Written by A member and volunteer of The Exceller Fund.
Perhaps you know someone like Joe. Joe has worked at the same place for most of his life. He has been a good and loyal worker and always tries to do his best in his job. But Joe is getting older and he is not as strong or as quick as some of the younger workers at his place.
His company got impatient with Joe, and finally, just a few months before he has earned his pension, Joe gets laid off.
However, this particular Joe is not a 62 year old factory worker, and he is not going to stand humiliated in the unemployment line waiting for a welfare check.
No – this particular “Joe” is a 9 year old Thoroughbred racehorse. And he’s standing in a crowded double-deck trailer hurt and confused on his way to the slaughterhouse.
He started out as a fancy 2 year old racing for a wealthy owner, but since he didn’t win enough races, he got sold to other owners who kept racing him year in and year out. Even though he tried his best and won some money here and there, he kept getting sold for a smaller and smaller sale price, and his new owners raced him more and more to earn back their money.
Finally, Joe could no longer keep up with the younger horses in the races, and the trainer was given 48 hours to get him off the track. That’s when the meat buyer came by and loaded Joe onto a trailer and took him to auction where he was sold for about 40 cents per pound. Joe’s ankles hurt after all of the injections given to him to make him feel good enough to run another race.
But he must now endure a 36 hour ride with no rest, food or water before ending up with the final reward for being a loyal worker all of his life. Joe’s reward will be a blow to his head so he can be strung up while his throat is cut. Then his noble and gallant heart will run its last race as it pumps all the blood from Joe’s body in order to make the job easier for the butcher.
Joe will be slaughtered to satisfy the palates of diners in Europe who will pay more than $20 per pound to eat gourmet “cheval” which has been touted as “all natural.” These diners either do not know or do not care that Joe has been given pain medications such as “Bute” which is known to cause cancer in humans as well as powerful steroids to keep him running.
But Joe’s story does not have to have such a sad ending. Many of these horses can still go on to be useful as riding horses, dressage and sport horses. Some of them are even beloved companion horses that delight their owners with their personality and loyalty. But they need time, and time is money, and many of these horses have neither.
The Exceller Fund was started over 10 years ago by a group of racing fans who discovered this dark and grisly fate was happening to horses that they had cheered to victory not long ago.
Exceller was a big and powerful bay ridden to victory by none other than Bill Shoemaker. In his finest moment, he defeated two Triple Crown winners in a single race in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup over Seattle Slew and Affirmed. But this great victory was not enough to save Exceller when he was 23 years old. Considered old and useless, this exquisite champion was sent to a slaughterhouse to satisfy the appetites of European diners.
Ironically, 6 years later, another champion ridden to victory by the legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker met the same fate. Ferdinand’s victory in the 1986 Kentucky Derby was a milestone as Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win the Derby. Sadly, in 2003 none of this could help Ferdinand when his owners felt he had no value and sent him to slaughter.
The current economic set-up and taxation on horse racing works against many of the horses that make the sport possible. While some horses are retired to plush and fancy breeding farms to produce the next generation, there are many hard working horses that are discarded like a used lottery ticket. Breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, racetracks, and our government make money on these horses but make almost no provisions for many of these horses at the end of their careers.
The Exceller Fund has helped many horses transition to new homes and careers after racing, but we are entirely dependent on donations to pay for the vet care, food and transport in order to help these horses transition from the hectic life on the track to a new life where their value does not depend on whether or not they can make money for their owner.
We invite you to take a look at some of the horses that The Exceller Fund has been able help:
Thoroughbreds are wonderful and amazing horses. Bred over the centuries for speed and strength, they are highly intelligent and sensitive horses who bond quickly to humans. It is this intelligence and bonding that makes them great race horses, but that bond is betrayed on the slaughterhouse floor.
The Exceller Fund is bringing together racing fans, people from the racing industry, and people who just love horses in general to find new careers for these magnificent athletes. Thoroughbreds have proven themselves as therapy horses in prison programs, youth programs, and have even helped to heal the mental scars from the battlefield for returning veterans.
With your help, we can help more horses and even help these horses help people. Please consider helping us give these horses a future “Beyond the Finish Line.”