Stolen Horse Raced to Death
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   6th May 2017   •   1,081 views   •   0 comments

For many people all over the world, the Easter weekend is a very happy time – full of love, life and family. However, for a select few South African horses, the Easter weekend has become a fearful time of danger, pain and suffering. This last Easter, OTTBs Maximum Flo and Wavin’ Flag were two of these horses.

The two winning racehorses were retired at the Thoroughbred Horses Rehoming Centre (THRC). Though Flag was still awaiting rehoming, Max had been adopted, and was waiting to go to his forever home off the track with his new owners when disaster struck. Jenny Millington of THRC reported on Facebook on Wednesday 12 April that the property fence was discovered to have been cut, and the two horses were missing.

Over the next two days, the equestrian community banded together on social media, sharing pictures of Max and Flag far and wide. Search parties were sent out, including drones and helicopters, but initially all leads seemed to head to dead ends. Until, that is, word arose from local townships of an annual Easter Weekend ‘bush race’.

Bush races are a South African tragedy – informal races conducted in poor communities, usually involving local gangs, which take place on whatever space of ground is available – be it literal bush, sand dunes, or even tar roads. News24 explains that the races have no control or monitoring, and without regulations, horses can be beaten with whips, raced in makeshift ‘bits’ crafted from wire, and generally made to suffer without any concern for their welfare. Though officials know about these races and have often found abandoned horses after races have been held, no perpetrators have been caught.

Thankfully, after roughly 48 hours of intense searching, Max and Flag were found on Good Friday. Only, it was sadly not as ‘good’ as rescuers may have hoped. Wavin’ Flag, though severely sore and overworked, was returned safely home – but Max tragically succumbed to injuries sustained from the harsh unregulated racing, and had to be put to sleep. Jenny Millington of THRC reported to Sporting Post that though it broke the rescuers’ hearts to have to put Max to sleep after he had finally been returned safely home, they know that it was the right decision, as X-Rays had shown that Max had fractured his sesamoids beyond repair.

Wavin’ Flag is home and recovering well, but the tragedy of the ordeal remains all too real – especially given the risk of a repeat, with horse theft for illegal bush racing being an all-too-common occurrence. Luckily for all involved, the equestrian community is well known for its solidarity in times of crisis, and plans have already been put forward to collect donations in order to fund better fencing and security for THRC. Meanwhile, it is to be hoped that in light of this very sad report of one of many unhappy endings to Easter bush racing, enough attention may have been drawn to this issue to warrant a call to action to end bush racing once and for all.

Though for now, such a happy ending remains, unfortunately, a mere unrealised Easter miracle.

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