Excellent Piece on Saratoga and Our Activism

In its August issue, the Hill Country Observer did a long cover story on Saratoga Race Course – and us: “For the love of horses: Animal rights activists target Saratoga’s crown jewel.” The full piece merits your attention, but before you read, a thought.

The journalist, Stacey Morris, who I feel was exceedingly fair, of course went to the other side for comments/retorts. NYRA, as expected, just dished more of the same, old, tired subterfuge they’re famous for:

“NYRA is committed to implementing science-driven best practices to establish and maintain safe racing surfaces and facilities for the equine and human athletes who race and train at Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct. To meet this goal, NYRA has made significant capital investments in recent years to upgrade and modernize the facilities where we operate.” (I’ve addressed this ad nauseam, but consider just one recent fact: 53 horses died at Belmont last year, one of the highest tolls in the nation.)

It was the other interview subjects, however, that got me thinking. Diana Pikulski, formerly of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation: “I think the industry is responding in many ways to the welfare of the horses. They may not be doing it as quickly as everyone would like, but the balance will come out in favor of the horses as long as it continues.” On whips, which used to be (still are in many quarters) spun as “harmless guides”: “People are getting it. You don’t need whips for horseracing, and no one wants to watch horses getting hit.”

JoAnne Pepper, former racehorse owner: “There will always be bad apples, and it’s a big industry. But Horseracing Wrongs doesn’t look at how hard others are working to make things better.”

Yes, “we’re on this,” “equine welfare is our highest priority,” “nothing is more important than the safety of our horses.” But doesn’t this demand the question: Where was all this zeal prior to the relatively-recent negative coverage and the exposure provided on these pages? In short, it didn’t exist. Yes, of course there has always been a tiny subset of “reformers.” But they accomplished nothing – indeed, it could be argued, things have gotten worse – in the decades that preceded all this “welfare” talk, decades in which horses were being abused/killed/slaughtered in utter anonymity. Only now that they’ve been caught is there an industry-wide pretense of care. And I cannot think of a single greater indictment of this nasty business than that.

14 Comments

  1. Patrick and all HORSERACING WRONGS members, thanks to your dedication and devotion to bringing AWARENESS to the horses being used, abused, brutalized, EXPLOITED daily, and killed in the Horseracing and Horse-killing industry/industries more and more people will know that there is nothing that can reform this industry with their “use ’em and lose ’em” mentality. Dumping injured horses at a livestock auction (for example) is not something that can be reformed. They might as well say that they can reverse gravity. Nothing is ever going to change the HORRENDOUS ABUSE OF BABY HORSES FOR THIS EVIL GAMBLING “GAME” where greedy people such as THE STRONACH GROUP and any other WAGERING HANDLE venue are making MILLIONS OF DOLLARS at the expense of horses’ lives, health and well-being! No 18-month-old colt or filly should ever be regarded as a gambling chip/tool for these greedy, money-grubbing, horse-abusing, horse-killing, DEGENERATE people! These people in the so-called Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association should all be arrested for Animal Cruelty and FRAUD!

  2. Thank you Wanda for your dedication to the cause. Your courage in speaking out truly inspires me Please keep up your great work.

    • Thank you, Rick. I appreciate your concern and your voice for the horses as well!

  3. Any pitiful and ultimately futile pretense at reform is only an attempt to change the writing on the wall. Racing can no more change the inherent exploitation, abuse, and slaughter of horses than you could to make a square airplane without wings and expect it to fly.

  4. Yes, an excellent article. I only wish this journalist (Bravo, Stacey Morris!:) had pressed these apologists for more firm NUMBERS on how many OTTBs are actually retrained/repurposed and/or retired, rather than killed. Notice how none of their “answers” addressed their sorry-assed, pathetic MINIMAL “SALVAGE” RATE as they blathered on about these so-called reforms? There’s a good reason their quotes were so vague:

    Per Pikulski (the marketing/public relations gal; go figure) – “I get calls ALL THE TIME from owners who tell me they want to retire their horse because it’s time and they don’t want anything bad happening to their horse,”
    Translation: When they’re done with ’em, they refuse to pay for their own animals’ upkeep, so a few contact me for advice on how to keep their OWN names private when it’s time to ditch their investments.”

    Well, I’ll be happy to offer ALL racehorse owners a guilt-free solution to their dilemma, free of charge:

    1. When you go to enlist the services of a retirement facility/rescue for your beloved family member who’s stopped paying his/her own way, be sure and include a check in the MINIMUM amount of $50,000.00 U.S.. That’s far less than what we non-racing horse people pay to keep each of our horses healthy and sound and happy throughout their natural lives. And since y’all seem to fancy yourselves “Kings,” it shouldn’t be too much of a burden on your wallets to help pay for a portion of this care.
    2. Understand that your beloved family member’s “retirement” (even with your so-called donation) will almost certainly necessitate the demise of at least one other OTTB. This “proliferation” of racehorse rescues still can’t even begin to scratch the surface of saving the thousands of young horses you all vomit out each year in the hopes of manufacturing a champion. So in order to accept YOUR “retired athlete,” someone else’s will need to be, um…moved. Hope you’re good with that, all you Kings and Queens;)
    3. Kiss your ex-racehorse goodbye, take lots of pictures for social media (you’ll need the evidence), and vow to never again involve yourselves in such an archaic, destructive and disgusting gambling enterprise.

    You’re welcome.

    • Speaking of keeping their names private, how many “people” in this racing and Pari-Mutuel gambling industry do dastardly deeds to the horses by attempting to remove or actually removing the upper lip tattoo inside the mouths of Thoroughbreds?
      It is unthinkable cruelty to horses to use the crude and barbaric methods that I have read about when literally disposing of their ex-racing horses for the by-the-pound prices to a killbuyer.

      • Yes, but the ever-compassionate cretins at The Jockey Club are working to eliminate the “need” for all the soulless monsters in TB racing to mangle their beloved family members’ upper lips before dumping them! They’re phasing out lip tattooing altogether, in favor of a more anonymous (racing-controlled, of course) system of digital identification.
        Unlike the tattoo system of old, true horse advocates will no longer be able to simply Flip a Lip to learn the last known connections of all these abandoned, slaughter-bound, former would-be champions. (It’s really, really, um…inconvenient for the loving racehorse owners who get exposed and shamed when they willfully put all their beloved family members straight into the kill pen when they’re done with ’em. So the industry has truly stepped up to solve this, its biggest problem;) With this new and improved high-security digital ID system, they’ll all get to return to doing just that: Fully Anonymous Horse Disposal. And the only ones who will have access to their dirty dumping secrets are IN WITH THEM on the deception; so they’re certainly not gonna tattle.
        So, hooray for Racing Integrity!
        Hooray for Anonymous Dumping!
        Hooray for the Slaughter Pipeline, too — even though they won’t get the opportunity to blackmail and extort extra hush-money anymore from the racing creeps who give them a big chunk of their business). Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

  5. The article states they are aware of the peoples’ dislike of using a whip on the horses, they say it takes time for upgrades, how much time does it take to tell jockeys not to use the whip. Oh, I know, just take the whips away from them. Another thing, they say there has been a lot of upgrading in care for the horses, when showing the horses in their stalls I noticed that a lot of work needs to be done to upgrade those stalls. I’ve heard the statement ‘take care of the horses and they will take care of you’, well, I see the horses winning money for them but not a lot of followup for the horses!

  6. Wanda and Kelly’s posts are super, and Sharon is correct: Whips could be banned immediately. Only a reprobate can promote the idea that banning such a well-documented implement of pain and suffering is an “upgrade” and “takes time.”
    Since tattoos are “evidence”—especially in the slaughter pipeline—no wonder these degenerates are becoming desperate want them phased out. At the expense of horses, horseracing is a gambling-addiction and profiteering industry that is finally being exposed. Thank you Horseracing Wrongs and all its supporters!

  7. It is clear that the Human Actors in the HORSERACING industry do NOT GIVE A DAMN — they read their scripts very well and frequently — over and over — the horrific atrocities by our country’s Horseracing INDUSTRY are criminal, cruel, shameful and unconscionable — I cannot say this enough : SHUT DOWN HORSERACING — FOREVER — it is a vicious cycle of abuse, suffering and early death — The HORROR to Horses MUST STOP.

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