Last week Illinois-bred warhorse Bigtime Mac was found in a kill pen just nine months after his last start.
Through Kristen Miller’s hard work coordinating his release from the feedlot, and through the generosity of everyone who contributed toward his release and his care, Bigtime Mac made it back to the Chicago area. He vanned back to the Chicago area, to a quarantine facility.
There, he got carrots, and he was loved.
Unfortunately, he was also very sick. Kristen wrote in detail about his condition, and about how it worsened in the days since his rescue.
He didn’t make it. Bigtime Mac was humanely euthanized this morning.
One one hand, I’m glad that happened where it did. He wasn’t hauled off to slaughter. People cared enough to band together, get him out of the kill pen, and give him a second chance at life. His last few days were with people who loved him, who gave him food and veterinary care. Bigtime Mac ended up in the hands of people who respected him for being a horse, and respected him for all of his years that he spent racing at our tracks around Chicago.
On the other hand, I’m livid that he ended up in such desperate condition at all. I have no idea who cared so little for him that he ended up on the way to slaughter, who neglected him to the point that he was so starved and sick by the time he made it out. Someone failed Bigtime Mac during the last nine months, and he didn’t deserve that. No racehorse deserves that.
This has to stop, and I don’t have the answer.
So many owners, trainers, and breeders do right by their horses.
But, what about connections who do not know where to turn? Increased awareness and accessibility for the range of thoroughbred aftercare organisations seems part of it.
What about horses who have been given to people off the track, or passed through several sets of hands, and those new owners do not know how to get in touch with thoroughbred aftercare organisations, or do not know that such organisations exist? Maybe this suggests more need for promoting thoroughbred aftercare in places that are not strictly racing-related. Of course, that also opens up the challenges of how best to target those efforts, since the time and effort for aftercare groups (which are so often volunteer-staffed) has its limits.
None of this is easy, but it is worth thinking about, and worth making an effort. Especially if you are involved in racing at all — even as a fan, a bettor, a writer — consider what you can do. You could contribute your time, your money, your ideas for how to make thoroughbred aftercare more visible and accessible. They have been bred and conditioned to do so much for us, and the least they deserve is safety once those days are done.
Bigtime Mac raced over sixty times in Chicago, with his last race back in January. He went through far too much in the ensuing nine months, and he deserved better. He is out of his pain now, but it would be a far better world if he never had to feel that pain in the first place.
Rest in peace, Bigtime Mac.