I haven’t posted an update about Chaco for awhile, because I mainly have nothing good to say. I try to keep a positive outlook for everyone, but inside my heart breaks for him every single day. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t shed tears over his right hindleg. I see the pain it causes him each day, and I feel like I’m failing him each day. Why? I can’t make it stop. We have tried and are trying everything we can to keep him as sound as possible. The fact of the matter is that his suspensory will probably give out in his left hindleg one day, and that day will be his last. Feverishly, I’m trying to do everything I can to prevent this. I look at Chaco as the walking wounded after useless band-aids were used to keep him racing.
If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you know that Chaco went down in a race after clipping heels with another horse. Two other horse went over Chaco; you can see two hoof prints in white hairs on his pelvis. It is believed that he fractured a rib and his pelvis. The pelvis fracture is usually an instant death sentence, but somehow he healed thanks to the care that he received. However, three major chips broke off from his stifle in the wreck, and instead of having them removed, I believe he was blistered. His trainer states that he didn’t know that Chaco had them, and maybe he didn’t, but I doubt the vet missed that. The trainer also stated that I should blister Chaco instead of having the chips removed, because that is what he does for all of his horses that have chips.
Blistering is a band-aid. Not one surgeon or vet that I spoke to thought blistering was the answer for chips; they all said arthroscopic surgery was the best and only choice. It doesn’t heal anything, doesn’t ameliorate a thing, and to be honest all it does is create more damage. The longer the chips are in there, the more damage there is to the cartilage. Blistering or pin firing just makes it so the horse can’t feel the damage that the chips are creating.
Why do I bring this up again? Because three more horses died at Santa Anita in three days. They aren’t only dying at Santa Anita, but at other tracks as well and in other sports besides horse racing. Why are they dying is the question often put to me by so many as if I would know. I never know what to say.
Maybe I have known all along as I watch Chaco rest his right hindleg… again….leaning his weight to his left hindleg… again.
My guess is that there isn’t any one reason except for the use of band-aids regarding all of these deaths. There is so much pressure to make money, to pay the bills, to have winners that become sires, and to keep horses running that the use of band-aids for injuries is widespread. Injections, shockwave therapy, overuse of anti-inflammatories, pin firing, blistering and on and on and on are all band aids to cover up pre-existing conditions.
My guess is that every single horse that died at Santa Anita had a pre-existing condition like Mongolian Groom did that required rest to heal. My guess is that there were minor lesions or stress fractures beginning to form, but due to the pressure put upon trainers by people that want to see horses run, instead of sending them to the farm to rest and heal up, band-aids of all sorts are thrown at these horses to make them sound enough to race. Not only does this put a horse’s life at risk but the jockey’s as well. I don’t know how a jockey hasn’t been seriously hurt or worse since all of this began. Whenever a trainer puts a horse out there with a pre-existing condition, not only is that horse in danger, but all the horses in the race are at risk of getting hurt….and all of the jockey’s lives are in jeopardy. But band-aids are cheaper I guess…..
No amount of shockwave therapy or drugs will heal stress fractures. Time and rest is what heals them. We need to change our way of thinking regarding horse racing; look to other countries and adopt what is working such as cross training and more time out of the stalls. Jockeys and trainers have suggested over the years that horse racing shut down for a month or two during the winter months. This would be a perfect for horses to have time off to rest and heal up….to get out of the stall and be a horse and run around in the pasture, which would actually strengthen their bones.
In Australia, they give their horses breaks from the track. Winx got two breaks a year. While racing, she developed a chip, and instead of blistering her, they had it removed and did the proper rehab. She came back to racing after she was cleared, and look at what she accomplished. Winx is a shining example of how right everything was done in my opinion, and this is what we need to bring to horse racing here in the United States.
If you want to be part of the solution, please call your Representatives and Senators asking them to vote “yes” on this bill. It will not solve all of the problems, but it is a great start to creating positive change in the horse racing industry. This will create a centralized agency that will oversee all of horse racing and create unified rules across the country. Right now each state regulates itself, so there are all of these different jurisdictions from track to track. You can read the bill here https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1754/text. Here is a list of the current Senators and Representatives https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/current. This is where change can start, but Congress needs to hear your voices loud and clear.
I would love it if all racehorses diagnosed with chips were banned from racing until they were removed arthroscopically. Also, how did the chips develop? Were they from a trauma like Chaco, or were they from stress to the bone. If it is the latter, those horses should be red flagged and watched closely throughout their career. I feel bad for the vets that examined Mongolian Groom and other horses that have died. If their owners/trainers are using banned methods to mask lameness such as shockwave therapy or osphos, it makes it very hard for them to diagnose problems. All of these masking agents and bute and osphos….they need to go. Everyone complains about lasix, and I don’t like lasix, but the true problem lies in bute and all of the other drugs that mask lameness. Lasix does not do that. These other drugs and methods will destroy American Horse Racing in my opinion.
If we can get this law passed, it’s time to rip away these band-aids that lead to so much tragedy and suffering. Santa Anita has implemented many great changes, but as with the recent deaths and the death of Mongolian Groom, the changes aren’t catching all of the horses at risk. Dr. Bramlage in his report on the death of MG during the Breeder’s Cup Classic stated that the vets on scene needed to get an xray at just the right angle to see the lesions that led to his death. Basically, anyone could have missed it. We need a think tank to come together of people from all parts of the industry, especially the grooms, and people from the outside of the industry to come up with better ideas. The safety of the horse and jockey always need to come first.
If Chaco’s chips had been removed, a $2,500 surgery, he may not have been able to race again, or he may have, but he could have had a second career. He would have been sound. I wouldn’t be crying on his shoulder literally every single day. All I know is I’m so grateful that I got him, that we were able to get the chips out, and how blessed I am to be able to take care of him. He is the most amazing horse. He lets me do whatever needs to be done for him without a complaint ever. He misses going out for rides, I can tell by how he looks at me when I go to catch Dulce or Harley to go work, yet his attitude still remains positive and loving and playful. It’s time for me to go out and give him a shot of Adequan that isn’t working as well as I hoped it would, and he will stand there patiently, calmly, and nuzzle me after I pull the needle out of his neck to let me know it’s okay.