The 12-year-old pacer Give Chrome, with 56 harness racing starts in two countries, undoubtedly had tough trips around a racetrack in his life, but none was quite so tough as that taken recently in south central Pennsylvania. What happened there has made him the 23rd horse to benefit from the USTA's SOS (Support Our Standardbreds) program.
The son ofhad raced at venues as diverse as fairs in Michigan, Hoosier Park, The Red Mile, Scioto Downs, Mohawk and Woodbine for nine trainers over four years. Give Chrome could never quite earn his keep, and after making a break in a $4,500 claimer at Flamboro Downs in January of 2003, he dropped off the radar. No record of starts, no transfer of ownership. No nothing.
Give Chrome was largely invisible until the citizens of York County and adjacent Adams County, Pennsylvania, near Hanover Shoe Farms, started picking up the phone early in the week of Nov. 7. Give Chrome was being driven by a man named Wilbur Frost, pulling a small cart and wearing an ill fitting harness that had rubbed large patches of hide off, leaving gaping pink wounds.
"People saw him (Frost), whipping him (Give Chrome), trying to get him to go," said Adams County Humane Officer Abigail Avery, who says officials received, "seven or eight calls," from citizens.
Frost, who later told officers he'd purchased the horse from, "an Amish man in New Holland (PA)," was making a circuitous path through the region, close to the Maryland border. The calls, said Avery, "started in Gettysburg, then Hanover, somehow he got sidetracked and ended up in York County and back in to Adams County."
Avery caught up with Frost and Give Chrome on Nov. 11 and seized the horse in Littlestown, Pa.
Frost, who Avery says has no permanent address, was found to have a conviction for neglecting two draft horses in Kansas earlier this year. Officers also discovered two rifles and a handgun in his cart, for which he did not have a permit. He has been jailed in Littlestown since Nov. 11 with all charges, including those involving the handgun, pending. Frost told officers he intended to drive the horse to Oklahoma.
Avery says that Give Chrome was "dripping blood," underweight by about 150 pounds and slightly dehydrated on the day he was seized. He has 10-15 severe abrasions and a leg laceration, probably inflicted by a motorist.
"Someone had called in from a cell phone," said Avery, "that someone had thrown a glass bottle out the window and hit him in the leg. He did have a gash on his leg from the bottle."
With Frost in jail, Give Chrome is getting close attention at the Adams County SPCA in Gettysburg.
"He is very loving," says Avery. "We let him out into the big pasture here the other week. I was trying to walk him around to show him where the border was. He just wanted to go; it was funny, he just took off running. He was so happy and running around. He's comical. He just wants attention."
The USTA's SOS Fund, which helps horses removed from their owner through legal intervention because of abuse, neglect or abandonment, has sent a donation toward Give Chrome's care. While it is the SPCA's intention to find the horse they've nicknamed "Roger" an adoptive home, those options have been somewhat limited by a veterinarian's finding that the horse has a heart murmur and rhythm abnormality, which will limit his use as a riding horse.
"Even with everything being done to him, his personality is really calm," says Avery. "Everything's healing up good and there are no infections, he's on antibiotics and we wormed him. This has got to hurt and he's never kicked, never bit and I don't see any mean spirit in him at all. We get some horses in here that you can't even go in the stall with. Every now and then, we get a real good one and he's one of them. His attitude is great, he's been very tolerant of getting cream on his wounds. He would flinch, but you can't blame him."
Those who might like to send a donation toward Give Chrome's care can do so to the Adams County SPCA, 11 Goldenville Road, Gettysburg, PA 17352. To inquire about adopting Give Chrome, call Officer Abigail Avery at 717.334.8876, extension 26, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Ellen HARVEY, Harness Racing Communications