“Death of a Horse”: a Poem

One of our readers, Kate Muller, reached out to share a beautiful poem she had written. The Ontario-based Kate has a horse background, including at the track, but she grew, as she put it, “to view the [racing] industry as inhumane.” The poem highlights one particular horse who touched her heart. Here is Kate’s intro, followed by her verse.

Thank you, Kate.

Mont Devil was bred (in Florida) in March 2001; his racing “career” ended – with three successive last-place finishes; combined 54+ lengths back – eight years later at Fort Erie Racetrack in Ontario, Canada, just across the Niagara River from Buffalo. His final trainer/owner of record was Jennifer Davis. I was told he went to a farm connected with racing from there, and was subsequently sold at an “anything goes” auction not far from my [former] tiny horse farm an hour north of Fort Erie.

While out riding one autumn day, I met the young woman who had paid a song for the retired racehorse at the auction, and lived a few miles down the road. We chatted briefly; I only learned that she had a country lot with a barn, and was a horse novice. Mont was wearing a winter blanket, and with my mare bit-chomping, I didn’t see him too closely.

I did advise her to have a vet check Mont out and give her some general advice. As a rider who has hacked along roads and trails across Canada, I’ve met a lot of folks, and I didn’t think too much of that encounter – until her mother telephoned me frantically some months later.

Having copied my number from a hay sale sign, the mother contacted me when Mont fell sick. Her daughter hadn’t been home for days, and I deduced – not brain surgery – mom had fed the horse unsoaked beet pulp, likely causing choke. My husband signaled we had vet bills of our own, but I went with my heart, as would any equicentric.

When I met the vet at Mont’s barn, the horse was in obvious distress, although strong with panic when the vet twitched him. That didn’t go well, and the young vet then struck the ailing horse; I impolitely asked him to leave, and send his boss.

While waiting, I called a woman who runs the closest horse rescue, and whom I knew by reputation. ‘Brenda’ arrived before the clinic owner, and helped calm poor Mont down a bit. We then met the mother outside the barn, and Brenda convinced her to sign the suffering horse over.

As mom handed the paper back, we heard a sound from the barn; Mont was down, and gone in a literal heartbeat … and that was that. Brenda was somewhat inured to such misery, but we were devastated by our failure to save Mont (the mother was only concerned with ridding the place of his body).

I was totally gutted, and an angry weeper for ages. Having a background in journalism and poetry, I got some solace eulogizing what I knew of Mont in a poem, then copied it along with a little bio of his life and death. Our whole county was plastered with posters in an effort to raise the profile of Mont’s harsh [racehorse] life and cruel death.

Since then, I’ve moved to a small city in an adjoining county, and keep my remaining 30ish-year-old pony at a friend’s farm, where I ‘ponybuttle’ to her high standards. Every once in a while I’ll meet, or am contacted by, someone who read Mont’s poem/story a few years ago, and we both get pretty emotional.

I like to think Mont knows.

Mont Devil: Death of a Horse

magnificent boy!
never stood a chance –
bred to run,
and born to dance…

…along furrows of
earth, in packs of speed,
the horses race –
some break, some bleed.

magnificent boy!
shimmered in the sun –
raced and raced
but could not outrun…

…the whims of man,
who shaped his days –
and gave no rest
to the tired bay.

magnificent boy!
in his final race,
had run his best –
no reward, no praise…

…as that muscled frame
fell away to bone,
his willing heart
beat doggedly on – alone.

magnificent boy!
denied relief –
ruined body craved care,
his soul, surcease…

…from the shackles of
man, who burned his wings,
and stole the sun –
game horse was done.

magnificent boy!
fell to soiled ground –
bred to dance,
not die, not down…

which man allowed;
let game horse fade
in spears of pain,
with no kind end –
for shame, for shame.

magnificent boy!
so finally free –
to soar the sky,
and scorn gravity!

66 Comments

  1. A beautiful requiem for Mont and for all the rest of those dear souls humankind has let down so heartlessly Thankyou

  2. There is always something to regret in life. This is one of those heartbreaking stories that makes you wish you could turn back time and do something different but there’s no guarantee of the outcome.

  3. Dear Kate…I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share Mont Devil with us. While he deserved so much more than his own poignant poem and heart wrenching story, both penned by you, the industry that bred him, used him then discarded him gave him NOTHING. But that’s typical of racing and its apologists…only a handful of the big-money earners – the “successful” – get their stories told. The remaining vast majority, horses like Mont Devil, aren’t given a mere mention.

    True stories like this one, Kate, test the strength and limits of our hearts. But we must see with our eyes what they’ve been made to endure with their bodies. Again, THANK YOU.

  4. Thanks for sharing this story.
    You know that similar stories like this plays itself out almost every day all over North America as kind-hearted people step up to take care of the unwanted racehorse mess solely caused by horse racing.
    These people, for the most part, have anything to do with their exploitation and subsequent dumping.
    The multi-billion dollar horse racing industry, to this day, has no mandatory financial contributions to aftercare.
    Not even 1% of their billion dollar wagering profits goes to aftercare and they know damn well that most of their racehorses end up unwanted, and for most their end is bleeding out on the slaughterhouse floor.
    Hardly an industry that cares and certainly not one that “treats them like family,” as they would like you to believe.
    My only disagreement with the poem is glorifying the death of a racehorse by claiming it to be “free.”
    In other words, dying was a better option than living a life like discarded trash.
    This is how vile this business is.

    • Interesting and insightful point on the last stanza, Gina; I don’t disagree with you (I thought seriously at stopping at the ‘shame’ line myself!). I’m humbled by the emotion that ‘Mont’ has brought out. That sweet, long suffering boy’s experience is so unfortunately shared by so many track/training TB’s. He represents the shameful number of horses ground up and spit out by the racing industry. ‘Bottom line=Money’ is the basis of too much rotten stuff in our world, but voices raised and action taken to right the blatant wrongs has to give us hope that there’s a better way. I sign lots of [mostly] animal rights petitions, but didn’t realize I’d be part of one. Good to know we all can “be the change.” I

  5. Beautiful poem and tribute to Mont as I comment with tears in my eyes my Christmas wish is no more animal abuse of any kind on this earth. ❤

  6. Such pain for such a gallant boy! The poem is so true and so sad. Made me cry out loud, made me sob, actually. Humans, we could learn so much from our animal friends – if we just open our hearts!!!

  7. The poem is heart wrenching! Too many people mistreat animals
    and there should be a hefty law, no more pets/animals and jail time
    lots of jail time! Disgusting how some ignore the fact that there are
    living and breathing creatures. GOD’S creatures. Torture is not
    tolerated.

  8. Absolutely heartbreaking. No horse should EVER go through this bullshit torture because of humans….PERIOD

  9. What a beautiful poem and a fitting tribute to the horse about which the poem was written but also to every other fallen race horse. I can’t believe that we, as a nation, allow this horrid “sport” to continue. We just don’t learn.

    • Yes, I agree with you – DOTR — Day of the Reckoning — people think there are NO consequences but they are WRONG.

  10. Killing me — the heartbreak just does NOT stop, does it! — there’s always a Horse suffering somewhere like sweet Mont Devil due to this depraved Horseracing Industry — SHUT DOWN this vile industry filled with People who do NOT GIVE a DAMN — all Horses should be transferred to Horse-loving Ranches, Sanctuaries where they can properly be taken care of — these same places can be open to Visitors so People can experience the beauty and majesty of these lovely Animals — fees will help with upkeep – also, donations must be promoted.

  11. You know Gina…for some reason this morning the Irish horse George Washington was on my mind,remember they brought him over here for the 2007 Breeders Cup Classic,and he breaks down catastrophically in the race,in the g.d. SLOP At Monmouth. Doesn’t that just figure, they come all the way to this country to be killed. I’m not saying they don’t die over there (Europe), but ….doesn’t it just figure. I’ve said it NUMEROUS times on this site,slop kills/ends “careers”. I remember that horror like it was yesterday.

    • The same trainer sent Anthony Van Dyck the English Derby winner to Australia for the Melbourne Cup this year. He too suffered a catastrophic breakdown. Others have died in Australia who have had the same trainer. The Cliffsofmoher died in the race in 2018 as well. Others have died due to training track breakdowns. These trainers are not listening to the scientific breakthroughs into bone fatigue. They don’t understand the physics of racing. They don’t understand the failures of veterinary examinations. Now we have Stridemaster that picks up gait abnormalities in horses for up to 5 races before a horse breaks down. It’s a game changer. But due to the culture of the racing industry, i doubt the racing industry will embrace this exciting technology.

      • Sandra, the participants in the racing industry do not recognize that riding yearlings and forcing two-year-olds to perform as adult horses is fundamentally wrong! The x-ray machines, the scan machines and the Stridemaster can only monitor the damage being done to the bones and joints, etc. of horses by the willful abuse of riding immature colts and fillies. If they waited for the horse to be 6-years-old, the age of maturity in horses, it would cost more money to get them to that age without being used for racing and wagering income. Regardless of what “science” the trainers understand or don’t understand, they are in racing for the pursuit of money. The futurities are for 2-year-olds and the Kentucky Derby is for 3-year-olds. Keeping them on their feet with ulcer-causing NSAIDS is what the trainers have done and will continue to do. The industry continues to breed new crops of foals every year to supposedly chase that ridiculous so-called dream of winning the Derby. It’s stupid. It’s cruelty to horses. It’s greed. It is NOT true horsemanship. The racetrack owners and operators have a top priority of having lots of races on their race card and want at least something like 4 or more horses to fill each race for the wagering income on each horse in each race. That is the main “science” they care about or understand other than deceiving the public about “safety” for the horses. For example: check out santaanita.com and click on the page for safety and that is the basic text for “The Art and Science of Deception in Horseracing” and there is absolutely nothing on their page/website that indicates that any racing participant will ever stop violating the major concept of true horsemanship. They will never stop starting colts and fillies out as though they were adult horses. They will never stop forcing horses to perform at a maximum capacity, when they are too young to perform as adult horses. That is why racing needs to be ended completely. The casualties of horseracing become a disposable commodity in the racing industry. Horses should never be treated so inhumanely.

  12. What a beautiful, but heartbreaking poem. The abuse of these beautiful, noble race horses is gut wrenching.I don;t think I could have said it more poignantly than Gina’s message above.

  13. Just to be clear… I don’t mean to suggest that ALL horse racing , doesn’t kill. It all kills,every aspect of it. That’s why it needs to Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • YES,he WAS. In that short timeframe USA killed 3 horses:George Washington,Barbaro,Eight Belles,in premiere races. What a HORRENDOUS record USA has. Eight Belles,was the absolute worst…her trying desperately to stay up with 2 broken front legs. Our country is kinda nuts,I wouldn’t bring my horse over here.

  14. Such sadness and has been ongoing for years and years with obvious lack of real change for these most magnificent creatures..money driven with no consideration for the sacrifice..how can being human take pleasure in such events?..so..what can b done besides writing regarding individual scorn??..
    And thanks for the poem..perspective of reality..

  15. IDK why this family had this horse to begin with. I no longer watch horse racing due to the extreme cruelty that exists. Horses have a right to live their lives with dignity and respect. No one wants to die, definitely not like this. I can’t even imagine the horror of knowing you are going to die and the pain and suffering of being mistreated. May God bless you all.

  16. I live in Ocala FL…..you want a heartbreak and a reason to shut down this obscene industry…LOOK UP ACE KING !!! 2017 BEST BREEZE AT OCALA BREEDERS SALE THAT YESR. SOLD TO THE FUCKING KORESNS WHO ATE HIM WHEN HE DIDNT RUN FAST ENOUGH WITHOUT INJURY. BASTARD INDUSTRY , THEY SHOULD ALL BE GUTTED AND PLACED ON ANT HILLS AND THEIR HORSES REMOVED FROM THEIR “CARE” !!!

    • Debbie, totally AGREE. That’s why the losers in this industry need to try and get a real job. THIS is not a real job. It is bullshit. Animals should NEVER be used for scumbag people who gamble. PERIOD….game over.

    • What a betrayal!
      In this business the breeders, et al, don’t give a damn who slaughters the horse or who eats the horse as long as they get to line their pockets with the tainted dirty money.
      There is no redeeming social value to this business. It is a huge negative at all levels – catering to gambling addicts, (not to mention the obscene animal cruelty involved) – money for those who, for whatever reason, can’t handle a “real job” that contributes to society…

      PS I wonder if Dr. Hansen knows how the horse he bred and raced (Hansen) is doing in S. Korea?
      Dr. Hansen was so “proud” of that snow white horse, or so it seemed – even wanted to dye his tail blue in a prominent race! But when the horse was not a money maker at stud it was off to Korea for him and dirty money for Dr Hansen and whoever else…

  17. Heartbreaking to know that these magnificent animals are so dismissed by human idiots, May only the lovers of all that GOD created receive horses in their care….no one else should be allowed to even touch them.

  18. So beautiful! Such a lovely homage to Mont and to all of the horses who are victims of the horse racing industry and all its cruel trappings. By raising awareness of this through your poem you are ensuring that his death was not in vain. Well done.

  19. I support many kinds of animal charities and sanctuaries with modest donations. I also sign many petitions that request that animal abusers be held responsible for their evil actions. This includes the heartless members of the BLM that round up the wild horses and subject them to various forms of cruelty. This is the only way that I am able to respond to the cruelty and greed of certain persons.

      • Feeling it’s never enough is probably quite natural, especially in this case — BUT, we MUST continue DONATING, SIGNING, DEMONSTRATING, VOICING OPINIONS — continuing to let the world know of the horrors and getting more People on board is very important — we MUST be relentless — we MUST continue — until the Racetracks are shut down, until the Horses are transferred to loving Ranches.

    • It shouldn’t be this way. If it was up to me they’d be convicted of murder. It’s the taking of a life.

    • Another “freedom” for these Horses is loving Sanctuaries, Ranches — death is the worst for us all.

  20. This speaks to your heart. Animals are mere commodity to most. To some, they are a God given gift to love.

  21. The poor innocent horse. I do not like most people. Thank God for the few good human souls out there.

    • Vladimira — As to your, “few good human souls out there” — I know what you mean — but, there are MANY good people out there — our job is to recruit as many as possible — get as many good people on Board for this sacred and noble cause — we will get good results — we will save our Horses.

  22. As the saying goes, “A rider without a horse is only a man–but a horse without a rider will always be a horse. So, how about, “A racetrack without horses is only a dirt circle–but a horse without a track is ALIVE.”

  23. What a beautiful tribute to a tortured soul. So sad that Man can not see the treasure of just letting these magnificent creatures be as nature intended, free and unbridled.

  24. keep your horses and if you can’t put them down , you cannot trust people to take care of them. so many ” Mont” stories and they deserve to be safe.

    • TOTALLY agree Patricia. She is 💯 correct, you CANNOT trust people. If you want your horse to be safe and secure…..

    • Patricia, you’re right – the only way to ensure your horses stay safe is KEEP THEM – for life.

      But of course that’s not what racing does – racehorses are not pets, they are not family members like the racing-employed like to claim…it’s breed them, use them, get rid of them. With every single horse.

      I’ve often seen apologists complain about people wanting to get rid of their elderly horse because he can no longer do what his owner demands – and they want a younger horse they can use in their chosen discipline. Yet those same apologists COMMEND a racing owner for giving away their racing-injured horse to a rescue, leaving the rescue with a financial burden they then beg the public for help with. It’s just asinine.

      • And that’s why my pony partner (the boss) is provided for in formal plans if I’m not around, and enjoys a quality of care I can’t help but envy a bit. I think that when an equine and human share a special bond, it’s not just a duty of care, but a privilege, to keep them healthy and happy.

        When you truly know a horse/pony, you pick up on subtle signs of physical or psychological discomfort, just as they read their person’s mood. For folk who aren’t communicado with an ‘animal,’ people like me are nutters, who should spend their love/time/money on humans.

        But we ponybutler types put our responsibilities and soulmates first. Which is why most of us wear second hand clothes, drive crappy vehicles, cut our own hair, vacation at the barn, roll our eyes at real estate that isn’t bare bones, and can only dream of buying first rate cheese/fruit/bread. We’re not complaining, that’s simply an assumed part of of the human/equine compact.

        All of us feel our passion for horses is a gift, not as in gifted/special but as humans who have had a gift bestowed on us. We learn so much, and are much better humans for it, and giving back all we are able to is the least we can do. None of us are saints, but our world has to have more respect and compassion for all sentient beings. Now back to my yummy gruel; seriously I have some cereal that looks like birdseed till it’s cooked…

  25. P.S. re: the pony stuff above-sorry for getting a bit off topic. Some horses are so very lucky (the famous Big Ben ridden in Grand Prix show jumping by Ian “Captain Canada” Miller had a groom he loved soooo much her job was guaranteed, in a barn where any who fell short of high standards was fired). But, we’re on HW because we’re disgusted by the ‘chew ’em up and spit ’em out’ racing industry tradition of making life and death a misery for TB’s.

    Most of my horse-y friends spend what they have of their non-survival stuff income on supporting their equine partner; any extra money and time is often spent at a TB rescue. If people can get used to wearing helmets and recycling etc., people can stop betting on sensitive horses, and the Jockey Club et al. mucky mucks (who interestingly enough never go near dirt, let alone mud) can stop adding to their fortunes via the broken spirits and legs of TB’s.

  26. Thank you for writing this beautiful poem. The only solace is that Mont Devil, who deserved a better life, was not alone in death. Your care for him in his final hours may have been the only kindness shown to him. I am ashamed this happened in my country, near my community.

  27. What a beautiful tribute to such a magnificent soul. Such a tragic end. He deserved love and affection before his departure from this world. Now, however, he is free to receive as much love as there is to give.

  28. A heartbreaking elegy — beautiful in the most somber way. May it move readers to think and act to save all the “Monts” out there. Thank you, Kate Muller, for giving Mont this stunning tribute.

  29. What the hell is wrong with us as human beings? We are no better now even though we are supposed to be educated. We are hard and lost our soul. Cruelty is common and the people get away with it. My heart breaks all the time and I can’t understand WHY we don’t value all animals for the gift from God they are.

  30. Thanks Kate. Your work is a pretty profound indictment of an industry that’s the hotwheels equivalent of the pit pony tradition: working horses until they’re of not further use, and then disposing of them as they see fit. Offloading these individuals, not statistics, and so lightened by the burden of responsibility, they find the next batch of candidates. No winners here, outside of the bottom line: many losers, not least of which those not able to run (or graze) out their lives on the hoof.

    • Good name eohippus, and I also agree with your ‘pit pony’ comparison’ to training/racing TB’s; we seem to have become a culture of disposable stuff, from home appliances to racehorses. If people want to waste things (vs. recycling & repurposing) that’s not great, but TB’s are not simply things. To humans with a heart, they are sentient beings, not to be bred for a toxic industry and abandoned if/when they’re not profitable. Humans seem to choose exploitation over compassion way too much of the time.

  31. A beautiful eulogy for a poor racehorse who most likely never knew love or compassion. I’m sure Mont knows.

  32. The gallant and mistreated Mont Devil (I think of him as ‘Monty’) represents all TB racehorses who live an unnatural life, and are ridden at top speed when they are the equivalent of human babies (toddlers if they’re lucky). Ridden to frequent injury as babes, and so often offloaded or dead by the time they would be toddlers. if human, TB racehorses are the throw-a-way playthings of a toxic industry, and the wagering public.

    We are working to put paid to racing, period; bettors can wager on far less inhumane things with ease, so as not to prop up racing and all it’s reprehensible practices. I’m glad I could help some people relate to the flood of abused racehorses by sharing with them my short time with, and knowledge of, Mont. The love shown Monty on here, has really touched my heart. He lives on in all of us.

    p.s. many of y’all prob’ly know this already, but I was just looking through a ‘horse care’ magazine; one recent article summarized a study of TB deaths. The vets and researchers were aiming to build a data base of TB injuries/deaths due to breakdown. They were trying to identify DNA markers that would indicate what horses might be susceptible to specific muscular/skeletal injuries.

    I about choked on my snack when I read that. Uh, how about ALL foals need to reach their full growth (fused plates and all) by 6ish before they’re bashed around a track!!?? How many racing industry types would send their toddlers out to rock climb and ski avalanche country, or run around on the freeway?? Yeah, I thought so…

    • p.s. to above-horses are alright embarking of light riding careers (with responsible and loving care) from 5ish on; I would NEVER suggest horse racing be their fate. Apparently the famous white Lippizan horses in Austria come in from the pasture for some light GROUND handling (basic manners, brushed and the like) as weanlings, and are then turned out again until they are 7ish. At this physically/mentally developed stage, they begin light training. True, they are trained to perform arduous ‘airs above the ground’ (not always with a rider), as well as precise dressage work with a rider. However, I believe they have long careers, and certainly have a high standard of living.

      • I think there is money to be made, and lots of it, in doing DNA research in racehorses. That is the equivalent to doing “cancer research” when they know that there are major chemical companies that produce toxic chemicals that cause illness, including cancer, and death to our environment and every living thing, not just insects, weeds and fungi/fungus. Take Monsanto as a prime example. The so-called charitable organizations that are so-called dedicated to cancer research accept money from Monsanto but in return the “charitable organizations” cannot say anything bad about this high-profile “Fortune 500” company that produces the toxic chemicals that do all kinds of damage in their wake. That is how it works; I give you money, you shut the h*** up.
        So it is with horses exploited for racing and gambling. The horses are [treated] like lab rats. They are coldly and callously used and abused, so taking it to the level of DNA research (instead of exercising TRUE HORSEMANSHIP) is not really a stretch for this horse-abusing industry.
        The Thoroughbred racing industry threw common sense and true horsemanship out the window at least before 1874. That’s 147 years ago and it was most likely before 1874 that the breeders of Thoroughbreds decided it was okay for them to not exercise decency in their treatment and use of their “own” horses. After all, it was considered socially acceptable for white men to beat their white women and own other human beings, especially from Africa. Why would people that think it is okay to treat their subservient humans with brutality think any differently about how to treat their subservient animals, especially Thoroughbred race horses?

  33. My tears are flowing and my heart is breaking as I read this poem……I’ve had to give up riding due to a brain injury but I still so sorely miss the whole situation of being with horses, even the ‘mucking out’ of the stables!!!!

    • Irene, I am sorry you’ve had to give up the ‘riding bond’ and also just hanging out with horses. Like many horse folk, I probably do 20 hours of chores for every riding hour or two. If you’re a true equicentric, just time spent around equines is priceless. When times are tough, inhaling that sweet horse-y aroma is a tonic, even if my precious ponita only allows so much inhaling before deciding it’s treat time! I hope you are able to get some sort of horsey ‘fix’ soon, and in the meantime helping out here is taking important positive action. Sloppy kisses to you from my mare!

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