They Just Wanted Her Gone
by Joy Aten
Several weeks ago, I received a private message from Laura Swien, owner of Pair A Dice Ranch in Texas, asking if Horseracing Wrongs would share the story of a Thoroughbred mare she recently rescued, a mare who, like untold others, had been bred for, used in and finally discarded by the racing industry. Laura said:
“I am so sick to my stomach and brokenhearted as I write this. I was contacted by Animal Control and they asked me if I would be able to take in two horses from a seizure case. I took one look at these poor babies and of course I said yes.
“I was so shocked when I first saw them. I had ten different emotions hit me all at once. How could anyone be so cruel to starve these beautiful babies? There were four skeletons standing there staring at me at the Animal Control facility. It was the most horrific thing that I had ever seen.
“I immediately made the decision to help these poor creatures in any way that I could. I was asked if I could take these two horses and of course I said yes. (They found someone to take the other two horses.) I will do everything in my power to get them healthy again. We will take it slowly day by day.”
Photos followed Laura’s initial explanation of the situation:
“Willow” racing at Arlington in 2017. She was, in fact, raced at Hawthorne only nine months prior to being found starving to death on a desolate piece of Texas property. Imagine – from racing in January to being unable to rise to her feet – due to starvation – in October…
Willow was christened (by her exploiters) Time for Parading. She was bred, owned and raced by Kenneth Hutchens. In fact, Hutchens owned her for her entire “career” (35 races) and reaped the lion’s share of the $57,071 she “earned.” In her last race, at Illinois’ Hawthorne Race Course January 4, she finished last, over 31 lengths behind. Although she ran with a 5K price tag on her head, she was not claimed (bought).
It took several calls to Hutchens to make contact. At first he seemed wary of my inquiries into a mare he had bred and raced, but since our objective was to learn of any injury Time for Parading might have incurred while he had her, he eased up, answering the several questions I posed:
“Was she injured, Mr. Hutchens?”
“No, she was sound.”
“So after her last race in January, who did you sell her to? Or maybe you gave her to a rescue or racehorse placement program, Mr. Hutchens?”
“No, she was claimed.”
“Well that’s odd, because I checked her past performances and not only were there NO claims in her last race, Mr. Hutchens, but in looking at her races, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to claim her.”
“She was claimed.”
“OK…so have you followed up on her to see how she was doing, Mr. Hutchens? Given you bred her and raced her?”
“Well you might be interested to know she was recently found starving – a skeleton – and she’s very lame on her left front, as well, Mr. Hutchens.”
“Well she was sound when I had her.”
“OK, Mr. Hutchens…she is in good hands, she’s been rescued, but she is not out of the woods yet.”
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Hutchens. If you would like to help with Time for Parading’s veterinary expenses, or with the feed bill since she needs to gain hundreds of pounds, you’ve got my number. This mare could really use your help.”
Laura reached Time for Parading’s last trainer of record, Chris Dorris. Laura: “Dorris said ‘the gallop boy,’ who lives in Chicago, wanted to buy Time for Parading so [Dorris] sold her to him after her last race in January.” Dorris assured Laura he would speak to the “gallop boy” about the mare’s condition and where she was found, then would get back to her. To date, he hasn’t. Also to date, there has been no financial assistance from either breeder/owner Hutchens or trainer Dorris.
Time for Parading’s “re-homing” scenario is nothing unusual. Racehorses no longer wanted by their “connections” are sold or given away to people who can barely afford to feed themselves. Every week we see racehorses who had been “re-homed” landing in kill pens, a year or two out from their last races, mere shadows of their former selves. Apologists bellow at the heartrending discoveries, but add, “It’s not the connections’ fault! They thought they gave them to a good home!” RIGHT…they sold or gave away their horse, one of the most expensive animals to care for, to someone who has to pray that their rust-bucket of a vehicle starts when they get in.
We see this over and over again on the backsides. A low-paid track worker is given a horse – most of the time, injured – that he has no business taking possession of. But the owner or trainer doesn’t care; he wants this horse gone and wants her gone now. The buyer’s (or just recipient’s) fiscal situation is of no concern. No vetting. No reference check. No trip to the farm or boarding facility where the horse will reside. And, of course, no follow-up.
Of the horses who do survive the track (and thousands do not), many are placed in yet another life-threatening situation, utterly dependent on someone who is ill-equipped to handle the care of an equine. Time for Parading was one of those horses. One day, no one came to feed her. The next day, again nothing. Day after excruciating day, she waited – desperate for food, any food. But it never arrived. The truth is, she was being slowly tortured to death. And all the while, those who cashed in on her labors never even gave her a second thought. How’s that for “The Sport of Kings”?
(We want to extend our deepest gratitude to Laura Swien for welcoming Time for Parading, aka Willow, and another of the starving horses – now called Duke – into her heart and home. Thank you so very much, Laura.)