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Book Review: Saving Baby by Jo Anne Normile and Lawrence Linder

About racehorses…

  • An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Thoroughbred racehorses are sent to slaughter annually, then sold as meat in France, Belgium, Canada, Japan, and other countries where horsemeat is considered food for people.

  • Horses are often slaughtered when they are too injured or simply too slow to compete successfully. Even a number of horses seen on televised high-stakes races like the Kentucky Derby drop down in the ranks until they meet an untimely end in a slaughterhouse.

  • Racehorses are routinely sold straight from the track to kill buyers who get them transported to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico for a few hundred dollars – the price of a custom-made hat that some women wear just once to a fancy race. There’s a saying in the racing industry: “Stable to table in 7 days.”

  • Dozens of horses die each week while racing or during training. Sometimes it’s injuries; sometimes it’s the heat or a heart attack; sometimes their legs literally snap off at the knees while they’re running up to 35 miles an hour.

  • Racehorses are usually forced to stand alone in their stalls for up to 23 hours a day as part of a strict training regimen; on their own, they are social, herd-bound animals who spend up to 18 hours daily grazing and keeping each other company.

  • Mares who give birth to expensive Thoroughbreds are generally forced to become pregnant again within 7 to 10 days, and their prized newborn foals are fed by wet-nurse horses, whose own newborn foals are sometimes killed, or simply left to die on the floor of a stable, so that the future racehorse can receive enough food while its mother is shipped off to a stud farm.

  • Thoroughbreds are routinely injected with all manner of steroids and other drugs to mask pain and enhance performance, but they’re often forced to run in agony despite the medication administered. Imagine a quarterback having to throw despite a severely disabled shoulder or a tennis player having to run back and forth across the court with a torn meniscus.

  • Because racehorses are shot up with drugs, we are selling tainted horsemeat to other countries. Some of the drugs found in horsemeat have been identified as potential human carcinogens.

  • Jockeys whip horses (legally) and some shock them with hidden buzzers (illegally) to make them run faster.

  • Thoroughbreds are bred to be fast without regard for their physical soundness. Their hulking bodies are being bred ever more muscled to be carried on spindly legs whose ankles and feet are becoming ever weaker.

  • Horses are generally forced to start racing before they are 2 years old – still young “children.” A horse does not reach adulthood until age 5 – the point by which most Thoroughbreds are dead from racing or slaughtered even though a horse’s natural lifespan is 20 to 30 years.

  • Racing is not a sport. It’s a $40 billion gambling industry. True sports sustain themselves with spectators willing to pay to see the event. Racing would not exist without the gambling component.

  • There is no national racing commissioner, as there is for football and other sports to make sure players adhere to the rules. Rules in racing amount to suggestions that differ from track to track around the country. Enforcement is lax, and that’s legal. Imagine a casino where the house could get away with using marked cards or loaded dice.

  • Racing is the only unregulated gambling industry. If, say, a trainer gets caught having given a winning horse a performance-enhancing drug that is “not allowed,” the horse is disqualified, but those who bet on the horse that came in second do not now receive their rightful share of the winnings. The incident “goes away.”

Q&A with Jo Anne Normile, author of Saving Baby

How would you characterize this book?

I consider it a love story. It is my homage to Baby, who came into my life unexpectedly but turned out to be the horse of my dreams, the horse who changed my life.

Is that why you wrote it, to express your love for him?

Anything I said about Baby would show my love for him. But actually, I wrote it out of frustration.

What do you mean?

I was trying to change horseracing, to change the way people think of it. There’s much wrong in the industry with drugging horses and putting them through other abuses, which I learned when I had Baby at the track, and I kept trying to change the system through traditional channels. I would write letters and then e-mails to those in the top echelons of racing, I met with government officials, submitted materials to a watershed Congressional hearing in Washington. I even took a track to court for how it treated my horse and came away with a sum I found meaningful. But the status quo in racing has remained the same, with horses’ well-being too often sacrificed for the bottom line. I couldn’t deal with the frustration anymore, so I decided to take the truth directly to the public – to change the industry from without because I wasn’t able to effect change from within.

How do you want to change people’s perception of racing?

Racing is seen as a rich man’s pastime, as a combination of beauty and brawn. The well-heeled owner holds the shiny trophy while the Thoroughbred, gleaming and sinewy, is covered with a blanket of red roses. I know the allure all too well. When I used to stand at the rail while the horses trained, the ground literally shook as they ran by, a breeze stirring up and hooves sounding like strengthening thunder as they came closer. It mesmerized me. It’s hard not to be moved when the earth literally trembles.

But the reality is that the racing industry treats horses like dice or decks of cards. When they are used up, they are discarded, treated as harshly as you can imagine. Even during their racing careers they are generally thought of as investments rather than sentient beings.

Many people have dogs or cats, and it’s easy for them to understand that each one has his or her own personality, his own likes and dislikes, his own quirks. They have no trouble getting the concept of falling in love with a particular house pet. But what many don’t realize is that it’s the exact same thing with horses. Each one is unique. Each one knows what it’s like to love and feel loved, to bond. Horses are extremely intelligent, too. They have extraordinary memories and an extraordinary capacity for learning. So for them to be treated like investments – inanimate objects to be bet on rather than the thinking, feeling creatures they are – makes their plight unimaginably difficult. They are fully aware of what they are being put through.

But isn’t racing a sport? Don’t the horses like to run? You keep calling horseracing an industry.

Horseracing is no more a sport than greyhound dog racing, or cock fighting. It is a $40 billion gambling industry. And money and animals never mix. People may sometimes win, but the animal always loses. Furthermore, horses like to run only the way dogs do. If you see a horse out in a pasture, he might run if he was just let out or something startled him, graze a bit, stand still for a while, then maybe scratch the back of a fellow horse with his teeth. He would never choose to run around as fast as he could in a circle. He has no concept of a finish line, or of competing to reach it.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

Well, first, I want people to fall in love with Baby the way I did, to inform them about the kind of animal a horse really is so they can understand at a gut level why it is wrong to mistreat horses at the track. This is a true story. It happened, and it is still happening to many, many other horses, and I am so frustrated that people aren’t aware. They tune in to watch a race like the Kentucky Derby, and they have Derby parties to celebrate the horses. And the animals are gleaming; they are magnificently beautiful.

But people need to see the other side, the hidden side of the backstretch that racing keeps from them – not just from the public in general but also from the bettors. Would you walk into a casino if you knew the cards were marked and the dice were loaded? No, you would not. The casino would get a reputation and lose all its business. Well, along with horses being abused, people are betting on what amount to fixed races. No one in the grandstand knows which horse has a nerve to his foot severed so he won’t feel an injury and will be able to run faster. No one knows which horses have been given illegal performance enhancers or even legal drugs – except people on the backstretch who ordered those drugs, and who are also allowed to bet. The bettor in the stands has to be told whether the horse is wearing blinkers, but if he has received 17 injections within a week of a race, that’s not disclosed. It’s hard to know that racing operates like this and not feel angry. These abuses are not allowed anywhere in the UK or other European countries, South Africa, Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai and many other places where horses race. And every time I hear about them and know that the industry has gotten away with it, I feel they’re abusing Baby all over again.

But can reading a book help to change an industry?

Absolutely. I don’t think people in the main mean harm. I think they simply don’t know. But if even a few people read it, and they can change a few more people’s minds, and save a few more horses…well, that builds to a groundswell. We have a compassionate society, and we’re on the threshold of a decision. Do we continue to exploit horses or any animal for financial gain? Or are we going to make a change, view things in a new light? Once people are aware, it will be easy for them to go where their conscience leads them, like mine did. Together we can make it happen.


"Saving Baby" is a definite eye opener for many people. Jo Anne recalls her experience with her horse Baby. I think their are many charming details in this book about horses and their lives that most people would not even think about. The world of horseracing is huge and unless you are a part of it, it is not something that you can completely understand.

"Saving Baby" really shows the thrilling experiences you can have when you raise your foal to be a race horse and he crosses the finish line to the winner's cirle. This book also shows the tragedies that can fall upon the majestic animals from having the hard life of racing. I feel as if this story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming tale. Parts of the story were hard to read because it made me so sad but otheres where amazing to read to see how Jo Anne bonded with her horse.

Jo Anne had a dream of owning a horse that had Secretariat's blood, since Secretariat was her all time favorite race horse. Jo Anne made a deal with a Mr. Shouse in order to have this foal. After many events, Jo Anne ended up with Baby (Reel Surprise), Scarlett  (Scarlett Secretary), and Sissy. Jo Anne had many problems with trainers and then she also started to notice the problems at the track.

Because of the disaster that happened to baby, is why Jo Anne has become an advocate for Thoroughbreds. She now has a charity called Cantor to help save the horses that don't survive on the track. I really enjoyed Jo Anne's story. I thought it was very sweet and heartwarming. I was sad when she had to go throguh pain with her horses. I definitely think this story is worth reading.

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