New Mexico horses and horsemen left without a home

Sunland Park Horsemen's Committee
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Gabriel Calderon returns Beautiful Ballad to her stable at Sunland Park Racetrack Wednesday. El Paso Trainer Justin Evans is traveling to Nebraska to race due to the closure of area racetracks dues to coronavirus.

Dear New Mexico Racing Commission, New Mexico Gaming Control Board and Sunland Park Racetrack: We have an emergency and life‐threatening situation that requires immediate action. There are 1,000 horses and 634 people under direct threat. The horses may lose their lives. Their people will lose their livelihoods, and many will lose their homes. In addition, there are at least 50 times that many people in this state who depend directly and indirectly on New Mexico’s billion‐dollar equine industry.

Sunland Park’s race meet was postponed from end‐December to Jan. 26, 2021 by the New Mexico Racing Commission. Sunland Park racetrack management has left these horses in limbo, declining to provide a date for horses to enter the barns and resume training. New Mexico racehorses are currently finishing the Zia Park race meet. All training at Zia Park will cease on Dec. 31 and horses will not have a place to live and train if Sunland Park is not open for training. Owners of these horses cannot survive another shutdown. People are literally sacrificing care for themselves so that they can feed their horses.

Training is essential for the safety and welfare of racehorses. It is inhumane to deny racehorses the ability to train and to train properly. Life threatening injuries may result when racehorses cannot leave their stall or train in a safe manner. Stall injuries and episodes of spontaneous colic as well as self‐inflicted fractures and lacerations occur when horses are not properly conditioned and exercised.  

In addition to the stress and panic induced by not training, racehorses must maintain a constant level of fitness for their safety and wellbeing.

The New Mexico Racing Commission has blatantly failed to protect the welfare of the horse. They have disregarded their own mission statement which includes “to provide regulation in an equitable manner … which promotes a climate of economic prosperity for horsemen, horse owners and racetrack management.” They have routinely discriminated against horsemen, horse owners, and by attrition they have discriminated against the racehorses. They have not involved horsemen in the discussion or considered their input regarding the health and welfare of the horse. They have also shown no concern for the people who live with the horses and are responsible for their daily feed and care.

New Mexico racetracks have a financial agreement and legislated responsibility with New Mexico horsemen and by extension with New Mexico racehorses to provide a safe racing environment. New Mexico racetracks benefit greatly from the multimillion‐dollar financial arrangement and yet the majority of these racetracks have taken every opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize their contribution to or to completely deny a safe training and racing platform for these horses. They have done this in some instances with help from the racing commission and in some instances on their own interpretation of or taking advantage of ambiguous COVID-19 announcement opportunities. On the other hand, racehorse handlers and personnel have shown that horses can be trained and can race safely and successfully applying due caution and adherence to stringent biosafety protocols for social distancing and COVID-19 prevention.

In closing, Sunland Park Racetrack management has refused to provide even a target date for horses to move into the barns and stalls. This will be the first time in 61 years that the horses do not have a place to train and the horsemen and horses will be literally displaced like refugees with no place to care for their horses. The entire New Mexico racing industry is requesting that Sunland Park allow horses and horsemen on the grounds no later than Dec. 23, 2020.  

Sunland Park Horsemen’s Committee members Paul Jenson DVM, MS, DACVS; Dick Cappellucci; Jarett Rogers; Bart Hone; Wes Giles; Gerald Marr; Maurcenia Cross.