2 Results Found For: January 2019

13th January 2019

It only happens to the good ones. So says the old racing cliche which is usually used when a horse gets injured or, almost as commonly, when one gets loose and arrives home unscathed after running through fences and dodging traffic on the main road.

I have always thought that there might be a grain of truth in it as the best horses probably have higher pain thresholds and will maintain their flight path and speed regardless of obstacles or changes in terrain. That’s my theory anyway, but I have never thought there could be any logic to this phrase when applied to horses which have succumbed to disease.  Disease, surely, couldn’t differentiate between horses on the grounds of ability. Of course it couldn’t but Accordance’s death gave me cause for thought on the subject.

Accordance joins Mister Baileys, Branston Abby and Attraction’s winning first foal, Elation, as the only horses which, as far as I am aware, have contracted Grass Sickness after leaving our yard. Mister Baileys and Branton Abby had only recently retired to stud in Newmarket, Elation was having a break at her owner’s Floors Stud in Kelso after winning on her second and last outing as a two-year-old, and Accordance was, similarly, having a short spell on her owner’s farm. They were all well above average in terms of racing ability and very valuable breeding prospects as was the mighty Dubai Millenium who died of Grass Sickness at the beginning of his stud career.

How could it be that such a disease could only affect elite performers. I’m sure that can’t be the case. It is far more likely that there are many more horses which were trained at Kingsley Park and contracted Grass Sickness after retirement but I have never been told. As the name implies, this disease affects grazing horses and it is particularly prevalent in Scotland and the horse centres  of England (e.g. Newmarket). So, perhaps, it is the better horses that are likely to retire to stud in a centre like Newmarket but I still think it is most likely that there are more cases which we haven’t been made aware of.

12th January 2019

We have an owner, Chris Greensit, a farmer from near Thirsk, who has been with us since soon after we moved to Middleham. He, together with his late brother Will, has had at least one horse with us every year since we moved to the Dales and they bred every one of them themselves. Now he is onto his last, Final.

Chris and Will never had any racing channels on their television and preferred not to travel outside Yorkshire to see their horses run. They liked to pop into Thirsk and watch it in the bookies – Chris still does – and I know to allow twenty minutes before phoning with a post-race report. No mobiles for Chris.

Those telephone conversations are always pleasant and, thankfully, I have had the pleasure of reporting on countless places and wins: the Greensits have been remarkably successful breeders considering that they have only, as far as I am aware, had two mares and, like their owners, they preferred not to travel too far from home to visit the stallion. Up the road to Andrew Spalding’s was the most common route.

Visits to the yard are fairly infrequent and most discussions about the horses have been over the telephone – we all know we can catch Chris at lunchtime when he is in from the fields. And, as with the reports from the races, those calls are always a pleasure: short but sweet. Chris takes all news, good and bad, with equanimity and, at the worst of times, he has reassured me with, ‘aye lad, where there’s livestock, there’s dead stock’. And, make no mistake, that was not a callous man talking. That is wisdom from a long lifetime of working with, and caring for, animals.

I was reminded of Chris’s words recently when, on Hogmanay, Kirsten Rausing sent an e mail to say that her very useful filly, Accordance, on a winter break at her owner’s stud in Newmarket, had been found refluxing stomach contents and had been admitted to Newmarket Equine Hospital with suspected Grass Sickness. We all immediately knew what the most likely outcome would be and, despite having been rushed into intensive care at the first signs, Accordance died a few days later. Kirsten was devastated. We all were. It is such a shock when a racehorse, in its prime, having run five times as a 2yo in 2018, winning and placed at Pattern level, dies when it is having a break in the lowest risk conditions of all – grazing in the safest of paddocks. But it happens, it is not unusual, and Chris Greensit would simply accept it, when it came, as the one inevitability that goes with living.

We could, and should, all learn from people like Chris Greensit. We are being bombarded, of late, with discussions in the media, and even in parliament, about racehorse welfare. We are told we must change the way we treat horses because the public don’t like it. Many amongst those that govern our sport openly say that public perception of horse welfare is more important, because it is a bigger threat to our industry, than horse welfare itself. And yet they will be the first to admit that that public is more removed from life with horses, and life with animals in general, than man has ever been. The majority do not want to see horses get injured on the racetrack, and they certainly don’t  want to see them dying, but they haven’t even considered the possibility of them dying as poor Accordance died, at less than three years of age. Their’s is what I like to call ‘the Paul McCartney attitude to animal welfare’ – they sing songs about lambs playing in fields but refuse to consider that, if nobody eats them, they won’t be there at all. I cannot accept racing’s current approach to this issue. These people need a sharp lesson in reality, a lesson on the facts of life and death.