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We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704

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Stop Horse Racing

Equestrians embrace rescued ex-racehorses
From http://lohud.com/article/20130817/SPORTS/308170063/Equestrians-embrace-rescued-ex-racehorses?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFrontpage%7Cp
17 August 2013

[*Note: ADOW does not support 'riding competitions' or riding horses in any way; this article contains some facts about what happens to racehorses on the track and at auction, which is why we are publishing it.]

MILLBROOK — The scar runs from his forehead down into his lip. Eighteen, maybe 20 inches.

Mikki Kuchta figures it was a track spill. It’s too long and jagged for any kind of abuse.

And then there’s that permanently swollen knee, possibly from the same incident.

When Kuchta, who owns Aiken Bach Farm in Patterson, was considering buying Oz, a rescued Thoroughbred, a veterinarian who looked at him warned, “Run — don’t walk — away from this horse.”

That was eight years of love and excitement ago.

Earlier this month, Kuchta was aboard her battle-scarred 17-year-old, who hurdled fences at the Millbrook Horse Trials with ease. If not for his terrible dressage, Oz, who raced five times on Canadian tracks, would have placed much higher than 20th of 33 in Millbrook’s Open Intermediate class.

Oz and Kuchta competed in 2008 in the stratosphere — the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. That year, legendary rider and coach Jimmy Wofford was quoted as saying, “When you watch Ozzie go cross-country, you will see why I love Thoroughbreds.”

Oz, all 16 hands of him, is a genuine race-track-rescue, feel-good story.

There are plenty of feel-sad, feel-outraged stories, countless Thoroughbreds — those who never made it to the track and those once cheered — slaughtered for food.

At Millbrook, which featured more than 400 horses with riders ranging from novices to decorated Olympians, North Port resident Marion Quigley watched daughter Ryann compete on a Thoroughbred. Quigley volunteers with Long Island-based Project Sage Horse Rescue. Sage attends auctions at which horses, ponies and donkeys — many sound — leave with “kill-buyers,” who, depending on an animal’s size, can get hundreds of dollars back for much smaller outlays.

“They’re just about profit. They couldn’t care less about the animals,” she said.

Sage has saved about 200 animals, roughly 50-60 Thoroughbreds, Quigley said.

“(Thoroughbreds) have the reputation of being hot, difficult, scary to work with. I find it just the opposite. They bond to the rider. They will do anything for you,” Quigley said.

Kuchta, who owns five horses, three full Thoroughbreds, noted that a horse-show steward bought Oz sight unseen. If not, she said, Oz might have been killed.

“You hear, ‘They’re not making money. Let’s get rid of them,’ ” she said.

It was unclear how many horses at Millbrook were once in jeopardy. But eventing — with three components, dressage, cross-country and show jumping — serves as a safety net for track washouts.

Healthy rescues are typically not expensive. Last year, Olympian Boyd Martin rode an $850 Thoroughbred at Millbrook.

Since 2000, about 15,000 Thoroughbreds have been registered with the United States Eventing Association. Louise Meryman, Millbrook Horse Trials’ president, links their appeal to their “speed, endurance and quickness of mind.”

This year’s top Millbrook finisher in Advanced was ex-track horse Anthony Patch, an Olympic hopeful.

“I don’t know of a top horse that doesn’t have a lot of Thoroughbred blood in it. A lot are pure Thoroughbred,” Meryman said, adding that track castoffs also make nice pony-club and trail horses.

The Career2 incentive program she co-directed last year provided $30,000 in eventing prize money for New York Jockey Club-registered Thoroughbreds. Currently suspended for financial reasons, it may return next year.

Kuchta student Nancy Marks, of Chappaqua, owns three Thoroughbreds and competed at Millbrook aboard Taz (the nickname for Carakat). She said Thoroughbred slaughter remains a “huge, huge issue,” but incentive programs and the fact Thoroughbreds are regaining favor in other horse disciplines are partly why, “It’s better than it was two years ago. It’s starting to come back from the abyss.”

Marks, the U.S. Eventing Association’s Area 1 (Northeast) young-riders coordinator, has done eventing for eight years and calls Taz “incredibly versatile, very cool.” The little ex-track horse is 20, slightly on the old side even in late-blooming eventing, where horses traditionally excel in their teens.

Taz, who did two-star Advanced at 10, now competes at multiple lower levels. At Millbrook, where Marks, who has owned her for four years, rode in Novice Rider, the three-months-pregnant Taz had a rough dressage (15th of 18). But, excelling at her forte — running and jumping — she finished eighth in her division.

“I’m a big believer in Thoroughbreds,” Marks said. “ ... They’re inherent athletes. They just love the game.”

That’s clear with Oz.

Maybe because they seem like jockey silks, but Kuchta’s husband, Dan, can’t wear brightly colored cycling attire near Oz. “He goes crazy. He’ll cower in the corner of the stall. He’s terrified,” he said.

But in eventing, Oz is “powerful and brave,” Kuchta said.

“He has no desire to slow down. I have to be the voice of reason,” she said. “He’s like Rambo. He’ll run into the fire. He’s smart, but he’s so into it.”

“Big ego, big personality” Oz soaked in the four-star Rolex, where he finished in the middle of the pack. “There were 250,000 spectators. He believes that’s where he always belongs,” Kuchta said.

After a bad dressage at Rolex, Oz totally handled the “really difficult, horrendous” cross-country course.

At Millbrook, Kuchta, a 30-year eventer who rode five horses and watched seven of her students compete, finished second out of 21 with ABF Special Agent (Salsa) in Open Novice.

The 4-year-old Thoroughbred, owned by Kuchta since October and competing since April, was rescued from a bank-seized barn — the vanished owner leaving animals locked in with no food or water.

Still, Salsa’s sweet and docile, unlike Oz, whom Kuchta explained she could afford because, banged up and with a “difficult personality,” he drew no other interest. But Kuchta likes the fact he’s “expressive.”

“He makes me laugh every day,” she said.

Like most equestrian sports, eventing involves much buying and selling of horses. But beloved Oz is going nowhere.

“He’ll be my horse for life,” Kuchta said.


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