The Breakdown

It’s a part of horse ownership – the absolute worst part. It’s the part we don’t like to talk about publicly. Rather, we’d rather mourn in private away from prying eyes.

But those of you here this morning witnessed the very worst. A three-year-old working down the lane took a bad step and fell. The jockey was thrown to the track and the horse lay still under the rail.

Within minutes the track EMT was on site to assist the rider, jockey David Lopez. And Dr. Elliot Simkins was on hand to attend to the fallen horse. Trainers out to watch their own horses quickly jumped in to offer assistance.

In such cases where the horse is still down, we do our best to keep the horse immobile until we could remove him from under the safety rail. Dr. Simkins administered a tranquilizer and then trainers, owners and track men all worked together to drag him away from the rail. From there, Dr. Simkins was able to better to evaluate his injury, diagnosed as a broken shoulder and he was quickly and humanely euthanized.

The track ambulance then carried him away. The horse will be sent to have an autopsy so we can learn all that we can on what may have triggered the injury and how we can improve in the future for the safety of horse and rider.

The horse took a bad step. The complexity of it all boils down to an improper step. It happens. It doesn’t mean that as horsemen and owners that we like it. In fact we hate it. The trainer walked away, shoulders slumped. The loss of a horse means something. It’s not taken lightly and there are tears being cried over that horse right now by the people that cared for him each day, by those that removed the shavings from his tail and worked so diligently to bring his coat to a bright shine.

I cried.

And I wanted to address the emotions that you may have felt watching it. I saw the concern on your faces, the desire to learn more about what happened. And the struggle within of feeling happiness and anticipation of watching Yodeler, while still feeling sadness over another horse you don’t know. And thinking – that could have been my horse.

Horses, people, pets get hurt. We do all we can to prevent it, but accidents happen. It’s how we deal with it moving forward, and how we do all we can to prevent it in the future that’s important to the health and well being of our sport and our personal self.

Then we go to the barn. Give Yodeler a pat and be thankful for the blessings we have and the strong, chestnut horse in front of us that brings us so much joy – just from his love of running.






7 thoughts on “The Breakdown

  1. So, so sad! I know what that feeling is. Whether a track accident, or loosing a horse due to illness. It gets to the core of your sole.

  2. Sophia… Thank you for addressing the accident. It was horrifying to watch & utterly heartbreaking on so many levels.

    I take a share of flack in the rescue community for my connection to racing. I never apologize for it & always maintain that the racing community is a fine group of people as a whole & that I feel strongly that I can be a better advocate for the horses by being supportive of the people who make decisions fir the horses on a daily basis. 

    There is no part of me that believes that Sunday’s accident was in any way a product if neglect on anyone’s part.  It was a horrible & extremely sad accident. It can happen anywhere, any time.

    Just Friday morning my friend (SAFE’s Executive Director,  Bonnie Hammond, who you met) lost her young OTTB, Chance (Six Gun Slew) in a horrible accident overnight.  It appears he may have spooked & ran into a tree in the dark, breaking his neck. While both losses are tragic,  it really hit home for me that it can happen in any setting & that it certainly is not track or racing specific. 

    My heart goes out to everyone connected to the beautiful horse on the track & wish the best for David Lopez.


    Sent from my Galaxy S®III

  3. Such a beautifully written article for us, Sophia. It was absolutely heart wrenching to be there and see this happen. My heart goes out to the owners/trainers/riders.

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