Raced in January; Nine Months Later, Found Starving to Death

Shedrow Secrets

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:

October, the day the mare was seized by Animal Control…


Several weeks later, still at the holding facility…

November, shortly after arrival at Laura’s…

Her enlarged and painful left front ankle, yet another obstacle for this timid, emaciated mare to overcome…

And Laura gave her a name – Willow…

“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?”
“No.”

“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.”
No response.

“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.”
No response.

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.)

43 Comments

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  1. As a horse owner and animal lover it is saddening to hear these stories.

    Horses are majestic creatures that need a capable and responsible caregiver.

    All the best to those who give their time and selves to right some of these sad stories

  2. It really irks me to hear when people do any harm to any animal. I am glad to hear Willow & Duke have a good home. I myself know nothing about taking care of horses, but thank God for you.

  3. IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY THAT SOME BREEDERS OF RACEHORSES COULD JUST DISPOSE OF THEM WITHOUT A CARE IN THE WORLD. SELLING THEM TO BECOME FOOD FOR OTHER ANIMALS. SELLING THEM TO PEOPLE WHO CAN NOT AFFORD TO CARE FOR THEM PROPERLY. SHOULD BE A LAW AGAINST THIS.

  4. Thank you for helping these beautiful animals I would help if I could but I’m trying to get out of dept . Her breeder should have paid for her expenses

  5. I hope somebody will take the time to see that the owner is properly charged with animal cruelty. They can be arrested, have a fine, and serve jail time. Please somebody, see that this is done. It is horrible.

    • The last report I was given, DP.Brooks, is that the authorities were trying to locate the owner – he did not reside on the property where his horses – Time for Parading, aka “Willow”, included – were being starved.

      Having been involved in equine rescue for 20 years, and in a state where animal welfare laws are considered among the best, I’m not holding out any hope that the perpetrator of this torture will be prosecuted – at least not with the disciplinary consequences he deserves.

  6. So many of these horses end up being sold to meat buyers. Horse racing is a really ugly business.

    • I thought that Slaughter houses were illegal in the US now ? Are they still in operations ? If so why aren’t the authorities closing them and fining them.

      • There are currently no operating equine slaughterhouses in the U.S. They are not banned; the USDA inspections have merely been defunded. So, our horses – American horses – are shipped to Canada and Mexico to meet their bloody, brutal ends. And just to be clear, The Jockey Club – the most powerful organization in racing – does not endorse the SAFE Act, a bill that would not only permanently prohibit U.S. slaughterhouses but would also ban the transport of horses to slaughter, because it would cost too much to care for all those “retired” racehorses. Imagine that.

      • The Jockey Club is pro-slaughter and there is no law that prevents killbuyers from buying horses in the United States and shipping them on a truck to Mexico or Canada. In fact, horses bound for slaughter to Mexico or Canada from the United States must be tagged and chipped with USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) numbers, tags, etc.

  7. ON THE AMAZING INTELLIGENCE OF HORSES.

    I saw this Article and wanted to share it with ALL of you in this group who REALLY Love Horses.

    Horse Therapy ~ Peyo The Love Stallion Visits Sick People. Heartwarming – Horse Brings Joy To Hospital Patients. Peyo is a therapy horse who brings smiles and encouragement to those who need it most. They think he has a sixth sense because he decides which rooms he wants to enter, and it’s always someone who needs him most. In this video, Peyo insists on entering a room of a young man who does not have long to live. The connection the two make will bring you to tears. This unusual therapist, known for his amazing aptitude towards humans, helps to boost morale and bring smiles to those who need it most. Routine contact with Peyo is improving patients’ mood.

    Hassen Bouchakour, Peyo’s trainer from the Les Sabots du Coeur Association, says: “It is one of the most pure, honest, and sweet things.”

    “They like each other very much without asking for anything else.”

    Peyo meets patients and residents from pediatrics and palliative care unit, psychiatry and Alzheimer’s services. He also visits the elderly and end-of-life children at homes.

    • Beautiful — sweet and moving — it does not surprise me that they’re so intelligent and sensitive — thank you, Kathleen.

  8. Is the ankle something that will heal? Any chance she will be sound again? My heart goes out to her. How can a horse understand why they have always been fed and groomed and bedded within an inch of their lives and then, overnight, all of that attention abruptly ceases?

    • NAK,
      The fetlock joint and the pastern beneath the joint above the hoof is something that needed immediate medical attention but her sleaze ball breeder-owner-trainer deliberately failed or refused to pay for the proper care. So the bones can heal to some point, however, WILLOW will never be sound ever again in her life. She will be lame for the rest of her life. She can only be a pasture pet or possibly a companion horse to another horse that is not aggressive in any way.

      • Nancy,
        That is definitely one of the words to describe this pre-planned use, abuse and dump/ discard mentality. It’s wrong and there is no excuse for it.

  9. So very sad… I love horse racing … in fact from 1985-2010 me and my late husband would travel to all the tracks and bet in the horses… We have bet Hawthorne quite a bit.and Arlington… My husband passed away in 2010 so I haven’t been since … Thank u for sharing their story…

  10. What can be done to make horse racing illegal? Why is it that MONEY and GREED win over Humanity? Stop the madness!

  11. Sickening I recused one that was starved to death as well, and wouldn’t mind rescuing another in the future…but most people aren’t lucky enough to be able to have disposable income to spend on horses, and yes they are ending up in bad situations…so sad 😢

  12. I am surprised the scumbag owner did not keep her and breed her.
    I once saved a TB at auction in the 90s, the only bidder was the meat man. The horse looked as thin as Willow, covered in rain rot and wounds. But he had a kind eye. I bought him, and when he saw him, my (ex) husband said “that is the worst looking animal I have ever seen”. Lol 6 months later, people were calling him beautiful.
    He only won a small amount of money, but his father won 650K. And his sire won the Derby. I was told if he had been a mare, he would have been worth tens of thousands….but he was a gelding , useless to the owner after running 55 races at a cheap track. So at 7 they “retired” him and left him out all winter no food nor shelter. He turned out to be a gentleman and a good riding horse. Race horses get pounded running before they are mature. Most don’t retire sound.
    Now there are no slaughterhouses in USA so they truck then to Canada and Mexico

  13. Thank you Laura for saving these beautiful souls. The evil and greed in this world is astounding !!! God Bless you and your family and sweet Willow and Duke and the other 2 horses.

  14. I’m truly grateful to the rescuer who saved the horse but when telling the story, she didn’t need to attack poor people. She clearly has contempt & disdain for poor people. I am the working poor. I live pay check to pay check & I drive an old rust bucket that I often have to pray for, but my animals never go hungry. The person who starved this poor horse, & probably others, could very well have had lots of money. The rescuer couldn’t determine how the horse got in the condition she was in because the people involved were not telling the truth & didn’t want to take responsibility for their actions or for the horse. One can guess they had lots of money. The contempt needs to be directed at the guilty parties & not at poor people in general.

    • Willow’s account stated her breeder/racing owner unloaded his used-up mare onto an exercise rider – so clearly not a wealthy individual.

      • Thanks to you Joy and your rescue network for taking care of beautiful Willow.
        You know every time I hear their common line (ad naseum) “love them like family,” than we just need to show them this pic of Willow when found or Dr Drip or so many others, but 1 should be sufficient.
        Some of them claim to be the “good apples” that “those people are the bad apples that need to be out.”
        No, your all bad if you stand back watch this happen, support/participate in it and don’t walk away.
        Furthermore, contrary to popular belief perpetrated by the industry, 90% of owners/trainers can’t afford a horse let alone a high needs racehorse.
        In fact, during this crisis, we see the dumping going on all over the internet.
        Plus, the tracks have called local food banks to drop-off donations at the track for their stable personnel.
        Imagine that?
        A multi-billion dollar industry that gets profuse handouts in every way imaginable including billions in casino profits and they tap into the local food bank resources!
        I suppose it’s no different than the racehorses dumped at kill auctions in horrific condition (a reflection of long term neglect and no vet care coming off the track with plates still on) slaughter-bound while this business sits back and watches it all go down and has been for years.
        The CEO’s of tracks, the owners of the wagering companies know this, but they need them to fill races for them and increase their wagering coffers.
        Essentially, they not only exploit racehorses, who are the biggest losers, but the labor as well.
        This business is vile from the start to finish and everything in between.

  15. I feel so p1roud of this wonderful lady for giving her time and love to get Willow back to near normal.
    I also had to fight and complain about a neglected and starved horse in my town.
    Finally, after many calls to RSPCA and electorate office also to horse rescue MERCI and Project Hope, I can say the horse is now being fed and is looking much better.

  16. “She was claimed”- “she was sound when I had her”- yet, in her last race she finished over 30 lengths back !
    Mr. Hutchens I’m afraid you do not speak the truth!!!!!
    And, Mr. Hutchens, when you were asked to help with vet. or feeding expenses you had no response!!
    God help any animal at your mercy.

  17. I know nothing about horses but my question is why can’t these horses be set freed to Nevada where they can join herds of wild mustangs ? They would eat at least and be alive not slaughtered ?

    • Sean,
      The Bureau of Land Management is in control of the “public lands” that Mustangs roam on and another thing is that some cattle ranchers have permits from the BLM to be able to allow their cattle to graze on the “public lands” that put the Mustangs and burros (that don’t belong to any person or ranch) at odds with each other. The BLM uses helicopters to round up free-roaming Mustangs to the detriment of the health and well-being of many Mustangs not only in Nevada but other states as well. There are many reasons why it would be illegal to let Thoroughbred racehorses loose on public lands. The Mustangs are not truly safe from being sent to slaughter at some point in their life. If you Google BLM and do the research you will see what I mean. The BLM has hundreds of Mustang horses and burros up for adoption. They have been rounded up and kept in feedlot type facilities for a long time. It is a huge problem because of the competition between cattle ranchers that think they should have top priority and other uses of public lands. It is another “can of worms” for the most part. The Mustangs and burros and Thoroughbreds and racing Quarter Horses all need to be rescued; seriously!

  18. S port of Kings my foot,rich over indulgent bastards no thought for the suffering they cause as long as they are lining their pockets.well done to Laura for taking in these unfortunate beautiful horses,has she got a fund going

  19. Let’s put this man in a stall and starve him with no food and water for a month and see how he likes it and then have no comment when people want to know why he’s in there nobody wants to feed or water him he’s going to reap what he sows there is karma for people like him!!

  20. I lost myhood head horse to old age but never did I eat before them, they were always take care of. It’s sad knowing these horse are out there be starved, if you need a home for any of them please contact me.

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