Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Pet Peeve: Retired, not Rescued

His noble self
While chatting with a social acquaintance, I mentioned that Courage came off the track.

"Oh you rescued him," the lady said.

"No. I bought him."

"Yes, but he came off the track. I have another friend and she rescues horses off the track too."

Because I generally aim not to be a jackass (high achiever, what can I say), I didn't light into the lady and force her to see my point of view. If I had it to do over again though, I think I'd be a little more clear with her.

"Rescue" situations involve malnourished or abused animals being seized by the state or surrendered by the owners due to a lack of ability to properly care for the animal, whatever the reason.

Courage was most certainly not a rescue. Cuna wasn't. My OTTB mare in highschool wasn't either. All three of them were really classy horses. All three have excelled in their second careers. All three were clean, in good weight, well cared for and ready for a new career. (We'll talk another day about my thing for war horses. Not even kidding.)

Pre-race shenanigans
Because Courage is the one I was actually involved with, let's look at him. As we all know, he is one really classy looking horse. He has a phenomenal brain. He has a cute face. He had great connections who cared about him. There was no question of my little man ending up in a good place.

I was just lucky enough that I got to be that good place for him.

Just as you'd be personally insulted if someone bought a horse from you and claimed to "rescue" it, race trainers are insulted when people do it to them.

So it kind of annoys me when people automatically assume that all OTTBs were somehow "rescued". Some are, sure. So are quarter horses. Arabs. Warmbloods. You name, people abuse it. That's not a good thing, but it is a thing we have to deal with since we are all Grown Adults.

Let's call it like it is. Courage was in a great program and in possibly the best shape of his life. When it wasn't what he wanted to do anymore, his trainer found him a new life that would suit him better.

EBR Absolute Courage
That's why I was very specific when I ordered Courage's custom leather halter (because of course it is).

It's all the rage in event world to credit the breeders or trainers of some pretty great horses. Courage didn't come through the Fernhill system, but I wanted to memorialize the incredible work that Eugene Burns Racing put into making Absolute Courage the horse he is today.

I didn't rescue him. I also don't see the time he spent on the track as something bad or to be ashamed of. I'm proud of Courage, proud of his heritage, and happy to show it off.

Oh, and I should totally tell you some racetrack stories one of these days. He wasn't all goodness and sweetness...

34 comments:

  1. Good for you for taking that stance! That drives me crazy too, especially as someone who grew up working for Thoroughbred trainers who always retired their horses before they got unsound or sour, and went to such great lengths to place them in good homes that they actually turned down people when they came to pick up the horse if it made their spidey senses tingle. There are a lot of incredible people in the racing world who really have the best interests of the horses at heart, and to say 'rescue' does a disservice to those people.

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  2. I love this post!

    Can the next one be "retired doesnt mean old"? Haha. When I was training Don my parents told everyone I was taking care of an old horse. He was six.
    So when he died at 8 all these non horse people were like "Well he was old, wasn't he? Your mom told us you had a retired horse."

    It might have been funny if I hadn't been so emotionally destroyed already.

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  3. I am always suspicious when people say rescue. Many people use improperly and dramatically.

    Good post!

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  4. YES. Thank you. I got so tired of hearing that about the standardbreds too. 90% of them were not in need of rescuing.

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  5. ok...blogger keeps eating my comments :(

    This is also drives me nuts. I never say rescued, but say they were throw aways because mine truly were. The grooms were the ones who took them home and then tried to find them decent homes. They werent in a good after the track program like some.

    The Fernhill thing kills me. My friend worked there for a while when I was living in Ireland. The horses literally come in for a month if that, have a bit of schooling and are sold on with the "Fernhill" name. The lady who owns it is majorly cray cray...and the Irish just laugh at us...

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  6. Many people believe that there should be no domestic horses anymore, that humans who own them are selfish and awful, and that racing is the worst of the worst. The belief that *all* horse racing is abusive is deeply ingrained in our culture, so sadly this misunderstanding of "rescue" will probably never go away. Thank you for doing your part to challenge this inaccurate mentality. :-)

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  7. I also hate it when people use the term "recycled" TB. Like they are some sort of grocery bag.

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  8. I agree! My OTTB was not a rescue situation. He raced at a mediocre level for 6 years and in two countries and two sides of the US. He has the impeccable manners and experience of a horse trained at an early age by the best of the best (British stakes horse trainers are the bomb. Seriously.). I'd never call him "rescued." If anything, he probably needs rescued from me more often! :)

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  9. Hear hear! People love to be dramatic (like No Hour Wasted said) - "rescue" makes them sound so altruistic and gives them that savior mentality. ugh.

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  10. Love your blog and I think this is a great post! :)

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  11. I think it depends on your definition of rescue. I agree it's not the most fabulous term for these situations, but if we get super technical most off the track geldings are 'throw away' if someone doesn't come around and 'rescue' them. I think rehab is maybe a better term? I don't know. It does give the racing industry a negative connotation to say that we "rescue" OTTBs, that I agree with.

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  12. AGREE!!! When I worked at the track, we found good homes for all our retired horses. Those that didn't get snapped up right away hung out on field board until a good situation come along for them. Definitely not a "rescue" type scenario.

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  13. Entirely agreed. I have a near-starved Hanoverian in my barn right now but all my OTTBs have been fine. Well, let me take that back--my mom rescued two in the 90s, but they were off the track already and sitting in a dry lot down the road with one water bucket to share between them that may or may not have had water in it. Story for another day.

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  14. I have two greyhounds. This. All this. This for days. I just always smile and tell people they're retired and I hope my retirement is a fraction as plush as theirs is. Plus my one hound came with the sweetest Paddington Bear note, all "please look after this hound, thank you" from his trainer, who was crushed when Bandit had a career ending injury.

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    1. Thank you for this, I've always wondered if dog racing gets a bad rap from a few bad trainers like horse racing does. Glad to know there are nice trainers in that world as well.

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    2. Yep, I used to have greyhounds and would go through this all the time. One of my dogs was a rescue, but the other one was super well loved by her connections and it bothered me when people would talk about how horrible greyhounds are treated on the track. I got tired of explaining for both horses and greyhounds - there are good and bad in every bunch

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    3. Oh yes, hound racing definitely gets a BAD rap! Lots of dead greyhounds in garbage bags at the end of their careers. No way around that, just fact. I think all but one of my hound's siblings from her litter mysteriously vanished when they failed to run well. My hound WAS mistreated on the track, but not every hound is. I see some super seedy backwoods track racing out here, and those horses look like hell (and get the crap beat out of them by their trainers, and get pumped full of so many drugs your head spins just thinking about), but not every track is like that. It's kind of a hit or miss thing.

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  15. EXCELLENT rant. The word "rescue" gets tossed around so much it almost doesn't mean anything anymore.

    I have a rant too about how rescue can mean a variety of things, not all of which are the same: neglect, abuse, owner surrender, etc.

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  16. I tried to look more at it like we're the "rescued" ones hahaha. I totally agree with all of this. We look at where LB would've been if I didn't get him and that'd be out in a field eating grass all day being loved by his owners. B on the other hand... Probably would've been sold at auction to a slaughter house. Completely different.

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  17. "Adoption" and "rescue" are also incorrectly used interchangeably by some. I adopted Bohemian, and while he wasn't in great condition (feet way overgrown, underweight, poor coat quality) he certain'y wasn't a "rescue" and I always try to politely point that out to people. As you say, its insulting to the former owners and/or adoption program managers.

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  18. Thank you! It drives me insane when people automatically think I'm some horse abuser because I am involved at the track. Here's what they don't understand. To survive in this industry, you have to win races. To win races the horses have to be as happy, sound, and healthy as possible. So even if a trainer doesn't give a crap about the horses, which isn't as common as most people think, it doesn't do any good to treat them like crap or abuse them. If you take good care of the horses, they'll usually take good care of you. There are a lot of assholes and idiots involved in the racing world, but they're not the majority. I HATE being compared to them. Especially when we give up so many things for the horses. Honestly, our race horses get more attention than any other show horse I've seen. They are always put first, no matter what it costs our quality of life. Sometimes, I feel like we get rescue horses too. However, we're not rescuing from the sport, but from the people that make the entire industry look bad. There's good and bad in every discipline. It really pisses me off when people jump to a conclusion when they don't know anything about what they're judging. Oops, sorry. Didn't mean to go off on such a tangent :) Anyway, great post!

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  19. Maybe repurposed would be a better word . . .

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  20. Good for you! I get really peeved when I peruse facebook and everyone out there is claiming they "rescued" their OTTB (leading to the inference that all OTTBs are abused and need to be rescued). Many times I notice people then bad mouthing the horse's "shoddy farrier job" (not realizing a different style trim is necessary for racing), his thinness (um, anyone seen a star runner in their prime? not an ounce of fat!), or his lack of a fully developed topline (hmmm let's think about that one: running flat out is kind of exactly the opposite conditioning needed to develop that now, isn't it?). Grrrr. Thank you for posting!

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  21. It has happened a few times that my well meaning friends will introduce me to their other horse friends and say "she is a thoroughbred rescuer." I then have to politely say that I "adopt of ex racehorses." Mostly because I don't know what else to say... Truth be told, I have a guy that gives me free thoroughbreds whenever I want them, just sounds kinda weird. It's true... but it's weird sounding.

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  22. THANK YOU! So many people are confused about this, and I'm glad you put it out there correctly. Also, I do want to hear about Courage stories from the track! :)

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  23. While I do have an OTTB, that's not why I wanted to comment. I like how you give credit to his trainers. Most Arabians have names that reflect where they come from. I honor my Arab's breeder by using his registered name for USEF, USDF, CDS, and all schooling shows.

    At home, and on my blog, I refer to him as Speedy G (his barn name), but his registered name is G Ima Starr FA. The FA stands for Feather Arabians, and I want his breeder to be recognized when he is successful. :0)

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  24. It really bugs me how quickly people throw around the "I rescued him/her." Maybe its for the ego trip? There is an auction near me that has some really nice horses go through it. They don't offer a KP, all of the horses are from local sellers and picked up by local buyers. Still, I hear so many people that have bought from there say they rescued the horse. NO! You bought the horse from somebody that used the auction house as a means of selling them. The horse was fat, sound, and ready to do what you wanted. That is not a rescue.

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  25. I want to hear Courage stories from the track too!

    I had never really thought about this topic before. I really only use the term rescue if the horse has comes from an actual rescue organization. The OTTBs like Courage would be considered rehomed I would think, not rescued. He wasn't in a bad situation, but he did find a new home (actually I take that back since you did pay money for him... around here they are all free so I call it rehoming them). Great post!

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  26. So good. I too have a peeve with the term "rescue" in that it really gets tossed around, thereby inherently becoming devalued. If you adopted a pet from the pound, you did not necessarily rescue it. You adopted it. Our current dog was adopted from a shelter. My last dog I took from a friends neighbor because she was starved and getting a good beating every night, now, SHE was a rescue.

    My horse, an OTTB, was technically a rescue. At auction in January, hooves 10 inches long, dramatically underweight with rope scars all over his hind legs and no light in his eyes. The kill buyer didn't even want to haul him. And I don't even say I "rescued him". I say we pulled him from the kill buyer at auction, because that is what happened. I say he was a racehorse that was raced in California 65 times, then made his way along the illegal border races, ending up as a Charros horse in New Mexico and lastly used for rodeo tripping. Then who ever I am chatting with will say, "Oh, you rescued him!!" and I'll we did what needed to be done.

    He was not as lucky as Courage to have owners who cared for him. It is true that a shocking number of racehorses end up at auction, at border races, or on the horrifying journey to Canada to become meat.

    His story is gross enough without me forever branding him "a rescue". His light has come back on and he is ready to move forward, and so am I ;-)

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