An Update on Willow

Recently, HW Board Member Joy Aten relayed the heartrending story of Willow, a recently-off-the-track racehorse who was found starving to death in Texas. Follows is Joy’s update. But first, a reminder of Willow’s condition upon arriving to Laura’s farm:

Willow is gaining weight and learning to trust under Laura’s loving care. She enjoys the quiet, safe company of Duke, one of the three other starving horses she was rescued with.

On December 10, Willow had a veterinary evaluation, complete with x-rays of her lower left foreleg.

Her enlarged pastern:

“severe degenerative joint disease with bone fragmentation of the pastern joint”



Injured while in servitude to her racing owner, Willow was denied medical and/or surgical treatment – he just wanted to be rid of her when she could no longer run (earn). She will never be sound and requires pain management just to be a pasture pet. This gentle creature has endured unimaginable suffering in her seven years of life, a life, tragically, that will surely be cut short because of horseracing.

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  1. Let me just get it out that I wish there could be long sentences given to those who torture these animals. This is violent abuse to animals.
    Second, I would like to know how long Willow will possibly able to live a manageable quality of life.
    Part of the sentence given to these criminals who abuse these animals should be that they accompany the equine specialist to all medical visits for the animal that they so grievously injured. And that they be forced to discuss the damage inflicted upon the horse, the treatment/pain management necessary and the likely eventual outcome. In other words, merciful euthanasia at early mid life. And then, send the perpetrators back to prison to reflect on what they did.

      • Joy, is there any way to know how much pain she is in without hurting her more and how much pain medication does she require to be able to get from one day to the next?

      • Wanda, as you probably know, horses are stoic creatures who instinctually need to appear sound (and able to flee a predator) to avoid being singled out as the weakened prey. So to determine the amount of pain? – I don’t have an answer to that. Laura as her caregiver has the advantage of seeing her every day, many hours of the day; changes in Willow’s behavior – in addition to how she travels – will be key observations by Laura.

    • I think whatever injury a horse incurred under their “care” should be given to them, one broken joint and snapped leg at a time. When one injury heals, move on to what happened to the next horse. Deny them bed rest or pain medication and instead have someone slap them with a crop and drag them around the track with a chain around their face. Considering how many hundreds of horses these parasites destroy a year, it’ll be a triple life sentence for most of them.

  2. Where are all the pro-horse racing people who claim to “care” and treat them like “family members.”
    WHERE ARE YOU?
    Where is your billions in profits?
    You can’t even send the money to take care of this poor racehorse whom YOUR vile business is solely responsible for?
    WHERE ARE YOU?
    Where are you Donna Brothers AKA Donna Barton while you spew your empty words and bullshit.
    How come you can’t even contribute $1000 out of your lucrative NBC pay?
    Where is super rich Frank Stronach and silver spoon daughter Belinda Stronach why don’t you send about $5000 to take care of Willow?
    Where are the multi-billion dollar sales agencies such as Keeneland or Fasig-Tipton – why don’t you send about $5000 to take care of Willow?
    Where are the multi-billion dollar wagering companies such as foreign-owned TVG, Bet America, Xpressbet who made thousands off of Willow when she was a gambling chip generating gambling money for your coffers?
    WHERE ARE YOU ALL – NOWHERE TO BE FOUND of course, so typical of these parasites.
    Your only there when the racehorses are generating money for you aren’t you?
    Your there at the gambling windows, your there reading the forms, your there in the winners circle, but you are nowhere to be found when it comes to these racehorses whom you CRIPPLE, MAIM FOR LIFE, because they are no longer any use for you.
    That’s what parasites do.
    They suck the life out of their victims only to dump them just like, most recently, DELTA OUTLAW and then they go on to their next victims.
    You people are so low that you are the amoebas on the parasites.
    Go out and get a job that doesn’t abuse, dump and kill living beings who feel every single sting of that whip that you support and promote or go back to the turn of the century where this was acceptable.
    Of course it should never be acceptable, but this has no place in a civilized society – NONE.
    Of course it will be up to people who have nothing to do with the abuse, maiming, and suffering of Willow.
    Indeed the very people on this site whom you constantly attack whom you use derogatory terms such as “whack job” and extreme radical animal rights activists.
    You forget to include that WE are the ones picking up your disposable gambling chips and many of us are digging into our working class pockets to take care of your disposable trash.
    You should be thanking us instead of attacking us especially when you claim to “care.”
    You apologists are sickening just look at the pics of Willow.
    If you truly cared you would be running to PayPal to donate money for her expensive care.
    You all make me sick, every single one of you.

    • Great question, Gina – where are all those racing folks AND apologists?

      Several days ago I was asked; “how many horses are YOU taking care of now and are YOU going to take more when you get what you want (the end of racing)?” You know, that same stupid question we get time and again…well doesn’t it follow that if I am going to be held responsible for providing a home for the industry’s horses when I “get what I want” that those who want racing to continue be responsible for them now? Makes sense to me!

      It is no exaggeration that every single day there are racehorses needing homes – I’ve been seeing more and more offered for free. A while back, some CANTER affiliate was begging for funds for a filly with a fractured knee – and after that she would still need a home. Racehorses in kill pens. Racehorses still at the track needing to be “moved ASAP” because the stall is needed. Injured. Not yet evaluated for injuries. “Just body sore”. Broodmare prospect. Not interested in racing anymore. The excuses and reasons go on and on but it always comes down to the same thing…racing is DONE with them and they need HOMES.

      Just THINK of how many donation dollars could be freed up and used for, say, the poor wild horses being rounded up by the BLM if the multi-billion dollar racing industry took care of their own horses and the public wasn’t constantly being expected to do it!

      • Why is everyone else expected to take care of the horses left behind? The racing industry bred them, the racing industry caused their ulcers and joint disintegration and untreated fractures and the myriad of other injuries these horses get before they’re even at a (normal) training age. Two and three year old horses with no chance of a life free of pain – if they don’t shatter on the track or get shipped off to slaughter. The racing industry breeds THOUSANDS of horses EVERY YEAR with ZERO intention of care beyond the the races that earn them money. How is this responsible horsemanship? No other equine discipline breeds in these ridiculous numbers or abandons their horses in the horrifying numbers that the racing industry does. Look how many dressage and show jumping champions retire to their owner’s farm – not someone’s plate in Japan or tortured and butchered at a kill pen. The question of what will happen to the horses when racing is abolished is completely redundant – the racing industry doesn’t care what happens to them NOW. Love them like our children, but can walk past them every day while they slowly starve to death, or leave them writhing in agony in a back stall waiting to hear about the insurance money, or send them off to be shackled and bled out when they have nothing else these parasites can live on. What will happen to the racehorses? It couldn’t be any worse than what is happening to them now.

      • Exactly, Joy. For far too many decades, the racing industry has been on quite a ride knowing that people, who GENUINELY love horses, would pick up some of their used up and irreparably damaged horses.
        The magnificent and noble equine.
        The industry has relied upon and USED thousands of kind hearted people to pick up some of the disgraceful mess that it has created. Unconscionable, it most certainly is.

        They also don’t give a damn about the heartbreak, hardship, financial burden and distressing experiences that many of the kind hearted people endure in their efforts to save and help these innocents. The magnificent and noble equine.

        Looking at Willow just says it all.

      • I’ve seen time and time again these racehorse abusing who intentionally neglect racehorses by starving them go out and hire attorneys!
        So the obvious question to anybody should be how in the hell can they find the money to hire attorneys (to save their ass), but couldn’t go out and buy a $20 bag of feed or a $5 bale of hay to take care of them?
        This shows people who intentionally and maliciously neglect their racehorses and make a choice to spend thousands on attorneys (when they get caught), but nothing to the racehorses whom they starve.
        This is the world of horse racing and this happens all the time and this is why their bogus claims to care are nothing more than empty words and no action.
        Incidentally, only due to public outcry, Australia has now made aftercare contributions MANDATORY by the horse racing industry. Apparently, they had a 5% mandatory contribution in place, but it has now been increased to 10%. Again, it’s the public that’s driving altruistic legal requirements for horse racing NOT the multi-billion dollar horse racing industry. They wanted increased more, but compromised on 10%.
        Here in America – NOTHING, NO MANDATORY CONTRIBUTIONS in the light of billions in profits.
        The multi-billions dollar sales auction houses refuses to make a 1%, I repeat 1%, mandatory aftercare contribution while people are spending hundreds of thousands buying racehorses!
        The wagering companies here get off scott-free as well while they pull in billions in wagering profits especially TVG who is foreign-owned who intentionally located their headquarters in Washington state where they don’t have to pay corporate taxes.
        Anytime any of us tried to push for a mandatory contribution from these profit making companies they outright refused citing a potential decrease in their profits.
        Hardly people who care and these are individuals, like the Keeneland Board of Directors such as Ms. Barbara Banke of Stonestreet farm who make these decisions to deny racehorses their due while she spends millions buying up racehorses.
        It just goes on and on, they pass the responsibility over to anybody else.
        Our government should legally mandate the horse racing industry to contribute a minimum of 10% to registered OTTB aftercare facilities especially those states who give billions in casino profits.
        The HBPA and their respective attorneys, such as Clark Brewster, are instrumental in negotiating contracts for the billions in casino profits and not one of them ensure that the racehorses get any of those profits not even 1%.
        Shameful, revolting, and unacceptable.
        These are not people who care.
        They are the true definition of a parasite.

      • And a claimer gelding; go figure. Anyway, Bonnie, I haven’t found anything else out, beyond the Equibase report of bad step/injury hind/threw rider/vanned off. Hope he’s still alive, but doubtful. Do you know anymore?

    • OMG – this is unbelievable.
      SHUT IT DOWN NOW before more racehorses die.
      This is pathetic.
      The state of California, the CHRB needs to revoke Santa Anita’s “conditional” license NOW.
      Race #8 CARNIVOUROUS trained by Steve Knapp who has a trail of dead racehorses.
      “vanned-off, wonder what the status is, but a racehorse that can’t exit the track on its own volition is a racehorse in extreme distress because racehorses live to be on their 4 feet.
      Race #8 was the Joe Hernandez Stakes so they can’t hide this one.
      It’s not like a low level claiming race that is swept under the carpet.
      Carnivourous made over $225,000, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they knew he had issues.
      He was only 3 years old!
      GOLDEN BIRTHDAY trained by multiple racehorse killer James Cassidy.
      It was her fault because she took a “bad step.”
      She made over $115,000 and her fate is unknown only 3 years old.
      ABC news affiliate is reporting that is was ‘VERY BAD.”
      We need to bombard the Governor’s office, the CHRB to tell them how we feel and how we want this public butcher show to shut down.
      This is insanity it should have never been allowed to open up again.

      • Appreciate you, Gina. KABC? Someone tweeted SA directly, asked for an update, but I’m sure Patrick will let us know FROM ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY before those horse-killing creeps reveal the fate of poor Golden Birthday:( They’re probably convening with their Crisis Management Team right now to find a way to convince the public how ultra-effective their new, priority-one safety measures are working.

    • The venue was probably applauding in their 2k dollar boxes that all was well and in their favor. THEN the later races delivered the blows. Sounds like the media jumped right on it.

  3. She has made pretty amazing progress considering the level of starvation she endured. Her x rays are shocking proof of injury along with criminal neglect – it is absolutely sickening. It is a sad commentary on our society such deliberate suffering inflicted on this horse and others is essentially tolerated. Those responsible for such awful cruelty will get the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. This should be unacceptable.

    Thank you for the update, Joy.

    • You’re welcome, Rose – Willow is incredibly lucky that Laura was asked and agreed to give her a home. She loves that little broken mare.

      • All I can say is thank God for Laura. She is the guardian angel of Willow and Duke.
        One look at Willow’s sad sweet face and I fully understand Laura’s love for her.

  4. Joy, I have a question for you…it seems to me there’s an inordinate number of my beloved Chestnuts, I ❤️❤️❤️ them the same as you, seem to breakdown in races,do you happen to know of any statistics or correlation to color? Kelly, I still haven’t heard anything. I’m sure it’s real bad.

      • Thank you Joy…for everything you do,you are a real live Angel. I was just watching old footage of him breezing,what a Beautiful Boy,dark rich Chestnut with star on forehead. What a screaming shame. A precious life cut down in toddler phase of life…for what?????????

  5. I have a premonition that Willow will do everything to help her own survival. They know when finally a well deserved good place is there for them.

    • Yes, Nancy, horses are not stupid as some people might think. Horses know when they are loved. They know when someone genuinely cares for them. I am so glad that Willow was rescued no later than she was or she would have been too far gone. I don’t know what to think about her internal organs. I am amazed that she didn’t just die anyway. Some horses can be starved for so long and be able to walk and eat and still die just days or hours afterwards. I believe part of the equation is knowing how much and what kind of food to give a starving horse. God bless everyone who saved Willow and I am grateful for Laura!

  6. It’s really upsetting to see a beautiful horse like Willow having to go through such horrible pain just because the owner didn’t want her anymore. I’m especially upset about cases like Willow’s because I have always wanted to own a horse but couldn’t afford it and then to hear about owners not taking care of their animals when they own such a magificent animal!

  7. Thank goodness that she was saved by good people and given the medical help she so much need and ,food , plenty if food. Love ,nuture and kindness.
    All horses should be given this second chance. So many will recover and have a long life, with no abuse. Thank you to all the people who helped Willow.

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