Sure They Care – About the “Winners”

Shedrow Secrets

Lochness Bluegrass

by Mary Johnson

It was toward the end of 2007 and “Alex Brown Racing” was the forum on which to follow horseracing issues. Of course, whenever horseracing is discussed, the subject of slaughter rears its ugly head. It was because of discussions on this forum that a group of equine advocates decided to attend the Shipshewana (Indiana) Good Friday auction in March 2008, and depending on the amount of money we could raise, we were determined to “save” as many horses as possible. The Good Friday auction is one of the biggest held at Shipshewana during the year. Over a thousand horses pass through the ring, with the auction going from early morning until almost dark. Shipshewana doesn’t discriminate…expensive horses, as well as low-end horses, are run through and kill buyers are, of course, ever present. So money was raised and a handful of us committed to attend (but there were many who donated).

Our group was able to save 14 horses and 2 donkeys that cold, wintry day, and one of those lucky few was a bay Standardbred gelding with “SE636” tattooed on the right side of his neck. We outbid the kill buyer Jaron Gold for this horse, and I vividly remember walking him out of the barn and saying to Joy Aten that he was lame in his right front. Joy replied that it was good that we got him. He came home with me, as did another Standardbred gelding. Within a couple weeks, I reached out to a contact who knew how to track Standardbred tattoos and she identified #SE636 as Lochness Bluegrass, although by then I had named this sweet boy Sherman. Almost 12 years later, Sherman is still a beloved member of my animal family.

We often hear about owners and breeders “loving their horses like children,” although we know that the only reason they bring these horses into the world is to make a profit. A couple months ago, I decided that I wanted to contact Sherman’s breeder, Dr. Luel Overstreet, thinking that he would be overjoyed to hear that a horse he bred was in a loving forever home and had been saved at an auction frequented by kill buyers. I was sadly mistaken. But before I called Dr. Overstreet, I called the U.S. Trotting Association for further info on Sherman: Foaled 4/10/97 in Henderson, Kentucky, Lochness Bluegrass had 20 starts, won $1439, and last raced 2/14/2001 at Balmoral in Illinois. I was already familiar with Sherman’s sire, Dorunrun Bluegrass, a “successful” pacer who won almost two million dollars in his career. The gal I spoke with gave me Dr. Overstreet’s number at his vet office in Henderson.

When I finally connected with Overstreet, I asked him if he remembered Lochness; he had no idea whom I was talking about and he didn’t remember Sherman’s dam, either. I told him that Sherman had been rescued out of a kill auction and he replied, matter-of-factly, that “a lot of them end up there.” He also said that if they weren’t “producers,” he usually was “done” with them by three and off to auction they would go. When I mentioned that Sherman had only won $1400, he actually laughed and said that Sherman most likely went to auction young because horses who weren’t going to make money didn’t stay around very long. He then told me that at least 200 horses had moved through his farm over the years, so it was difficult to remember specific ones. I then realized that to him, most of his horses were just commodities.

I felt incredibly sad for Sherman and his dam, neither of whom were even worth remembering to a man like Overstreet. On the other hand, he was more than interested in telling me about Dorunrun Bluegrass’ track prowess and subsequent stud career in New York and Indiana. Our conversation ended with a feeling of emptiness. I just felt incredibly sad for all those horses who weren’t (aren’t) worthy of being remembered. The big-money earners have “value”; the low-level ones do not. Bottom line, these horses are NOT “loved like children.” In fact, they aren’t loved at all unless they are bringing home a paycheck.

from a commodity…

to a respected being…

55 Comments

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  1. Thank You Mary Johnson
    for your tremendous love and courage and fighting spirit on the subject of Horses !

    Thank You for being such a great advocate for horses and for rescuing so many horses over the Years- without you many horses would have died a horrific death.

    Thank You !

    May God Bless You Eternally .

    Kathleen Ryan

  2. Hi Mary!

    Some people care and some people don’t. In horse racing and in other horse communities. It is sad to hear that that particular owner didn’t seam to care.

    I have racehorses and I have retired racehorses. I have a few that never even went to the track because they didn’t seem capable of racing. I love them all the same. If they don’t want to train or race, they go home and do other things.

    Thank you for buying Sherman and loving him!
    I hope one day that all horses are safe from kill buyers.

    • As long as we keep breeding more horses than we have homes for, they will be sent to slaughter. The racing industry encourages breeding. After all, a good chunk of the income in the industry comes from the high stud fees commanded by winners. A lot of mediocre and poor horses are produced in order to find that once in a generation superhorse, and not many in the industry seem to care what happens to the losers. Just think of the millions of companion animals we kill in this country because puppy and kitten mills exist simply to generate an income for their owners. You seem to be a compassionate person and a horse lover. I have rescued animals for years and ended up keeping many of them because I could not find good forever homes for them. I did not euthanize them or send them to slaughter or give them to any Tom, Dick, or Harry that came along. None of my animals ever produced offspring while under my care, either. I will never bring another animal into the world as long as we have too many that no one wants Unfortunately there are too many people in the racing industry like this veterinarian. I certainly would make sure that he would never see any of my animals, and none of my money would ever find its way into his pocket.

  3. Likewise, Mary! ^^^What Kathleen wrote, above:)

    Also, I’m guessing the Good Dr. Overstreet has since passed on, because racehorse breeders in this Digital Age would not dare be so transparent about their motivations. Now, they publicly speak so highly of themselves, and espouse the notion that they’re in the game to provide the world with healthy, happy, long-lived, sound-retired, well-mannered pleasure horses for little girls to dote on throughout their pets’ golden years.
    I imagine if you conducted a similar interview today, you’d be met with a spin-filled statement from the PR Director of Dr. Overstreet’s Crisis Management Team. It would probably read like a corporate press release right after a product liability recall, but with added assurances like, “Lochness Bluegrass was a beloved and cherished family member…It is with a heavy heart that Dr. Overstreet announces he is forced to sell his favorite…blah, blah, blah.”
    Fortunately for Sherman — and all the other dumped racehorses this hideous industry churns out — the times really are a-changin’.

    • Whoops, I apparently mis-read the timing of these events. This conversation happened THIS year? Sorry, Mary. Will try harder next time;)

  4. I’m not at all surprised. The racing breeders are the original $ god chasers. it’s too bad that all the horses that have gone thru the killers didn’t cost their original breeders a service charge=$300.00. you would really hear the bitching then- it would cut into the profits of these “breeding barn trash”. don’t like the term, then give a dam about what you produce!!!!!!!!

  5. Thank you for that story. I rescue from the killpen and track as well and right now if you go on some of the big rescue sites…PA Rehoming, Canter.org along with many others, they are doing their best to (volunteers) go to the track and take photos, videos and list for trainers and owners who want to unload that have not done well this year. Most of them are 4 years old. Otherwise, these horses would most likely be sent off. When you do get these horses coming straight from the track, they really need very experienced owners to retrain them and let them settle in to be a “regular horse.” They are like machines, standing in the stall is the norm (another retraining) and have no idea what it is like to have a relationship and bond with a human. It takes time and exposure for them to reprogram and about a year to heal from track injuries or soreness. They are amazing, beautiful horses who are very athletic. I feel blessed to assist with these gorgeous creatures and appreciate all the volunteers and organizations that rescue as well and rehome.

    • Carol,would you know about a little dude thoroughbred who raced under the name Royal Marine born 2012 bay. I saw a picture of him recently on a site in PA. they were calling him “Jimmy” he was such a gutsy little dude race horse,and they said he’s sound. Please let me know if you know anything. Thank You

  6. Mary Johnson, Sherman is a beautiful horse and I am so glad that you saved him from the kill buyer and rescued him from being shipped to slaughter. I thank you and everyone who donated and worked with you somehow to rescue the other 13 horses and 2 donkeys as well.

    Horses are considered livestock to many people, especially at the livestock auctions and at the slaughter houses so it is no surprise in many ways that the breeder of this gorgeous horse would not have instant recall of which horse this was without a lot of reminders. It is sad and very disappointing though of course! I certainly think your efforts were not wasted by contacting the breeder. It clearly shows that money is a higher priority than the safety, health, or well-being of a horse.

    God bless you and everyone connected with rescuing horses!!!

  7. Santa Anita Race Track

    When I was a child my father often
    took me to Santa Anita Race Track
    to watch the horses racing to their goal.

    He loved the races and always
    bet on whichever horse was
    his favorite. Once he chose
    a beautiful horse named Alice.

    I remember both of us standing
    at the railing shouting “Come on Alice!”
    while other men were cheering
    their horses, but that time our Alice won.

    Now I just read that Santa Anita
    has temporarily closed, after the deaths
    of nineteen horses in two months.

    One horse, Battle of Midway, was
    euthanized today after he broke down
    during training. “There are no words,” his
    trainer said. “For us, it’s the loss of a child.”

    • “Like the loss of a child”? Bullshit. What parent confines a child to a box for thirteen hours a day? What parent would put their toddler (the age equivalent of these horses when they begin training) in a sport where the coach would repeatedly hit them with a fiberglass rod if they didn’t run fast enough? What parent would give their toddler drugs – knowing full well that those drugs cause internal bleeding and could even stop their heart? What parent would risk their toddler in a sport that could potentially cause skull fractures, broken backs, severed spines, and shattered limbs to the point their leg could snap completely off their body? What parent would leave their toddler in a room overnight with a devastating injury while they waited to hear about insurance? And what parent would dump their dead toddler’s body in a landfill? You can’t compare humans to horses, you say? Why not? The racing industry does – when it suits them to. It’s interesting how theses horses can be children in one sentence and pieces of shit in the next when they don’t bring home a paycheck. It’s interesting how these trainers are “devastated” by the death of a horse (because he was making a profit) yet turn around and send an 18 month old colt or filly to the slaughter house simply because he or she just isn’t fast enough to suit said trainer. Actions speak louder than words – go look at the broken, destroyed, and slaughtered horses that lived a short life of pain, abuse, and exploitation, and then try to tell me that these horses were like children to their owners and trainers. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.

      • Your on POINT today!!!!!! Thank you so much for writing from the HEART…Luv it!!!!! Thank you Rebecca.

    • Donna – that trainer has killed 6 more “children” besides Midway, the most recent being the beautiful young Koa a few days ago. Pretty sure he’s not that devastated. In fact, there’s an article about him whining about having to go race at oaklawn, one of the shadiest tracks in the country. He should fit right in.

  8. Thank God for people lke you.These horses need a hero, and in my eyes and many others, that would be you. Thank you, God, in Jesus name, Amen. GOD Bless You.

  9. Continue doing what you are doing. It is wonderful that there are still people in this world that care for man and animals alike. We are not to be cruel to anything or anyone. We were created to love show compassion and to be in service at all time.

  10. Please create an adoption center instead of this kill auction. It is just a waste of animals and resources to not give people who want to own and love a horse a chance. Couldn’t the SPCA run an auction/ rescue for adoption?

    • There are just so many that need homes and unfortunately, breeders will continue to produce more than there are homes for. As well, not every horse owner has the funds and knowledge to take on a off track horse. I wish that were not the case.

  11. I thought I couldn’t shed any more tears for these beautiful angels. but my heart breaks as I read this. how dare these people? how dare they look at us in the face and tell us they love these horses like family? they shouldn’t even be allowed to have a dog or a cat much less human children!!!! these people are vile and my heart hurts deeply for these precious beings. im so glad Sherman is safe and LOVED!

  12. I am sure with you. My own daughter adopted a very skinny thoroughbred X race horse. She is 16 1/2 hands was biting and kicking behaving absolutely as a neglected terribly unloved horse who had gone from place to place to place. That was a year ago, today she is a retrained trail horse, knows that she is loved and very well cared for, timely hoof trims, chiropractic treatments, and massage. I am proud of my daughter who is a school counselor.

  13. The horses racing industry needs to penalize the breeders that do not provide for their horses after they finish racing. This should have a desirable effect,

  14. All horse racing and dog racing should be stopped now! It is not necessary and is inhumane. Usual a animal, any animal, for entertaining needs to be outlawed. We don’t own these animals, the world does

  15. Words cannot express the disgust I feel for Dr Overstreet. What a low life. I would love to see those people banned from owning horses and shut down racing all together. Those people are empty shells with nothing but greed and glory on their minds. They don’t love or treat their horses like children. It’s greed greed greed look at me. Lord have mercy on their souls (what souls)

  16. I live in Ocala FL…..home of the Ocala Breeders sales. 2017 a horse named Ace King was sold to Korean buyers. He was slaughtered in Feb 2019. He was the fastest that breezed that day. It’s an outrage that so many are bred and slaughtered for a meal !

  17. Thank you, Mary, for Sherman’s story and his picture.
    These horses mean nothing to the breeders unless, of course, they turn out to be big winners. It is very sad to say they know and are fine with most of them being shipped to slaughter. One has to be pretty callous to look at the foals on your farm and know they will be brutally slaughtered in a matter of a few short years. What a way to make money.
    Sherman was incredibly lucky.

  18. I am so glad some people love horses enough to save them. It is a sad world we live in that animals are not children but just commodities that can be discarded for money when they are done with them. Animals bring such joy to us and this is how we reward them.

  19. Thank you for being a great friend to all the awesome horses you have saved and be a great advocate. People like you should double or triple in population.

  20. I have 4 horses I love dearly…In the 80s a girl told me she rescued older horses…I didn’t get it at the time but I was young and didn’t understand the need.. I do now and it breaks my heart to see beautiful horses go to slaughter…It makes me grieve…You did a good thing…

  21. Bless you for caring about animals . You have made a difference in this This world , where most are forgotten . He is a beautiful horse . Sad story about his life .

  22. This so called Vet,overstreet in nothing but scum. I have never like horseracing even as a child when I first saw national velvet. My first comment as a CHILD was why would anyone want to do that to such a beautiful animal? HORSERACEING OR ANY ANIMAL RACING IS JUST APPALING!!!! IT IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE ABOUT MONEY. ALL EXPOTATION OF ANIMALS IS ABOUT THE MONEY. I can only hope for another 40 day/ night flood. Humans have lost all humanity!!!

  23. I actually have had people tell me to shut up when I talk about how poorly race horses are treated. They think they live like kings. I tell them to open their eyes and read up on this horrid sport. People only hear what they want to hear when it comes to money and gambling. I will continue to speak out. I will not watch a horse race, but I will talk through the whole race about the abuse the horses are put through daily. needless to say- I am not invited to a house to watch a horse race. You all keep up the good work. Bless you for everything you are doing.

  24. If everyone who finds this story appalling would start contacting their representatives in Congress and request they pass the SAFE Act, which would permanently ban horse slaughter in the US as well as ban the transport of horses and donkeys out of the country for slaughter, perhaps all equine industries that overbreed would be forced to stop. There would no longer be a dumping ground for horses that are not winners and breeders would be forced to downsize their breeding operations. Kill buyers would be put out of business.

  25. I would like to thank everyone for their kind comments regarding Sherman’s story. However, I just want to make it clear that Dr. Overstreet didn’t send Sherman to the Shipshewana auction since he had sold him early on, most likely as a yearling. Sherman last raced in 2001, when he was four, and was owned by a Judy Thomas at that time. His whereabouts were a mystery for seven years until he was consigned to the Shipshewana auction with the loose horses in 2008.

    My point in writing this story was to depict how many of these horses are treated as mere commodities by their owners and breeders. Sherman and his dam, L N Bluegrass, meant nothing to Overstreet. They were NOT loved like members of his family. If they are winners, they are near and dear to the owner’s heart. If not, they often end up in dire situations just like Sherman. My heart breaks for all of them and now I am left wondering if L N Bluegrass ended up in a safe place. The racing industry is ruthless when it comes to older, or unproductive, broodmares. Exploited in racing and then continued exploitation as broodmares. So incredibly sad.

  26. Thank you, Mary, for caring so much and respecting horses. Thank you for your advocating for horses. If only there were less evil in the world… Humans do such horrific, petty, senseless things just for the almighty dollar.

  27. Rebecca Paquette, I agree with everything you just said here except on one point. You said 13 hours. Maybe that is a typographical error. It is 23 (TWENTY-THREE) hours that these beautiful horses are locked up in a stall. Horses are gregarious animals that need to be allowed to graze on pasture with at least one or two companion horses/animals for their mental and emotional health as well as their physical health.

    • That’s what happens when I’m pissed off and trying to type fast on my phone. Kinda blew my whole argument into the poo pile, didn’t it?

      • Rebecca, what you said was all very heartfelt and accurate other than the number of hours a racetrack horse is kept in a stall.
        So, no, not everything you said is in any poo pile. I make mistakes too and sometimes my auto-correct even helps me make more mistakes. Lol.

  28. I’ve been to 1 horse race in my life and when the Winner came across the finish line with a bloody nose…I said never again. The sport of kings is more like the sport of greedy and cruel people.!!!

  29. Thank you for rescuing Sherman, he is a beauty!! So did he heal, and were you able to ride him? Just curious as we will be moving back into the country and I would love to have a “rescue”!

    • Lori, Sherman has been ridden a handful of times but I would characterize him as a “pasture” pet. He has had lameness issues over the years and, prior to the Shipshewana auction, he had foundered. Some days are better than others. I have a great farrier but, at times, it is still touch and go. At some point his periodic lameness will no longer be manageable.

  30. People on the front lines of racehorse rescue who are at kill auctions or buying them right off the track know full well the extent of the unwanted racehorse mess.
    While this business boasts about multi-billion dollar profits they know full well that racehorses are ending up at slaughter if not for people like Mary and her very effective rescue network – thanks to each and every one of you.
    This from President of the industry-funded Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance:
    “My primary mission is to protect racing, My secondary mission, when I’ve got the racing component solved, will be that very issue. That is going to be another issue. It will never be perfect.”
    Indeed, they protect the BUSINESS of horse racing first with their slave profits being an afterthought.
    The industry is now using the buzz word “modernization” a go-to word that’s being repeated by key industry members including CEO of Santa Anita Belinda Stronach.
    This business can never be “modernized” because it’s built on an older generation that is evaporating daily with no younger racing fans replacing it, not enough to financially sustain it.
    It’s fundamental business model is the exploitation of non-consenting, voiceless living beings, the racehorses, always had been and always will be.
    Their modernization plan is now promoting the fact that KILLING racehorses is “okay.”
    It’s part of their business, racehorses will die and we are supposed to except this?
    Racehorses snapping their legs-off on a regular basis is not okay, and nobody in a civilized society should accept this.
    Their “modernization” plan is putting wallpaper over the nasty hole in the wall that can”t be fixed, will never be fixed, but must appear pretty to the public.
    The younger generation wants no part of it and I don’t blame them.
    As the racing fan base shrinks to nothing, as racehorse ownership is in precipitous decline, and with the advent of this business finally being exposed for what it is: the end is inevitable so why in the hell is our government financially supporting this when billions in taxpayers money and casino profits would be better served in our communities and essential services?

  31. Thank you for a beautiful story about the ugliness underneath this industry. Thank you for your heroic efforts to save these horses, all of whom deserve love and care.

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