The post from Friday drew a response from D Masters, who mentioned Ferdinand as one more stallion exported to Japan but noted that
I’m thrilled that international markets are interested in our bloodstock. But if they can’t do better than eating them in the end or the powers selling can’t insure some dignity in their demise, then I am not thrilled.
The concern of Masters is shared by thousands, including those many fans and observers of the sport who were moved greatly by the death of the Horse of the Year, Kentucky Derby winner, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and fairish American sire in a slaughterhouse in Japan.
The response identifies the sense of remorse that some breeders feel at selling a horse because they cannot control what happens to the animal with any reliability thereafter. I know one prominent Kentucky breeder who has told me on several occasions that she is always upset when a yearling goes through the ring, especially if it doesn’t bring much money. The reasoning is that the more it brings, the better care it is sensibly expected to receive.
That line of thinking also goes for stallions sold, either overseas or domestically, and yet even then, there are unforeseen twists to the situation like we found out with Ferdinand. Exported in an expensive deal to stand at stud in Japan, Ferdinand found little success in his new home, was sold to a riding school after several years, presumably a safe place, and then was resold for slaughter.
The problem for breeders and horse owners is two-fold. First, they cannot keep them all. Even for someone like Allen Paulson or WT Young, whose massive wealth enabled them to be more collectors of horses than most of us, there were limits. Some horses had to be dropped into claiming races, and there is no control from there on. Others, especially stallion prospects, have to find a home because most cannot stand in Kentucky and be more than glorified teasers.
The second problem is finding appropriate outlets for the surplus stock that cannot or should not be used to race or to breed. The equine retirement homes have provided some excellent care and quality of life for some horses coming off the track or out of the breeding business. But there is never enough room.
The ultimate responsibility lies with all of us: fans, breeders, sport administrators, tracks, and owners. We have the capacity to find homes, and to vet those homes to a reasonable degree, for our racing and breeding stock. Some of them will make lovely animals in a second career. Others are just hay-eating pets.
Carefully and very consciously, consider your own situation and how you might be able to help. If we don’t do it, who will?