Shedrow Secrets, Installment 4
By Joy Aten and Jo Anne Normile (author of “Saving Baby”)
I first saw Brave Miner in 1999. It was opening year of Thoroughbred racing at Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon, Michigan, and having been a lifelong fan of the “Sport of Kings,” I was thrilled to have live racing only 45 minutes from my home. Brave Miner was larger than life to me, a gleaming chestnut that exuded confidence, class, and dignity. As I watched him prance in the paddock, I could only dream of having him as a member of my beloved equine family.
Shortly after, I became involved with a Thoroughbred racehorse rescue and rehabilitation organization. My responsibilities included walking the shed rows to take listings for the owners and trainers. Brave Miner was now 6 years old and had accumulated 18 wins – including 4 black type which are the highest level – from 48 starts on dirt and turf, going long and short. He was extraordinarily beautiful, but the wear and tear on his body was already evident. I had never seen ankles that large and misshapen. Becoming acutely aware of the fate of so many racing TB’s, I made myself and Brave Miner a promise that I would take him from the track before his body and spirit were broken beyond repair.
Over the next 7 years, from 2000 to 2007, I watched and waited. I made frequent requests and monetary offers for Brave Miner, and he was actually promised to me on two separate occasions. The first promise was broken when he was sold to yet another racing owner/trainer for a measly $500. By the fall of 2007, the courageous gelding had run an incredible 131 times and had stuffed his connections’ wallets with over $340,000 from 31 wins, 18 seconds, and 19 thirds. But in his last several races, as a 13-year-old with weary, hurting legs, he struggled to come in anything better than last.
In October of 2007, the second promise made to me by his current owner was just one race away. Only one more race and I could take him home! It didn’t matter to me that he no longer possessed the physical beauty as when I first laid eyes on him 8 long years ago …I just wanted to take him from the place where he had been the best, but now had left him stripped of everything he once was.
At Hoosier Park in Indiana, on October 13, Brave Miner ran in his 132nd start. Since I would be picking him up the next day, I had my truck and trailer packed and ready to go. I watched the clock that evening, waiting for when the race replay would be available for viewing. With my heart in my throat, I watched the replay through my fingers with the sound turned down to barely audible. I heard his name called only once and never saw him cross the finish line.
Brave Miner broke bones that night that would never be repaired nor could ever heal. 31 times he had stood in a crowded winner’s circle, but on that night, he laid in the dirt alone…only the track vet kneeled beside him, administering the lethal injection to end his suffering and his life. Human greed had taken from that amazing creature – one with a heart few can comprehend and even fewer appreciate – everything he had willingly given.
My promise to Brave Miner was broken and so was my heart. But the pain I felt was nothing in comparison to the pain and suffering he endured. There were plenty of opportunities to retire the overworked warrior and give him the chance to live. Instead, the people responsible for him dug his grave and ran him into it. Brave Miner’s story doesn’t have a nice, pleasant ending…but then, neither did his life.