across America. The previous owners should pay all costs for Diva’s Kitten’s surgery and any follow up care. (What are the chances these hypocrites will provide any care, the honorable thing to do, but wait this is the horse racing industry, fat chance)

    Thanks to Mary and Rose….Diva’s Kitten is far better off with them and out of the cruel horse racing industry

  2. Yes, I too rescued a 4 year old last year off Bowie feedlot (TX)….riding horse? Maybe in her future….dealing with her lameness issues right now also……..

  3. These 2 wonderful ladies have probably spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on retiring at risk racehorses that they have never earned a penny from. God bless them for all the hard work that they have done.

    • Amen, Peggy. YET, racing apologists (dressed in advocate clothing) exclaim those of us who expose racing for what it is AND rescue the industry’s horses “do more harm then good”.

      The INDUSTRY crippled the horses…Mary, Rose and others RESCUE those horses…but THEY do more harm than good? Telling of those who scream that, isn’t it….

      • Joy is absolutely correct that “aftercare” is the new buzzword for those that support racing. However, for those of us who have been in the trenches and can grasp how difficult it is to find a horse a “good” place to go when that horse is no longer productive, the “aftercare” options are extremely limited or non-existent. Diva’s Kitten had NO options. Thistle was closing and horses were moving to Mahoning. After helping the horses in this vile industry for years, I am capable of grasping just how valuable the stalls are at any given track. Stalls are valuable pieces of real estate, and the horses, within those stalls, MUST produce revenue or they must GO. Diva was damaged….badly damaged….by her racing connections. We have all heard the phrase “perception is reality” and I personally believe that Faulkner wanted to drastically downplay the damage done to her. Her ad stated that she “could” race again leading a potential buyer to believe that Diva was suitable for an upper level discipline when, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Faulkner sucked her dry and then put his home bred up for sale. Damaged beyond repair at the age of four with a future limited to being a pasture pet (and that prognosis comes directly from the equine vet that took her initial x-rays) UNLESS someone stepped up for her and was willing to invest thousands of dollars in a horse who never made them a damn dime. AFTERCARE? What a monstrous lie perpetuated by an industry based on gambling and vile to the core.

        A couple days ago, one of the top owners in racing, in regards to winnings, posted on FB that the NTWO had taken in 70 horses from Louisiana tracks. This is a quote from her page….”Few connections have offered to help with aftercare.” No surprise there, right? She then goes on to say that the jockeys at Delta Downs have contributed their hard earned jock fees to the NTWO and then stated that this is HEROIC. What? HEROIC to donate some of your fees to the horses who have put money in your bank account? Didn’t the jocks make a living on these horses as they whipped them to the finish line? Didn’t they willingly take part in an industry that cripples, maims, and kills DAILY and uses slaughter as its disposal system? Yet, according to this racing insider, the jockeys are HEROES because they decided to help the horses they exploited. Again, there are people who will really believe this rubbish because they have no clue who the real heroes are. Let me be clear. When you use an animal FOR profit, you OWE that animal something in return. It has nothing to do with being a hero. It has to do with being a decent human being.

  4. Thanks to Mary and Rose, and their entire team of people who spend their own personal money to take care of racehorses, like Diva’s Kitten, after they become disposables through no fault of their own.
    Ralph Biamonte, a trainer at Woodbine, is an owner/trainer who gets rids of his horses when he’s done using them.
    He had the horse of the year “DON’T SEVEN OUT” made over $300,000 back in 2003.
    He ran 3rd to my horse Wolfie in the Puss N Boots stake race.
    Years after I left the business, and while boarding Wolfie back in 2010 I bumped into one of the grooms for Don’t Seven Out who had rescued him, and was boarding him where I was.
    She describes the day that she literally pulled him off the van heading for kill auction.
    She said that he was in rough shape, and immediately required hoof care.
    Now R.B could argue that DSO was claimed, and that it wasn’t his fault – all the usual excuses that Joy Aten expresses in her article, but he dumped this horse after it ran his butt-off for him, and when he became lame he was dropped down into claiming.
    The groom said that she had to take on an additional job at Tim Horton’s just to pay for the horse because when she contacted R.B. to commit to a nominal monthly amount just to pay his board he refused and hung up on her.
    She was asking for $150 dollars per month to ensure that DSO had a soft landing.
    With tears in her eyes, she said to me “Gina, I just couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t let DSO go to slaughter, which is where he was heading for.”
    She said that throughout the years that she worked for R.B she describes him as a heartless SOB, but being an uneducated single Mom she needed the money.
    So R.B refused even $150 per month while he owns a million dollar home in Niagara Falls and another farm property worth about 1 million in the same location!
    She said she just couldn’t believe that he had about 6 empty stalls on his farm, but absolutely refused to take this horse in.
    He said I don’t treat them like “pets,” they are there to make money not to spend mine.
    This is a very common mentality on race tracks, and that’s why so many end up at slaughter.

  5. If I can say this, I am asking readers of accounts like this one written by Joy Aten, a genuine expert in TB racing and rescue, TO PLEASE SHARE on your Facebook page or to send the article by e-mail, to show as many people as possible. Recently, I sent a HRW article by e-mail (she doesn’t do FB) to a friend who knew nothing about the atrocities at the Belmont Race Track. She grew up near the track, owns a house near it now, and was shocked at the facts of racing. She thanked me. I know she will tell others.
    Also, I am purchasing several copies of “Saving Baby” by Jo Anne Normile to give to friends for Christmas or Hanukkah presents. I am selective, of course, and give them to people I know will read it but that leaves me with a good number of people. This way, we can inform people about the horrors of racing and the moral bankruptcy of those involved in this industry.

  6. Would divas kitten be a good canidate for stem cell therapy, irap, or platelet rich plasma? I know this is usually used for tendons and ligaments, but to my general knowledge would they not help with producing collagen and help restore cartilage? I do know there is little to no chance of infection unlike with corticosteroids because they are cells from the horses body. I hope divas kitten does well in recovery, and finally gets to enjoy life as just a horse. To mary and rose i struggle to even find the words to show the gratitude and respect for what you women have done for the horses time and time again. For the ones that dont know much about the industry and horse racing, i encourage you to educate yourselves and learn the truth, to have the knowledge to fight for the horses, they so desperately need it.

  7. She is also receiving Adequan per updated protocol. It is our intention to restore a semblance of a decent life for Diva’s Kitten, something she was unscrupulously robbed of by the racing industry.
    Unfortunately, Diva’s Kitten is emblematic of the cruel disregard for the welfare of the horse.
    The industry is worth billions but it’s athletes are nothing but disposable commodities.

    • Get your facts right, you did not rescue DK , her caring owner was just trying to find her a good home, unfortunately for DK, you and Mary have her, omg, now the poor filly is being used as a scapegoat!! You want to do something heroic?? Go to the kill buyer sales and rescue the numerous saddlebreds that are destined for slaughter, quit bashing an industry you know nothing about!!!

      • And as far as an industry we know nothing about – how much do we really need to know when we see the kind of results that Diva had? As a 4 year old BABY – her knees are trashed! And as far as the track where her former connections are currently racing, they are averaging at least one death a week – the most recent being today, when another 2 year old baby lost her life. That’s all we really need to know, isn’t it?

      • Ray the apologist orders us to “quit bashing an industry you know nothing about!”
        Ray, unfortunately, many of HRW supporters/posters know exactly what goes on in this industry.
        Doping (both legal and illegal) to keep sore horses going, strenuous physical weight on under developed bodies, whipping/beating when tired/sore, intense confinement, dumping either in the claiming ranks, kill auctions or on people who had nothing to do with the exploitation, maiming, dying in the dirt, etc etc.
        The offshoots of this industry are equally ugly such as broodmare estrogen collection, rodeos, and we have uncovered recently blood banks.
        Yes, that’s right, ex-racehorses who end up in horrific conditions tethered 24 hours per day while IV lines are hooked up to their jugulars to collect blood to give to those racehorses who get maimed and need blood transfusions pre, during or post-surgery.
        Of course the blood is “royal” only given to the “royal” bloods because the cheap claimers just get put down.
        You know what Ray?
        I had my blinkers on for many years, growing up in this industry, I was indoctrinated at a young age, totally supported this business for too many years until I could no longer rationalize the horror show and the daily public executions going on not to mention the deep, ingrained corruption.
        Taking your blinkers off is much harder than just leaving them all and closing your eyes to what’s going on around you.
        This business is a total creep show from start to finish.

  8. Whoever did the surgery to DK ought to learn how to put bandages on, who places vetrap over standing bandages????

    • Ah yes, “Ray”, those “caring” connections who raced her, pocketed the $100K-plus HER labors earned…THEN, after she severely injures her knee under their service, they blatantly and dangerously misrepresent her (lack of) soundness by reporting to the listers (and I hope they have learned a valuable lesson!); “She could continue to race”. They did nothing for her after she was hurt – they wanted her gone as evidenced by putting her up for sale…and in fact, changed the $650 price tag to “Make Offer”. “Caring”? Please.

      “She could continue to race” – that, told to the listing service AND what the listing service chose to put in Diva’s Kitten’s ad. Now “Ray”, are you THAT naive to NOT understand misrepresenting a horse’s soundness and ability is dangerous for the horse? Are you that new to horse rescue? (Maybe it’s just Saddlebreds you’re concerned with, so I can understand you’re not familiar with the “typical” racehorse injuries).

      Yes, when horses are advertised as “could continue to race”, that leads the potential buyer to believe the horse is going to be sound for activities Diva’s Kitten is NOT sound for. And “Make Offer”? – an unsuspecting buyer without the financial means to meet what Diva’s Kitten’s expenses have added up to (to date, $6,000.00), acquires her for cheap (because that’s all she can afford) and THERE, the filly is set up for – WITHOUT A DOUBT – a very bad ending. “Ray”, you will see this once you’ve been rescuing horses as long as we have.

      Odd you should bring up saving horses (well, only Saddlebreds, it seems) from “kill buyer sales” – yes, we do that, too. When Mary and I went to the notorious Good Friday Shipshewana auction, our group rescued over a dozen equines…grade horses, ponies, Standardbreds, Arab-crosses, QH’s…we didn’t then nor do we now consider ourselves “heroic”.

      Finally, since our farms are FULL (mostly with rescued racehorses), neither Rose, Mary nor I have Diva’s Kitten convalescing with one of us – hence, we aren’t changing her bandages. Aren’t you thrilled, though, that she has bandages to change? – that Mary and Rose did for her what her racing connections SHOULD have done for her? Maybe YOU can request of the “caring” owner and trainer to pay Mary and Rose back the 6K they’ve spent to purchase, evaluate, treat and care for Diva’s Kitten – and one of them can give her the forever home she deserves (and then THEY can change her bandages, as well!).

      Racing owners/trainers ridding themselves of their injured and no-longer-competitive horses – via selling, giving away to individuals or to rescues – are no different than the folks who drop their old dogs off at a shelter because they want a “new dog”. In fact, it is even more contemptible – their unwanted horses paid their rent…THEN they dump them.

    • Ray, You do know that track bandages, at the most, go up to the top of the cannon bone, right? And that this filly had surgeries on her knees? The track bandages are for support of the legs and prevent dependent edema whereas the vetrap is there for protection of, and keeping the surgery sites and the cotton clean, as well as supporting the ace wraps around the knees. You can’t just vet wrap the knees and hope for the best.
      And as for the thousands of horses I’ve been around, and hundreds of horseshows, I think I may have seen a combined total of, maybe, 3 pure saddledbreds. But I’ve sure seen hundreds of Tbs at the tracks that disappeared, or needed good forever homes that never came. Yes, I agree, these connections were trying to find this filly a home, instead of directly pipelining her to slaughter. But, even at $650, was not much of an effort or assurance this filly would find a good home, and even worse at “make offer, needs to go ASAP since the meet is ending!” Thank god for people like rose and Mary, because once the nastiness of the extent of this filly’s knee damage was found out, chances are anyone else would not have been willing to go to this extent to save this little girl’s life, and limbs. She now has the possibility of having a sounder, happier life, with much more potential, than she did previously, especially for only being 4 years old. Instead of being upset at this, we should be grateful, Ray. Her life was saved.

      • Thanks for clarifying the bandage issue.
        I had a non-displaced chip removed from one of my racehorses knees at Texas A & M (bought the gelding this way because the breeder was going to send him to a kill auction).
        Anyways, the best vets, and they wrapped him just as the picture, and just as you describe precisely for the reasons you state.
        Second, finding homes for TB’s that are no longer financially and/or physically viable for racing is a near impossible task these days as most of us know.
        The cost of keeping a sound and sane horse is expensive, let alone the special needs of a racehorse and every single one of them coming off the track has some need(s) that require special attention, that results in lots of money to get them into a comfortable state – something that their connections ignored because creating a mess, and dumping it on others is part of this business.
        Although money is usually the main issue another huge factor is horsemanship skills.
        You have to be an experienced horse person to deal with and handle a racehorse coming off the track in most situations, and a racehorse with physical issues almost always affects their behavior.
        The fate that awaits horses like Diva’s Kitten is usually the slaughterhouse floor, but can be a neglectful cruel situation before they end up at the kill auction.
        This multibillion dollar industry does little to nothing (relative to their profits that the horses generate) for racehorse aftercare, and it’s a total disgrace.
        However, it’s also the breeders who breed and breed, dump and dump, and almost never go back to rescue the horse that THEY brought into this world when they know it’s so obviously done and needs rescue.
        Their time to shut down is coming, it will come, and it can’t come soon enough for the horses.

  9. Having purchased an OTTB via a fraud sale ( drugs covered his injuries) I spent months tracking down former racing owners to find the truth. Its as ugly as this story. The minute my horse pulled up injured on the track his racing owner who also bred him, named him after his greek father and still owned his dam –told the trainer he would not spend another penny on the horse not even a pain killer, but you know hey find em a good home… Because we all know there so many good homes for horses with multiple fractured sesamoids, old fractured ankle and in his last race anyone can see his hind end bobbling funny so hello- just add SI issues to his list of assets…. He ended up getting passed about by some not so great rescues, then dumped and landed in a backyard shed for a year with no vet treatment. Due to his great bloodlines and good looks the low life tried to pass him off as a jumping prospect. It has taken me 4 years to bring him serviceably sound for non jumping. He is a horse that needs his daily gallop in the pasture, and I knew he would never be happy just limping around. I had to get him running on all four legs. He had terrible PTSD and would freak out with no warning. Most of that is gone now. But it took all my time,and I mean all, and buckets of money to get him pain free as well as stop the progression of arthritis. I am just one average person, who saved one ex racehorse but like the groom who pulled the horse off the slaughter truck- I just could not send him back to the low life rescue that would have put him down or worse. He deserved better. I knew there was good heart buried in his fear and dangerous behavior. But my real point is this: I think any owner of any animal who uses them for profit should be required to provide the necessary vet treatment for any injury created on the job. They should be required to make them whole before they leave the racing stable. People can argue back and forth about the bigger problems in racing, hate racing or not, try to end racing or not. But I remain appalled that basic animal rights are not in place for these working athletes. Appalled that horses have no law that requires owners to provide vet care ( and I am not talking about pain killers ). Owners should be REQUIRED to fix what they break.

    • CJ, firstly, thank you for doing for your horse what should have been done immediately (when he was injured racing). And I agree with you 100% – it doesn’t matter what breed the horse is or what discipline/industry he was injured in – “If he was hurt when YOU were using him, then YOU fix him.” But of course, that doesn’t happen in the racing industry.

      In my last several years with CANTER, we took in literal HUNDREDS of horses with injuries that needed surgery, long rehab and/or euthanasia – all paid for by the kind donors to CANTER – not a damn dime from the racing owners and trainers who pocketed every last cent their injured horses were forced to earn for them. And that all continues today with racehorse rescues…they are constantly begging for funds to care for the horses racing no longer wanted nor could use.

      Until this industry meets its long-overdue demise, it should be responsible for caring for every horse it bred and used. Additionally, it should provide them all with homes for life. NO MORE asking the public to fund their care and give them homes. Racing bred them, used them, now take care of them. Just think how many more equines WE could help (those horses who were NOT “created” by a multi-billion dollar industry for its use) if racing took care of their own!

  10. There has been so many racehorses dumped at kill pens this last month it’s heartbreaking.
    I can’t keep up.
    It’s a never ending flow of their dumped gambling chips and none of them want to do anything about it.
    Take for example, VERY PLAYFUL standing in a kill pen with her slaughter ship date 3/23/2021.
    VP made over $150,000 for Trainer Timothy A. Hills and owner Laurence Foggle.
    She last raced in 2015 so you know the proverbial story the probably sold her to a loving home.
    Well she’s been neglected with no feed, her ribs showing, head down in despair – a former shadow of herself.
    Her back right fetlock is swollen, her right front too, but it appears to be recent from a deep cut which could have been sustained during her transport in the kill pen truck.
    She’s a gorgeous mare, 16 HH and willing to do whatever.
    I contacted Gulfstream Park Racing Office to ask them what their policy is re: a racehorse in a kill pen.
    He said they take it “very seriously” and that Gulfstream Park has an excellent aftercare program.
    He then gave me the name of Rains Gundersen who runs their aftercare program and said she will look after it.
    Well, I called and couldn’t get an answer, I left a message hours ago that has not been returned, I called the Trainer Timothy A. Hills – no answer, left a message informing him of her plight, left my name and number.
    No calls returned as of yet.
    Her tag price is $1250 and she’s in rough shape – a far cry from her Winner’s Circle pictures and both her smiling Trainer and Owner?
    Nowhere to be found as she’s now fighting for her life.
    This, my friends, is the sad truth about horse racing.
    When you bet this is what you support.

    • I’ve seen numerous FB posts by this Raina Chingos Gunderson, Gina – they are sickening.


      -“4 year old gelding, a bit body sore will need some let down time”…but then post was updated with “trainer just informed me racing one more time.”

      -“very cute 3 year old colt, a bit stiff behind, will need let down time then good to go.” (There’s never any mention of diagnostics done and results/treatment plan/prognosis available to buyer – so how does Gunderson know the horse will be “good to go”?).

      -“Gorgeous boy, has chips in knee, will be fine when healed.” (Again, fine when healed? Says who? Where’s the vet evaluation info? Does he need surgery?).

      -“4 year old gelding, has chips in knee, will be fine with time.” (She’s a broken record – they’re all going to be “fine”).

      -“Really cute and sweet 4 year old gelding. Has chips in the knee will need time.” (OMG…and these are all different horses!).

      Gunderson is just another racehorse flipper. “The horse is sore”. “The horse has chips”. Blah blah blah…but in other words, “WE don’t want him…YOU take him.” Typical of this industry – set these injured, still-maturing horses up for bad endings.

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