Charlie portrait 8 Aug 2020

Today I celebrate the 4th anniversary of adopting Charlie, the rescued former racehorse Charlie’s Quest. I also celebrate victories for all U.S. racehorses that have been won this year, and the role Charlie’s story has played in those victories.

Photo by Sarah Welty.

These days, Charlie runs when he wants to run — usually leading the way with fellow rescued racehorse Henry close behind, and Caroline (of unknown origin) bringing up the rear.

Charlie also naps when he wants to nap, his only interruption an occasional nudge from Caroline.

It wasn’t always this way. From January 12, 2012 to July 10, 2016, Charlie’s Quest was a racehorse, running 45 races with total $206,944 earnings.

He started his “career” at tier 1 tracks, finishing first in early races like this one on March 10, 2012 at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.

But by early 2015, Charlie was racing at tier 3 and 4 tracks, and typically finishing as an also-ran. Like many racehorses, Charlie had been drugged so he’d run despite painful injuries — causing his physical condition and his racing performance to spiral downward.

Photo by PETA.

After PETA stepped in to take Charlie off the track in summer 2016, an examining vet found that he had “quadrilateral lameness, some of which is very severe, progressive, degenerative and likely painful. While he does appear to be a very stoic and strong patient,” the vet wrote, “it still seems unreasonable that a horse mainly unfit for even moderate riding sport was recently subjected to high speed racing competition.”  

Photo by PETA.

Charlie’s injuries will never completely heal — but after four years as a pasture companion, he is far sounder than he was.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s story has been out in the world, slowly but steadily making a difference for all racehorses — with particularly dramatic progress this year.

One of Charlie’s fellow racehorses. Photo by PETA.

After Charlie was among racehorses whose treatment PETA covered in a summer 2013 undercover investigation, the New York State Gaming Commission and Kentucky Horse Racing Commission opened their own official investigations.

On March 13, 2020, that same PETA investigation was cited in the Washington Post editorial board opinion piece “Horse racing has outlived its time.” On August 31, that opinion piece, in turn, was cited in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 he officially introduced on September 9.

The Post opinion piece also discussed the March 9 federal indictments of 27 racehorse trainers, veterinarians and drug distributors for an international scheme to drug horses to make them run faster and to cheat the betting public — indictments which brought the first two guilty pleas on September 16.

Conversations caught on federal wiretaps were “eerily similar” to the callous way horses were discussed in PETA’s undercover video, the Post wrote, and “what happened to the horses amounted to nothing less than abuse. They experienced cardiac issues, overexertion leading to leg fractures, increased risk of injury and, in some cases, death.”

The Post opinion piece concluded: “Activities involving animals that used to be tolerated — even revered — like circus elephants or killer whale shows ended as people learned of their terrible toll. Horse racing awaits a similar reckoning.”

Leave a Comment