by Mary Johnson
For those of us who follow Horseracing Wrongs, the descriptions of dead horses are all too familiar:
– complete rupture of suspensory apparatus
– multiple fractures and ruptures; severe, extensive cartilage loss
– catastrophic skull fracture
– catastrophic fractures of vertebrae
– and of course the proverbial “collapsed, sudden death”
All of these horrific descriptions come from the racing industry itself through FOIA requests. They aren’t propaganda or fake news, as the racing supporters would have you believe, but are factual accounts of horses dying for gambling entertainment. However, there are horses who do make it out alive but are so badly damaged that euthanasia is the only humane option. Every single one of these horses deserves to be recognized and have their story told. This is Fast Karma’s.
It was late November, 2018…a chilly, gray day…a prelude to the winter right around the corner. I was on my way to do a sanctuary site-check for a calf I had recently purchased from a farmer to prevent her from eventually ending up on someone’s dinner plate. I was focused on the unfamiliar country road when I got a call from Sharman Privett, an equine advocate and a friend. Sharman has a big heart and always tries her best to network for those many horses who have no other options.
Sharman asked if I knew of anyone who might be interested in a sweet, five-year-old Thoroughbred who could possibly be a low-level pleasure horse or, at worst, a pasture companion. Sharman is on the board of a TAA-accredited facility located in Michigan, so I immediately asked her if that rescue could take him; she said no, they were full. Of course, I didn’t know of anyone looking for a horse who, most likely, would be limited, but I was determined to help in any way that I could even if it meant euthanasia down the road. Having been in the rescue world for many years, I believe that a horse waiting to be slaughtered would gladly change places with a horse waiting to be euthanized, and I have made it my personal mission to never allow a horse with whom I’ve become involved to get on THAT truck.
Sharman agreed to take Karma temporarily while we looked for a new home. She immediately had x-rays done by her local vet. He told her that Karma’s knees were a “hot mess of chips [fractures].” Heartbreaking. Karma was ONLY five years old…still a baby…and should have had a promising future, but like so many others, racing had taken a horrific toll and sealed his fate. Still, we soldiered on, hoping against hope.
I shared Karma’s story with Rose Smith, a regular on this site, and after several discussions we agreed to give Karma a fighting chance. We decided to split the cost of knee surgery at Equine Specialty Hospital if, of course, the surgeon felt his long-term prognosis would be favorable. But first we needed to find him a safe place since Sharman couldn’t keep him. We eventually found a rescue that would accept him.
Karma’s initial x-rays were forwarded to Equine Specialty and I spoke to Dr. Nate McClellan about Karma’s prognosis. Although Dr. McClellan never physically examined Karma, his analysis of the x-rays was sobering: severe damage in the upper joints of both knees, the right being the worst, as well as fragmentation in the back joints. He described the joints as “end stage” and the chips as “big fragments” – a couple centimeters in length. Karma was suffering from end-stage arthritis. Based on the x-rays, Dr. McClellan felt that Karma had a “fairly poor surgical prognosis.” I was obviously upset, but I gathered my thoughts and asked the question I have asked so many times before: How could Karma have raced on those knees? It was Dr. McClellan’s opinion that Karma had been injected to keep him on the track.
After my conversation with Dr. McClellan, Rose and I decided that Karma should be euthanized, but we wanted to give him a few good months – to give him a life, brief though it would be, where nothing was expected, where he could just “be a horse.” I was notified in July that the rescue that had agreed to take Karma was closing, and I decided to adopt him, along with two others. Karma was not in great condition, having lost considerable weight. On Friday July 26th, the three horses were delivered to a barn where Rose and I have previously boarded. The owner loved Karma and treated him wonderfully while managing his pain with meds. She described him as a sweet “in your pocket” horse. I visited him regularly and grew to love him dearly.
On December 16th, Karma was euthanized. I was there wishing him a safe trip across the Bridge, reassuring him that his friends would be waiting to greet him. The ending was peaceful but filled with bitter sadness. Here was yet another loving, trusting horse destroyed by an industry that obscenely claims that their “athletes” are “loved like family.” I simply call it the BIG LIE.
Fast Karma earned $73,000 for his racing “connections” during his brief “career.” First thrust onto the track at two, he was put to the whip 19 times in all. In 2018, he was raced just once, at Belterra in May, finishing 6th of 8. However, five months later, he had a “timed workout”:
Yes, a workout – with an eye toward racing him again – on two knees with END-STAGE ARTHRITIS. Anger doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. Truth is, that damage started way before then. In the end, it was up to those of us who have never made a dime in this sinister industry to step up for poor Karma. Those who exploited, abused, and eventually trashed him have already moved on to the next asset. But we who got to know and love him will NEVER forget. RIP, Karma.