Shedrow Secrets

by Mary Johnson

For those who follow racehorse deaths on America’s tracks, the descriptions are all too familiar – “cardiovascular collapse,” “fractured cannon bones,” “severed spines” and “broken necks.” Gruesome descriptions as we visualize the sickening scenes that occur regularly in racing. However, there are horses who do make it out of racing alive only to die later in virtual anonymity. There are some whose stories are simply heartbreaking, not only because a young life was snuffed out, but also because of the sweet nature of a particular horse. One of those horses was Lovetobehappy (Lovey), and this is her story.

Lovey was first brought to our attention in late May, 2019. She was being offered as a broodmare prospect and was marketed as “a super opportunity to add to your broodmare band.” Over the next week or so, her price had dropped precipitously to a few hundred dollars along with the proverbial “OBO.” Rose Smith and I sensed the urgency of the situation, and we quickly decided to step up for her. An offer was made and accepted, and Lovey arrived at my barn on May 30th for three weeks of downtime before she shipped to New Bolton for an evaluation and possible surgery on her knees. We were cautiously optimistic since she was only three and had raced just six times, all in 2019, with the last being on May 7th (which she “won”).

loaded and ready to go…

Upon arrival, I was amazed at how sweet and docile this little three-year-old was, especially since she had just left the track. I have been involved with OTTBS for well over fifty years, and Lovey was unequivocally one of the kindest horses I have ever encountered. She was simply a delight to have in my barn, which made her physical issues even more troubling. When walking, she seemed to have great difficulty knowing where to place her feet, and we initially suspected a neurological issue. We also thought she just might be body sore but, again, we were hopeful that with time and good care, her issues would resolve and she could have a normal life. An appointment was made with my equine vet for the following week, and I began limited turnout in a smaller pasture with my old Standardbred gelding, Friday. She adored my old guy and followed him around like a puppy dog, but was always ready to go back into the barn when I approached the pasture.

upon arrival…

Lovey with Friday…

My vet took initial radiographs of both of Lovey’s front knees and found chip fractures in both middle joints. She also thought that Lovey was body sore plus she had thin soles, so a treatment plan was initiated. The bloodwork came back fine, with no significant abnormalities, and neurological issues were ruled out. However, Rose and I realized that in order for Lovey to lead a relatively comfortable life, the chips would have to be removed and we both wanted to give her that chance. Her next stop would be New Bolton. Rose and I mistakenly believed that things were looking up for this incredibly sweet filly.

before heading to New Bolton…

Lovey’s surgery was scheduled for Monday, June 24th. Prior to, New Bolton took additional x-rays of both knees as well as her head since she had an indentation next to her left eye. Kelly Smith had graciously offered to rehab Lovey as well as take her into her adoption program at Omega Horse Rescue. On Monday morning, Kelly called and told me that it didn’t look good for Lovey. Chips were successfully removed from the left knee, but the right knee was in bad shape.

I immediately called NB and spoke to the surgeon about the prognosis. Here is what Dr. Levine shared with me: The cartilage in the right middle carpal joint had been “hammered” and was virtually nonexistent, making her prognosis for a long-term, pain-free life poor. He also said that Lovey was the worst case he had ever seen except for horses who had entered NB in order to have their joints fused, and those were usually high-end broodmares. I asked him if anything could be done for her and he said the ONLY possibility was to have the knee fused (a $20,000 procedure) down the road. In addition, he believed she had previously suffered from a fractured skull.

After discussing Lovey’s poor prognosis with Rose and the surgeon, we made the difficult decision to let her go. She never woke up from the anesthesia. Both Rose and I were overcome with grief, and I still become emotional when thinking about my sweet Lovey. For three weeks, while at my barn, nothing was expected of her. She was given the freedom to just be a horse, which is something denied her during her racing days. Although she is gone, she will NEVER be forgotten. The racing industry took her life, just as it has so many others. Lovetobehappy is a racing fatality and the industry is responsible for destroying her. You can be sure of that.

From the official NB diagnosis: “right middle carpal joint – osteochondral fragmentation, osteophytosis, ​end-stage degenerative joint disease; left middle carpal joint – osteochondral fragmentation, osteophytosis. There was complete denudation of the articular cartilage along the articular surface of the radial carpal bone, severe denudation of the third carpal bone, and moderate articular erosion of several others.” Also from NB: “Due to the severity of pathology within the right MCJ, which likely would result in a grave prognosis for return to athletic [function] and persistent lameness, the filly was humanely euthanized.”

The following essay was submitted by a longtime industry exercise-rider. For various reasons, this person has asked to remain anonymous.

Please allow me to start off by saying that I am not any level of bleeding heart activist. I enjoy eating meat and I fully believe in using horses for work and recreation. I have a job to earn my keep and I see no reason why most horses can’t earn their keep as well. With all that being said, it is my observation that horseracing practices are senseless mental and physical abuse. They are a near perfectly measured formula for destroying the animal mentally and rendering it useless even in the unlikely event that he survives the relentless physical pounding that kills the majority of his peers.

Everything that is standard practice in this industry, from the tiny boxes they are kept in, the high protein diets they are fed, the hormones they are injected with, down to their daily training regimens is a no-fail recipe for the absolute destruction of this delicate animal. We mass produce these nervous and frail animals with absolutely no regulations or standards and we discard them just as quickly.

There are no rules that regulate how long a horse can remain “in training” without a break. “In training” entails being locked in a 12 by 12 box for 23 hours a day, coming out only to jog and canter in circles around a racetrack for 15 to 20 minutes. This is followed by being walked, either by hand or on a walking machine, for about 30 minutes and then it’s back to the box until tomorrow.

In order to understand how damaging this is to a horse’s psychological (as well as physical) being, it is essential to understand the nature of a grazing herd-animal. A horse is very much like a deer, designed to live in large families, constantly ambling around and ingesting small bits of grass and roughage. They seek comfort in large, close-knit herds where they, as prey animals, keep watch over one another and provide physical affection and companionship. Deprivation of this natural state brings on a host of stress and anxiety induced behaviors.

Have you ever been around or seen footage of young children in an orphanage? Being deprived of a mother’s affection, they often rock themselves for comfort, sometimes violently. Some tap their heads against walls or their bed boards. Some even develop unusual, compulsory vocal or breathing ticks. Walk down the shedrow of any barn and you will see horses displaying all of the aforementioned symptoms. Most commonly they weave back and forth in their doorways; some find room to actually pace back and forth or even tread little circles around the inside of their tiny boxes. Often the horses weave and pace so incessantly and aggressively that it causes lameness issues in the animal and digs deep holes in their stall floor. Not only does this make for a very uncomfortable bed to lie down in, it also churns all their urine and feces into their costly “bedding.”

I have observed desperate trainers try all sorts of tactics to stop these counterproductive behaviors. They “decorate” the stalls with old car tires, orange road cones and giant beach balls to avert the circling and pacing, usually to no avail. I have seen horses bloody up their ankles frantically pacing and weaving over the top of the tires as though they weren’t even there.

Another common habit they develop, called “cribbing” or “sucking wind,” is when the horse bites down on the stall door or the edge of the feed bucket and loudly sucks air into his belly. Some “cribbers” do so because they are not being provided with adequate roughage (grazing animals are designed to constantly digest small bits of roughage) and filling their belly with air can simulate the feeling of being full. Others crib purely from boredom and anxiety. This compulsory habit can cause a plethora of health problems and the solution is a rigid, leather choke collar that fastens tightly around the horse’s throat and jabs painfully into his esophagus whenever he moves his head or neck a certain way. This is often effective and a majority of trainers leave this apparatus on for the full 23 hours that the horse is stalled.

One horse I encountered years ago (at a very prestigious track) had been “in training” for seven straight years. He had not been allowed outside in a pasture or even a small paddock for over seven years. He was nine now and his career was coming to an end. Whenever turned outside in a paddock he would run, panicked and screaming wildly until he was bathed in sweat. Having a quiet and calm horse in the next paddock over or even in the same paddock with him offered no comfort.

I turned that poor gelding outside every single day that winter. I even tried two different kinds of tranquilizers, but he never once stopped frantically running and screaming – not until you brought him back to his box. I never left him outside for more than a hour for fear that he would explode his heart or break a leg off. Before I left at the end of the season the owner/trainer swore to me that he would keep the gelding as a pony or a barn ornament. I just try not to think about it.

In general, horses are affectionate and deeply sensitive animals. When removed from their natural environment, they become like dogs and thrive on attention. Walking down a racehorse shedrow can often feel like visiting a city animal-shelter where all the dogs stare at you longingly, begging for your attention and interaction. But because of the stress of track life, many horses grow bitter and afraid of humans. Can you blame them? They pin their ears and gnash their teeth at everyone who passes their stall. In turn, trainers and grooms slap at them, call them awful names and handle them with anger and aggression.

You see, aside from the starry-eyed young girls who run away to join the “circus” because they genuinely love horses, the racetrack is a catch-all for drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals, and other undesirables. These horses who develop poor attitudes will likely be handled by short-tempered drunks. You can certainly imagine what happens when a suffering, frightened filly aims a well-deserved kick at a hung-over ex-con for hurriedly raking too stiff of a brush across her sensitive belly. I’ve seen “cranky” horses slapped, kicked and punched. Sometimes this cycle continues until a horse becomes labeled as “savage.” “Savages” will not only bite and kick but will run at anyone who comes near their stall. Some will throw themselves on the ground whenever they’re tethered up for grooming. And the cycle continues.

Do you realize that there is no one appointed to go around the barns at night and just check on the horses? No one checks to make sure the horses have water, food and bedding. That job doesn’t exist, at least at the tracks I have worked at. Horses go all night standing in a box with no water or hay. Maybe because the owner/trainer is down on his luck and can’t afford any bedding this week or has to ration his hay. Maybe the trainer in the next barn got drunk and passed out early, before he topped off water buckets for the night, and now all ten of his horses have no water until morning. Oftentimes that same trainer will send those horses out to gallop the next morning still without having given them a drink. Just imagine what kind of horrors are being ignored at the cheaper tracks. No need for me to imagine, I have seen it.

Then there is the whipping. In general, when a racehorse turns for home he gets the living shit whipped out of him. Whether he is in first or last, limping or sailing on air, he gets whipped. In recent years, they have added an extra 1/4″ of foam to the “business end” in order to make it more “humane.” This is total bullshit and here’s why: a whip is usually 2 1/2′-3 1/2′ sections of fiberglass fishing-poles (wrapped in colorful plastic string or leather) and a 1/2″ thick foam-popper on the end that is covered in patent leather – for the comfort of the horse, I’m sure. Is it possible that part of the reason racehorses become sour – rearing up, flipping over and sometimes even killing themselves in avoidance – is because they anticipate the whipping? For an animal of flight, a prey animal, having a rider on your back continuously whipping or spurring even through you’re already running as fast as you can – in a stampede, in front of a screaming audience – certainly must seem like punishment.

In my 20 years in this industry, I have been licensed in eight different states; I have rode at training facilities in most of these and in four others as well. I have “broke” (got them ready to ride) over 100 yearlings and have personally snapped the legs off of two separate horses by galloping them whilst they were knowingly unsound. Both were euthanized on the spot. I am aware of a few other horses whom I have mortally injured. One horse whom I killed particularly haunts my memory.

We were out galloping and I felt something pop and he began to limp. He was a really kind and gentle guy. I hopped off and led him back to the barn. I watched that horse stand in his tiny, hard stall with no feed or bedding for nearly a week before the “meat man” came through on his weekly run. At which point, this gentle, trusting animal was loaded, limping, onto the trailer where he was shuffled around hungry, afraid, and in pain for another week before being shipped to the slaughterhouse.

There is nothing glamorous about this “sport,” no matter what country you’re in. Any time you mass-produce animals as commodities, there is going to be cruelty and death. That’s a fact, and to focus on just the drugging is a total cop-out. Actually, if you saw how these horses lived you would advocate them having more drugs. Taking away Lasix and pain-killers is increasing their suffering and worsening their already horrible quality of life. Having seen and lived this for 20 years, it is my opinion that horseracing simply needs to go away.

Shedrow Secrets

by Mary Johnson

In late July, 2013, a racing official at Beulah Park reached out to me for help concerning six horses that were in danger of “disappearing” off the backside of the track. I immediately contacted fellow horse advocates for assistance with networking since placing one horse, much less six, is extremely difficult. Time was of the essence and we were all under a great deal of pressure to help these horses land safely. Over a couple weeks, five were placed into homes or rescues and we were now down to one – Wakiwickedwarrior.

Waki was incredibly thin as well as lame, and the track vet had recommended euthanasia. In addition, Waki had a fractured right orbital socket that, though it had healed over time, left his eyes asymmetrical, making him look “deformed.” The injury, it was suspected, was due to blunt trauma. He wasn’t a very good-looking horse, at least from outward appearances. However, when I first met Waki, I realized that he was a very sweet horse and, even though he was just a low level “claimer,” he was just as valuable and deserving as the big-money winners. As we furiously worked to help him land safely, Sandy Maddy, a friend of many years, reached out and offered to foster him, and I immediately took her up on it. Waki is now with me, but I will always be indebted to Sandy for stepping up for a horse with limited options.

On July 10, 2013, Waki ran his last race at Beulah Park. From the racing minutes that day, “Wakiwickedwarrior dueled and chased the winner for a half before stopping to a walk in the stretch run.” Waki walked off the track, unable to keep up with the rest of the herd. He was done – defeated and broken – at a mere five years old. Little did he know that in a few short weeks his luck would change.

Waki is one of the lucky ones because, though damaged, he made it out of racing alive and landed in a good, forever home. He is the exception because in the vast majority of cases, the racing industry does NOT – will NOT – step up for its fallen warriors. I have seen Waki’s story play out many, many times with horses that have been sucked dry. Some are crippled and maimed to the point that humane euthanasia is the only option. So what is the solution? End horseracing now. Stop the betting and this gambling industry will die, like so many of its horses, in the dirt. Seems simple to me.

Waki, one month after his last race (yes, he was being raced like this)…

Waki (and me), earlier this month…

The following, based on her own painstaking investigation, was written by our Joy Aten. Please read, then share…

Racing owner/trainer Burton Sipp sold five TB racehorses at the November 3 Lolli Bros. horse auction – at least two of the five were sold to a kill buyer. The West Virginia Racing Commission (WVRC) and Mountaineer Racetrack have an anti-slaughter policy but have chosen not to hold Sipp in violation of it. The following log reveals the incompetence and complicity of the WVRC and Mountaineer personnel.

On October 26, I shared the following on a social media post – racing owner/trainer Burton Sipp was planning to bring seven racing Thoroughbreds to the November 3 Lolli Bros. Horse auction in Missouri. The auction’s catalogue listed the following horses with Sipp identified as the owner:

*Sue Them All, 2009 dark bay gelding, racing O/T Burton Sipp, last raced for Sipp on October 17, 2018 at Mountaineer. Hip #135.

*Papa’s Paisley, 2011 bay gelding, racing O/T Burton Sipp, last raced for Sipp on October 7, 2018 at Mountaineer. Hip #140.

*I Know Thats Right, 2013 bay gelding, racing O/T Burton Sipp, last raced for Sipp on October 3, 2018 at Mountaineer. Hip #136.

*Adorable Twirl, 2013 dark bay gelding, racing O/T Burton Sipp, last raced for Sipp on September 24, 2018 at Mountaineer. Hip #138.

*Goodin Puddin, 2015 dark bay filly, racing O/T Wayne Rice, last raced for Rice on September 12, 2018 at Presque Isle Downs. Hip #139.

*Eye to Thrill, 2013 dark bay gelding, racing O/T Burton Sipp, last raced for Sipp on September 24, 2018 at Mountaineer. Hip #148.

*Kentucky Flame, 2013 chestnut mare, racing O/T Burton Sipp, last raced for Sipp on October 9, 2018 at Mountaineer. Hip #151.

The post had nearly 700 comments. The majority were outraged over the horses being sold at auction, knowing full well the risk of kill buyers and/or dealers purchasing any or all of the seven horses. Some individuals didn’t “appreciate” my revealing of the information and claimed that if Sipp became aware of the post, he wouldn’t be inclined to sell the horses to advocates instead of taking them to auction (and how would anyone even know to attempt to purchase the horses had I NOT provided the information?). And then there were those – I bet you can guess where their loyalties lie – who exclaimed: “Well at least Sipp is giving them a chance [by selling them at auction]!”

Also included in the comments were several from a trainer who spewed the same old line – Sipp is just one bad apple and most owners responsibly rehome their racehorses – and, in his best impersonation of a hero, said HE would bring this outrage to the Mountaineer stewards. He also promised follow-up in the post (which he never did). As it turns out, this trainer’s own filly – Dewdrop’s Heart – was found in a Bowie, Texas, feedlot less than four months after she last raced for him – but of course, it wasn’t HIS doing…HE had responsibly rehomed her. Right.

Several individuals commented that they had tried to get in contact with Sipp (before the auction) but were unable to. November 3 came and went, and there was no evidence that any of the seven had been acquired to spare them the nearly 800-mile trip to auction.

On November 6 and again on November 7, I spoke with Anna at the Lolli auction. Although it was against privacy policy to reveal the names of the purchasers, she was able to tell me the winning bids:

*I Know Thats Right (noted to have a swollen knee), sold for $625
*Adorable Twirl, sold for $775
*Goodin Puddin, sold for $710
*Eye to Thrill, sold for $575
*Kentucky Flame, sold for $600

*9-year-old Sue Them All and 7-year-old Papa’s Paisley were not brought to the auction. In a PM from Sipp, this (verbatim) regarding Sue Them All: “He was sold going to Canada has [sic] a riding horse.” Canada doesn’t have enough riding horses? Someone there wants a 9-year-old racehorse with osslets as their riding horse? Sure.

It was confirmed that Goodin Puddin and Eye to Thrill were purchased by a buyer for Stanley’s, operator of the Lone Star Kill Pen and Auction AND its “sister” lot, the Ark-La Ship Pen, at the Lolli auction and arrived at the Lone Star Kill Pen and Auction (LSKPA) on November 6. Imagine that – from West Virginia to Missouri to Texas in less than a week. Eye to Thrill was purchased for $975 from the kill buyer before the LSKPA site was made current with its available horses. But Goodin Puddin was listed there and she was subsequently purchased for $1275.

My first of many phone calls to Mountaineer Racetrack regarding the confirmed sale of Goodin Puddin and Eye to Thrill to a kill buyer was on November 8. Mary Lou Pietranton, executive assistant to Mountaineer VP/GM Bill Winkelried, put me through to Director of Racing Jim Colvin’s number after I apprised her of the situation, but I was only able to leave him a detailed message. So I called Pietranton right back and she assured me that Winkelried would call me that day. He never did.

On November 9, I called again, but got only voice mail. I then called Mountaineer steward Maureen Andrews – she listened but told me I needed to speak with the chief steward, Jim O’Brien. Now on my third call in less than five minutes, I didn’t reach O’Brien at the chief steward’s number but another steward, Phil Heidenreich, answered. He was already aware of the situation because my post had been shared with the Mountaineer stewards.

It was difficult to get a word in with Heidenreich as he babbled on about how the kill buyers “take advantage of bleeding hearts” and there wouldn’t be any Thoroughbreds going to slaughter if it were not for the kill buyers (brilliant). He then declared that none of the Sipp horses at Lolli were bought by kill buyers because Sipp said so. Sipp SAID SO. In fact, he continued, Sipp grumbled that NEXT TIME he was going to bring a saddle so the horses could be ridden in the auction ring because, according to Heidenreich, “horses ridden with saddles aren’t bought by the kill buyers.” God’s honest truth – Sipp said so, Heidenreich prattled. I asked that O’Brien call me back since that is who I had called to speak with. I was told he would. He didn’t.

On November 11, Heidenreich left a VM saying that I needed to e-mail the stewards with my “complaint” and he provided an address. On November 12, I tried the number on my caller ID from Heidenreich’s call the day before but there was no answer and no option to leave a VM. I sent the email to the stewards at 10:30 that morning. By November 15, I had not received a reply, so I sent a second. Again, no response.

On November 18, I tried chief steward Jim O’Brien’s number again – and again, Heidenreich answered. It was more of the same: the stewards met with Sipp and Sipp said he didn’t sell any horses to a kill buyer; Sipp is going to bring saddles next time; the kill buyers’ intentions are NOT to send horses to slaughter but to sell them to bleeding hearts at a mark-up; and Jim Colvin was who I really needed to talk to but he was “sick with that Legionnaires disease.” When I asked who was next in the chain of command or could speak on Colvin’s behalf, he said it had to be Colvin. Several minutes later, though, Heidenreich said I needed to talk with someone at Eldorado Resorts, Mountaineer’s corporate owner. Runaround, defined.

When I mentioned I had yet to receive a response to the two e-mails I sent, Heidenreich scoffed, “WHY did you send e-mails to the stewards?” I responded, “Because on November 11, you left me a VM suggesting I do exactly that and you also provided the address.” Finally, Heidenreich said to call Colvin “tomorrow, after 9 AM”, and although I questioned that (being he was ill), I was assured he was back at work.

On November 19, I called Colvin’s number – no answer. Left a detailed message and asked for a call back. I also called (steward) Andrews, but had to do the same. Neither Colvin nor Andrews called back.

On November 23, I called Colvin again and this time he answered. He had been told about the situation and said, “I heard that all of the horses weren’t even Sipp’s.” I went through the list with him, no detail left out…of the five horses brought to the Lolli auction, Sipp was the last owner/trainer of record of four and identified as the owner of the fifth, the formerly Rice-owned/trained filly, in the auction catalogue. I also informed Colvin that 1), Sipp claims Sue Them All went to Canada as a riding horse; 2), Goodin Puddin and Eye to Thrill were purchased by a kill buyer at Lolli, taken to Texas and re-sold there; and 3), I did not know where the remaining horses were.

When pressed with the fact there was proof Goodin Puddin and Eye to Thrill were purchased by a kill buyer at the Lolli auction, Colvin “reminded” me that their anti-slaughter policy was just that…anti-SLAUGHTER. “Not anti-kill buyer,” Colvin said, “anti-slaughter; there needs to be absolute proof the horse went to slaughter. I know Sipp is no saint but there needs to be absolute proof.” I asked him what would fit the criteria of “absolute proof” a horse has gone to slaughter, BEEN slaughtered. He didn’t have an answer. I suggested different scenarios and again, he just kept repeating the need for absolute proof.

This conversation and every other one I had since my first call to Mountaineer on November 8 were futile, so I ended with this: “There is no point in having your toothless anti-slaughter policy, Jim – you haven’t been able to give me one example of the absolute proof Mountaineer requires. Not one. Aside from flipping the lips of the horses’ severed heads in the slaughterhouse, there is no absolute proof. And you know it. Your industry needs slaughter and you know that, too.” Colvin said he would personally hand my phone number to O’Brien and have O’Brien call me.

Four days later, I had yet to hear from Jim O’Brien, so on November 27 I called Jim Colvin to see if he had given my name and number to O’Brien as he said he would – I had to leave a VM. Then I called Jim O’Brien and finally, HE answered. O’Brien gave the same yarn regarding holding Sipp accountable for selling horses to a kill buyer, but said, “We need concrete proof”…to which I asked, as I had asked of Colvin, “What would that be, Jim? At least two of the horses were purchased at the Lolli auction – brought there by Sipp, with Sipp identified as owner – by a buyer for Stanley, a kill buyer. What more do you need to recognize Sipp violated the anti-slaughter policy?”

O’Brien then felt it necessary to “correct” me…that for the state it is an anti-slaughter RULE and for Mountaineer an anti-slaughter POLICY. I asked O’Brien, “Is a racing owner selling his racehorses to a kill buyer a violation of your anti-slaughter rule?” He would not answer but stuttered, “Let me read it to you.” I told him not to bother as I had read it numerous times, but all of a sudden he was gone…approximately 30 seconds later he was back, reading me the rule/policy. I waited, then asked again, “Is a racing owner selling his racehorses to a kill buyer a violation of your anti-slaughter rule?” Finally, he said, “We would have to investigate and have a hearing.” I reminded him that I had been trying – via numerous calls and emails – for nearly three weeks to provide them with information but no one seemed interested enough to call back OR answer my emails. O’Brien was as inept as Heidenreich and Colvin – so I ended the call after asking for the number of Joe Moore, the WVRC executive director.

On November 27, I called Moore but had to leave a VM. I provided a few details and asked for a call-back at his earliest convenience. I followed that with my third email to the stewards, this time including Joe Moore. As of November 29, I had not received a call back from Moore nor a response to my third email. So I sent a fourth email – to Moore and the stewards – on November 30. No response.

On December 3, I called Joe Moore again. Again, no answer. So, another detailed message. Called Jim O’Brien right after – he was silent when I asked him if they were investigating Sipp and that I had not received responses to voice mails I’ve left with Moore nor to the four emails I was “instructed” (by Heidenreich) to send to the stewards. After a stretch of silence from O’Brien, I asked him again if they were investigating Sipp; he stated: “I’ll have Mike Vapner call you.”

Mike Vapner, the WVRC’s investigator, called me several minutes later. After rehashing the near month’s-worth of phone calls and emails, Vapner provided me with a fax number to the Mountaineer stewards’ office; on December 5, I faxed 24 pages of information, including the proof of Goodin Puddin’s purchase by a kill-buyer at the Lolli auction. Another email was sent to the stewards to alert them of the fax AND I verified with Vapner via text that the 24 pages had been faxed. He acknowledged receipt of my text. Days passed with nothing more. On the 14th, I texted Vapner again, asking him if a decision had been reached. His response:

Vapner: “I work at Mountaineer…and Wheeling Island Racetrack. My last day at Mountaineer was 12/10/18. As of that date none of your documents had been forwarded to me.”

Me: “Mike, they were faxed (to the number you gave me) at 0300 on December 5 – I then sent a fourth email to the stewards to inform I had faxed the 24 pages AND I texted you that morning – you replied with ‘OK, thanks.’ So you didn’t retrieve them?”

Vapner: “No, I didn’t receive them.”

Me: “No…reTRIEVE them. I informed you they were there. So do I need to resend them? This is unbelievable.”

At this point, I called O’Brien’s number to ask him what he/they did with the 24 pages of information I had faxed to the stewards’ office. Maureen Andrews answered and right after I identified myself, the call “dropped.” After several more calls getting “user busy,” I finally got through but only to Jim O’Brien’s VM. I left a message suggesting he locate the information and get it to Vapner. I didn’t receive a call back from O’Brien.

At that point I received another text from Vapner:

Vapner: “Joy I contacted the Stewart’s [sic] office they did not receive any of your faxes I’ll give me [you?] the number for the license clerks fax machine it is 304-387-2226 thank you”

Me: “Yes they did receive them…” – and I texted three photos of the “call report” showing the result of “success.”

Vapner did not respond to the proof that my fax to the stewards’ office had been successfully sent – 24 pages of information sent to a fax machine that HE had chosen – 24 pages of information that HE knew had been successfully sent as evidenced by his acknowledgement of my text stating such. He knew I had faxed them…why wouldn’t Vapner, the investigator, go and retrieve them and if they WEREN’T there, contact me and say so? So I faxed everything a second time – to (AGAIN) the number he gave me. And AGAIN, I texted Vapner after I received confirmation that the fax had gone through. His response:

Vapner: “Joy I will not be at Mountaineer until Sunday evening [December 16]! At that time I will know if fax was completed”

Me: “The fax went through – successful. I don’t know what you meant by ‘completed.’”

Vapner: “Simply that I will check to verify that I got it Sunday” WHAT? …”check to verify that I got it”? And he is an investigator? I closed the loop with, “I’ll check with you Sunday.”

On December 16, I texted Vapner to remind him to get the information I had (successfully) faxed. Mountaineer was racing that evening and Sipp had several horses entered. I received confirmation from Vapner that he did indeed pick up the information. I asked him to keep me informed of his progress and a decision about Sipp. He said he would.

On December 20 at 11:49 am, I texted Vapner to see if a decision had been made. He read my text at 11:51 but did not reply. At 11 pm, I emailed the Mountaineer stewards and Joe Moore with a recap of the situation and the same to the WVRC at 11:30. No response from either the stewards or the WVRC.

On December 24, I texted Vapner again…it had now been eight days since he picked up the SECOND set of information I had faxed to him, and I assumed a decision about Sipp selling at least two horses to a kill buyer would have been reached. He read my text but didn’t respond. Three hours later, I texted Vapner a second time. His response (punctuation added for clarity):

“The last day of racing at Mountaineer was 12-19-18. I did contact Loli [sic] auctions on 12-18-18 and spoke to Anna. She told me it was their policy that she could not supply me with any information on buyers. Mr. Sipp was questioned by the stewards at Mountaineer and he stated that he has been doing business with Loli for years and they are a reputable business. Since the meet at Mountaineer has ended for the year I have been relocated to Wheeling Island Racetrack Casino…as of this date I have not been supplied with internet access or a phone in my office, even though I requested both from management last December. The lack of both greatly hampers my ability to conduct investigations.”

So, it appears, Vapner’s “investigation” (WITH internet access and a phone!) consisted of TWO things: 1), calling Lolli’s on 12-18 and speaking with Anna who informed him she could not divulge WHO purchased Sipp’s horses. But why call Lolli’s? I had provided Vapner with the proof Sipp sold (at least) two horses to a kill buyer! And 2), the stewards’ conversation with Sipp in which he states Lolli’s is reputable, he’s been doing business with them for years, and, as Heidenreich had conveyed to me back on November 9, Sipp SAID he didn’t sell any of his horses to the kill buyer.

So there you have it. Burton Sipp sold Goodin Puddin and Eye to Thrill to a kill buyer at the Lolli Bros. horse auction on November 3. Individuals who were provided proof of such included Mountaineer Director of Racing Jim Colvin, Chief Steward Jim O’Brien, WVRC Executive Director Joe Moore, and WVRC investigator Mike Vapner. Vapner was GIVEN 24 pages of information (twice) – information I had gathered, organized, numbered and cross-referenced, and finally, attached notes for indisputable clarity.

But the WVRC and Mountaineer personnel had no intention of banning Sipp for violation of their anti-slaughter policy. They are a circus show of incompetence and collusion, and their anti-slaughter policy is a farce. One thing, however, that they did do expertly was drag their collective feet…Vapner’s “investigation” concluded just as the Mountaineer meet did – and Sipp had 3 horses entered on the meet’s final night, December 19. How’s that for timing.

Included in the 24 pages I faxed to Vapner and the WVRC (and emailed to the Mountaineer stewards and Joe Moore), the following:

1) photos from the Lolli catalogue naming each horse – with corresponding hip number – brought to the auction and identifying Sipp as the owner.

2) the sale ad from the Stanley Brothers Lone Star Kill Pen for Goodin Puddin, including a description and photos of her.

3) private messages between me and the Lone Star Kill Pen – in them, the kill pen offering other TB’s names that came in from the Lolli auction. Eye to Thrill was one of the several names.

4) photos of a tattooed chestnut TB mare (not identified, “approximate age – 5”) at the Ark-La Ship Pen/Stanley Brothers from November 7 who could possibly be Kentucky Flame, one of the TB’s Sipp sold at Lolli’s.

5) the November 22 ad from Marni Prater who purchased Goodin Puddin from the Lone Star Kill Pen…“We pulled her from a kill pen a few weeks ago…”

6) the fundraiser by Marni Prater for the surgery Goodin Puddin needs for her left knee chip…“Goodin Puddin retired from racing in September. She was sold by her trainer [Rice] to another trainer [Sipp]. The trainer [Sipp] took Puddin and 6 [4] other thoroughbreds to the Lolli brothers’ auction in Missouri. Within days Puddin was at the Lone Star Kill Pen in Texas.”

Marni Prater’s fundraiser has stalled, so she is trying to rehome GP. A second fundraiser by someone who would adopt her has begun – costs include the purchase price, transport from Texas to Oklahoma and the surgery. From the gofundme: “Goodin Puddin is a mare who has been thru a lot these last few months, we have reached out to a few TAA organizations who would like to help her unfortunately due to budgets and end of year expenses the rescues are not able to buy her.”

Once again, the multi-billion dollar racing industry does not take care of its own – and its loudly-touted “aftercare” cannot manage the constant flow of injured and discarded horses. **Let me know if you would like to help Goodin Puddin by way of this fundraiser – I will put you in contact with the individual. TY.**

Finally, I do not know the whereabouts of the other six Sipp horses named in this report.

Goodin Puddin; photo credit: Marni Prater

Shedrow Secrets

Diva’s Kitten
by Joy Aten

Aftercare. The TB racing industry’s buzzword these days. Recognizing the public’s ever-increasing awareness that vast numbers of racehorses are sent to slaughter, the industry and its apologists boast, ad nauseam, of their drop-in-the-bucket aftercare initiatives. Their incessant chatter on the subject begs some questions: If racehorses are the “beloved family members” the horse people gush they are, why are they not providing their spent and injured horses with post-racing homes? Why does this multi-billion dollar industry not fully support the horses it bred and used, but instead plead with an over-solicited public to help foot the bills?

And we see them every day. Racehorses begging for homes. Everywhere. Still at the track. At auction barns. In kill pens. In rescue and placement programs. On social media. Listing services. “Watch Lists.” Craigslist. Endless lists. And if a home is secured? The financial demands to meet the horse’s needs for the next 20 or so years will far surpass what any racing owner’s were for that same horse. Bred for racing, used in racing, but ultimately, not supported by racing.

Diva’s Kitten was one such horse – no longer wanted, in desperate need of a home. Here is what a listing service had to say about the 4-year-old filly: “**Please Note she has a chip in her Upper Knee Joint** Extremely Classy Dappled Beauty!! It was found recently that she’s got a chip in her Upper Knee Joint. She could continue to Race but her connections would rather see her retire. Great Broodmare Prospect!! She could also be a ridding [sic] horse for someone willing to give her a chance since a chip doesn’t mean they can’t still have a career! Our meet is ending and needs to Move ASAP!!” She was priced at $650, but within a day, it was changed to “Make Offer.”

So what do you think? Clearly, the ad depicts the following as facts: 1), R&P Racing Stables (owner) and Rodney Faulkner (trainer) appear considerate (“She could continue to Race but her connections would rather see her retire.”); 2), the “chip” is dismissed as inconsequential as not only could DK “continue to race,” she is also a riding prospect; 3), a $650 price tag, given the preceding, seems more than reasonable (with negotiating room – “needs to move ASAP” – to boot). Looks great, right? Buyers see a bargain in a young, serviceable filly, and apologists will praise the connections for retiring her when they could still be racing her. Red flags, anyone?

from the ad…

First put to the whip as a 2-year-old, Diva’s Kitten would be raced 32 times in all for Faulkner, R&P, and Skipper Hamilton, “earning” over $100,000 along the way. But in her last race, September 17 at Thistledown, she “trailed, stopped, jogged to wire” – finishing last, nearly 30 lengths behind. At some point between then and October 15, her connections had knee x-rays done, and by the latter date she had been put up for sale (the ad’s info coming directly from Faulkner). So, while it looked a great deal to a prospective buyer, the outcome was more likely to be pasture pet/money pit, and with that, a huge risk of Diva landing in the slaughter pipeline. This is where rescuers Mary Johnson and Rose Smith come in, ultimately purchasing (and saving) Diva.

right after rescue…

Having been told Diva’s Kitten came out of her last race lame but without possession of the x-rays (Mary tried unsuccessfully to obtain them several times), it was decided to take more films – and of both knees. The diagnosis was as bad as anticipated. For this 4-year-old to have any chance for a comfortable life, she needed surgery.

Diva’s Kitten underwent bilateral knee arthroscopy on November 14. Her left knee had taken the worst of the pounding. From the operative report: “large defect on the weight-bearing surface of the intermediate carpal bone, along with a large fragment…loose cartilage on the entire dorsal margin [and] a distinct fragment buried deep in the joint capsule [that] could not be removed.” Diva’s Kitten was, obviously, not sound to race. And “riding” horse? Not without surgery, followed up with a series of joint injections and monthly supplements. And then, only maybe.

That is how her “job” left her. At four. Without surgery, she would have quickly deteriorated to “broodmare only” condition, followed by “pasture-pet” status – while, likely, in her teens, if not before. In less than one month, the cost of her post-racing needs has climbed to just shy of $5,000, and, of course, that’s just the beginning. Bred for Racing. Used by Racing. Maimed by Racing. But not a penny in help from Racing.

Had Diva’s Kitten not been rescued by Mary and Rose, it would only have been a matter of time before photos of her at an auction or in a kill-pen surfaced (if, that is, she was lucky enough to be noticed). There would then have been a scrambling for donations to save her life. But with the revelation that her last race was several months prior, the apologists would have made certain to absolve her “connections,” prattling: “Her racing owner didn’t send her there! She’s been off the track since September – couldn’t have been Racing that dumped her at auction!” Not responsible? Please. Didn’t they use her? Take her “earnings”? Wasn’t she maimed in their care? Yes, yes, and yes. Not only did Faulkner ignore the injury she suffered while making him money, he set her up for disaster by presenting her as something she was not.

Diva’s Kitten, of course, is not unique. Racing owners don’t attend to their horses’ injuries unless it’s to salvage for breeding or continued racing; they just pass the “problem” on to the next guy. Countless racehorses found at auction have the same story as Diva’s Kitten…and while their connections might not have personally delivered them into the kill buyers’ hands, they might just as well have. They set their spent, injured, and unwanted horses up for bad endings; they open the door to slaughter and send them through it. Again. And again. And again.

Where is the aftercare for Diva’s Kitten? Racing didn’t supply the funds to cover her purchase, veterinary expenses, board, transport, and follow-up care. And racing isn’t going to provide her with a home for the next 25 years. Bred for, used in, damaged and discarded by Racing – moral bankruptcy defined.

Mary and Diva, after surgery…