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Cape Town - She was found in a ditch of filthy water in Delft late one stormy August night, with her grey legs splayed while children kicked a soccer ball against her tummy: a thoroughbred racehorse called Coalmine Canary.
She is one of around 2 000 racehorses to come off the track every year, estimates SPCA chief executive Allan Perrins. Some are sold to stud farms and some go to riding schools, but many fall into the wrong hands.
“In the Atlantis area alone, about 572 ex-racehorses are being bush-raced around the block, on tar, by night,” said Perrins. “It’s like fast and furious on horseback.”
Without proper shoes or harnesses, the horses’ feet are seriously damaged and their bodies are wounded by home-made tackle cutting into their skin and mouths.
Coalmine Canary’s mouth was torn when she was found, and there were lacerations on her rump and shoulder.
Her hooves had been so badly damaged that they were splitting and full of abcesses, and she had only soft red flesh left to stand on.
Back at the SPCA’s horse care unit, the vet discovered a piece of wire had pierced her foot and bored a hole right up to the top of her hoof.
They renamed her Fantasia, poulticed her hooves and have been caring for her ever since.
“The prognosis for a full recovery is uncertain,” said Perrins. “We are doubtful she can ever be ridden again.”
Coalmine Canary may have been bred by one of the most reputable stables in Cape Town, and conditioned by a well-respected trainer. But when she failed to earn big on the racetrack, she was sold on to a dealer, who sold her to someone else, and she landed up as a working horse, far from the luxury she was raised in.
Steve Naude, investigating officer for the National Horseracing Authority, has tracked down the first owner of Coalmine Canary after she came off the racetrack. He said he had passed the horse on to one of his grooms.
“There’s nothing more that we as the horse racing authority can do,” Naude said.
Perrins and the SPCA inspectorate had tracked down Fantasia’s last known owners. The charge sheet has been finalised and all the necessary affidavits and evidence have been secured. All that remains is to formally lay charges with the police.
“We will be laying charges of animal cruelty,” Perrins said.
Cadet News Agency