Of Horse

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Please, No Horses For Courses
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Please, No Horses For Courses

I have written a blog about this before for this website, but I am now moved to write another one on the same theme, as I am very upset to hear of the recent deaths in one day of several racehorses here in the UK. On 26 February, four horses were killed on the same day, three of them at Catterick Racecourse in North Yorkshire. At this course two of the horses died almost at the same time.

The first victim was a 3-year-old bay filly called Crystal Peaks, who suffered a serious injury in the 14.10 all-weather race at Lingfield course, and was later put down. Then, two horses died within minutes of each other at the 16.20 race at Catterick; one was 10-year-old Soft Spoken Guy who collapsed and died, after racing on terrible ground which was cutting up under the horses' hooves. An 8-year-old gelding called Stop On suffered an appalling front leg break in the same race, at the end during the run to the finishing line. The third casualty at Catterick happened within about 30 minutes, as 7-year-old No Way Hozay broke a hind leg while jumping the final fence in the 2-mile Handicap Chase. His broken leg was clearly visible swinging around moments before he fell to the ground, and he was destroyed by vets on the course. I am just wondering what sort of a job it must be to work as a vet on the average racecourse: harrowing, to say the least! Certainly no shortage of work for them (usually euthanasia!)

These deaths are reported by the UK-based charity Animal Aid, which campaigns to abolish horse-racing, amongst many other animal rights causes. Dee Stansall, the charity's racing consultant said this:

“These disturbing deaths should not be seen as accidents or unforeseeable events; they are predictable, given the physical and mental demands made upon race horses up and down the country. Many of their win-at-all-costs handlers push them to their limits, asking these horses to run beyond their abilities, when difficult racecourse conditions present additional hazards.’

In fact so far, just in this month of February this year, fifteen horses, including the ones I have just mentioned, have been killed on British racecourses. To say nothing of the racing deaths and injuries in other countries of the world! You can view the list of casualties in Britain at this link here, a list which goes back to 2007. Animal Aid estimates from this list that around 420 horses are raced to death every year (just in this country). All so cruel, tragic and unnecessary. Why do these lovely animals have to die like this, so that humans can make money on them?

I hope I have managed to persuade anyone who cares about horses not to support racing in any way and that this blog gave you some food for thought. Your votes and comments are much appreciated.


Picture courtesy of www.animalaid.org.uk

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  1. autumnap
    Interesting and indeed thought provoking. Voted.
  2. naturegirl
    I didn't want to know the stats. Ugh. When will this greed ever end? Vote number four.
  3. PonyGirl
    Hi, Chestnut Mare. Are your statistics completely from jump races or jump and flat races combined?
    1. jst4horses
      I do not know where her statistics are, but my friend was once a steeplechase trainer. She quit. The courses have grown and instead of better riders, and good athletics, have become unsafe for animal and human. A young girl was killed here in America this past season in an endurance race. When stupid for a trophy becomes the norm, it is time to re-evaluate. Old farts, drunk and out killing horses, dogs, and selves for the sport of tearing a fox to pieces? What are we thinking? Have we not moved forward at all as humans?
      1. Chestnut Mare
        Chestnut Mare
        Agreed 100% jst4horses! The stats are for both flat racing and steeplechasing, sadly. Maybe, as you say, horse-racing has become much more unsafe than it used to be, for riders and horses. The difference, of course, is that the jockeys do it through choice! They get paid to take these risks, the horses don't. I used to think racing was perfectly OK up till a couple of years ago, when I began to find out about it. It's impossible to ignore the evidence, so I can never support it now.
  4. jst4horses
    The whole worldwide racing industry needs to take a close and horrified look at itself. Even the great Secretariat was put in a breeding zoo and not treated as well as he has been shown in the movie version of his life after making all those people all that money. Was it a Japanese Kentucky Derby winner who ended up suishi? I think so. That ended the slaughter trade for top race horses, so they said, but it does go on today. The horses just are sold down and down, and then to the slaughter. ALL horses need to have a breeding fee that gives them a retirement fund if they are sold for entertainment. Thank you to the producers, stars and crew of the television series made at the track that just stopped the series due to the deaths of the horses causing them to be too upset to cause any more horses death.
  5. PonyGirl
    After rereading Chestnut Mare's post, I believe all (with the possible exception of the 3 yr. old filly) are jump racing statistics. I really don't know much about jump racing, except that in the Grand National which is usually televised here in the states, there seem to always be spills, and Dick Francis, in his autobiography, said a jump jockey EXPECTS to fall one out of seven times. So it does seem like there is a very high percentage of spills and I'm sure an equally high number of injuries. And I don't know how things are for flat racing in England, but in the United States, there are many measures in place to try and make sure that each horse is fit and sound enough to run. And although there are some changes the industry needs to address, it is not at all like some people like to paint it. There are some greedy people in the business, just as there are greedy people in any business you can name. The vast majority of people on the track love horses, and they try to do their very best for their charges, just as any other type of horseman does. It isn't all about the money, as some people would have you believe. Very few people on the track make a lot of money. And yes, jst4horses, Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner and Eclipse Horse of the Year of that year was sold to a Japanese stud farm in 1994 and was sent to slaughter in 2002, causing outrage throughout the racing world. This was a huge news story because it is NOT a normal occurrence. Most people (at least in my part of the US) will try to GIVE away a horse that can't make it as a racehorse or who is retiring. Some of the horses become pony horses, and many of them make good hunter-jumpers. There are also several organizations that will try to place these horses, and many owners use them in an attempt to find good homes for their horses. Most of the really good horses are retired to pasture by their owners. I am going to visit one such old horse in a couple of weeks. Dixie Poker Ace is a gelding, who at one time was the leading Louisiana money-earner. He is 26 now. He was retired due to an injury, not on the track, but in a horse trailer accident. His owners have kept him and taken care of him for over 20 years. I haven't seen Dixie in 20 years, since I ponied him in all his races, and neither has Green, the man who galloped him, but now, since we're close to where Dixie is kept, we're both going to see him, just like we'd go visit any old friend. And I can assure you, we are not the exception to the rule. Yes, there are injuries on the track, some of them life ending. Unfortunately, there are also injuries, some of them life ending, in all venues of horse activities. I worked for a horse vet for a couple of years, and I saw many, many injuries and illnesses that were due to owner ignorance and owner neglect. But these incidents are not publicized. If you truly want to help horses, then condemning a whole industry is not the way to go about it. Volunteer at a placement agency, help spread knowledge (like this site is trying to do). I don't really know enough about the racing in England to say for sure, but from your post, Chestnut Mare, it sounds like lobbying for better track conditions is something that might actually create change and would help many of the horses. Most (not all, but most) horse people will embrace a better, safer way for their horses, if one is provided. And jst4horses characterizing all people who ride in "fox hunts" as "old farts, drunks, and dog, horse and fox killers" seems way over the top to me. When I was in riding school in Tennessee years ago, there were several hunt clubs in the region, one of them next door to the school. The clubs did not actually hunt a fox. A trail was laid before the hunt, using a cow hide. The hounds and horses were very well treated. Most of the people I met from the club were fairly young and were certainly not drinking during the ride. Not one horse, hound, or fox was injured the whole 6 months I was at school, nor did I ever hear of any injuries before or after my stay and I kept in contact with the school for many years after I left. If an individual really want to help horses, they should look for small, concrete ways in which they can make a difference. There are lots of ways available to knowledgeable, caring people. Standing on the outside and making sweeping statements and judgements about a whole industry may make you feel better, but it really doesn't do anything for the horses. The whole industry isn't going to go away just because someone doesn't like it. But every industry has things that need to improve. Want a change? Do your homework, find the specific issues that need to be addressed, and push for improvement in those areas. That's where someone can actually make a difference.
  6. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Voted. That is a staggering statistic. The statistics for slaughter is going to rise now that they are beginning to open more slaughter houses here in the states. While we want the best for our Equines, they don't always get the best even if those roads are paved with good intentions. Public education & sound suggestions for improvements in the fields where the most injuries are sustained might be a good approach. Please check out my latest blog: Update on DE & Cookie's latest & comment & vote if you like it. Thanks. :)
    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Thanks Rene. Yes, the statistics are staggering. How can anyone ignore them and say that racing is really perfectly OK? I am not making "sweeping statements" to make myself feel better, PonyGirl, I am standing up for animals who are being very badly abused and exploited by humans. Look at the facts and let them speak for themselves: FIFTEEN horses killed on racecourses in Britain, just last month, February (and that was not all jump courses either, some of them were flat races. I have done my homework!) Do you really think it is acceptable that all these horses have to die, just so that people can continue to make money out of racing? I just gave the stats, and offered my own opinion of them. Someone who thinks animals are just completely expendable (as sadly, so many do, in this world) would have a different opinion. I am going over to check your blog out now Rene.
      1. PonyGirl
        Chestnut Mare, I was not referring to you when I was talking about sweeping statements. You provided concrete incidents. And as I stated in the beginning of my post, I don't know much about racing in England. Here in the U. S., many changes have been made since I started working on the track. The trainers are demanding (and getting) better track surfaces for the horses. They routinely screen the young horse's knees to make sure they are closed. The vets have much more accurate diagnostic tools to spot potential leg problems and avoid injury. Here in Louisiana, the Jean Lafitte futurity (a stakes race for 2 year olds) was moved from March to September, to give the young horses another 6 months time to mature. So there are improvements being made. Most people in the industry here in the States WANT improvements. Even at the training center where I work, the trainers complained to the management that the track surface was too hard and was causing foot and leg problems. One trainer pulled his horses out. The management ended up getting a new track maintenance man in order to correct the problem. Our industry is far from perfect. But there are many, many people who are working to make the sport a better,safer place. I hope that this is the case in England as well.
        1. naturegirl
          I also want to add that, as both Rene and Chestnut Mare hinted at, although there are improvements, it's not enough. Animals should not even be put under this sort of stress. Even if there are people advocating for change, horses will never be fully healthy and sane under the conditions they are put through to race, flat or jumping. They can be trained for shows - they can be used for entertainment - so long as when they are on the scene, they are not being forced to work themselves at much higher levels than what is natural for them. This is the case for racing. Horses are not meant to do this and it harms them too much both physically and psychologically.
          1. Chestnut Mare
            Chestnut Mare
            That's exactly it Naturegirl. I am not saying we should not use horses for work purposes, showjumping, entertainment, etc, as long as it is not putting them under undue stress. Which is what racing does to them. Some of the stats in the list I gave are of horses dying of heart attacks or strokes from racing on the flat, not just the jumps, where they often end up with horrific injuries like broken legs. backs and necks. In the case of broken legs, although that is not usually a fatal injury, that is still a death sentence for the horse, they are almost always euthanised anyway. The reason? Not to "put them out of their misery", but because a broken leg will take months and months to heal, and in the meantime the horse isn't able to race and make any money for the owners! That just proves how cutthroat and exploitiative the industry is.
            1. PonyGirl
              With all due respect to both Chestnut Mare and naturegirl, I disagree with your assessment of racing on the flat, at least in America. I AM in complete agreement that everything possible should be done to eliminate injuries on the track. And I understand this is a very emotional issue. The truth is caring individuals outside the racing industry (or any other industry) CAN make a change by putting pressure in the right places. But they cannot help by saying,"The whole industry is rotten and should be banned." It's similar to saying,"So many pets are abused, abandoned, and wind up being euthanized. Pet ownership should be banned." Pet abuse, abandonment, and overpopulation are real problems, but doing away with the whole pet industry is not the answer. I realize that neither of you ladies know me or know what kind of person I am. Perhaps you think that I'm exploitative, uncaring, and cut throat, so I won't try and convince you what the track is really like, either pro or con. But I would like to throw out some questions for you to consider: If all racing was banned tomorrow, what do you think, realistically, would happen to the hundreds of thousands of horses in the racing industry- not just the race horses themselves, but the brood mares, foals, and breeding stallions as well? naturegirl, why do you believe racing puts "undue stress" on the horses, but other horse activities do not? What facts and figures are you basing your statements on? Have you, personally, seen horses after racing or after being ridden in any other sport and witnessed their level of fatigue? Have you witnessed any of the horses on day to day basis to assess for yourself what their mental state is? When you say, "Horses aren't meant for this", what EXACTLY do you mean? Do you mean, "Horses aren't meant to run"? Chestnut Mare, what facts and figures are you basing your statement about broken legs on? There are many surgeries for fractures available, and some fractures will heal themselves given time. But a major break of the cannon bone is almost impossible to heal. The horse would have to be immobilized for an extended period of time, which would be very detrimental to his overall health. You don't have to take my word for it, you can look the facts up. If you've never heard the expression, "A horse has 5 hearts", look up "plantar cushion" and its function, and this will explain most of the problem. Why do you think horses are routinely put down, instead of given time off, because they "can't make money". What facts or figures are you basing this statement on? Have either of you ladies ever met people who work with racehorses on a day to day basis? Why do you think that they all view horses solely as money machines? You both seem like nice, caring ladies. Perhaps I shouldn't let your posts bother me, but I've known many very fine people involved in horse racing that truly care about their horses and do the best they can for them, while the horses are running, and afterward as well. And it does bother me to see them all portrayed as monsters.
              1. naturegirl
                Hello again Ponygirl. I would just like to mention few things. 1, we are not saying that all people working in this industry are necessarily monsters. 2, when we say this is not natural, it's not the act of running. Racing is unnatural for a horse, as well as the training it is put through. Also, these horses, just like humans who do such unnatural exercise, end up being injured quite often. The main difference between humans and horses is that the humans choose to put their health at risk, and horses do not. They are forced to accept an extremely stressfull situation. Some surely like it, but I'm willing to bet quite a few don't. Furthermore, their main purpose is bringing in the money for their owners. Even though not all horses who are injured are sent to the slaughterhouse because of their injuries, quite a lot do end up there, and this would not happen had they not been forced to race in the first place. And lastly, I understand that there are many horses who would end up in quite a dire situation should we close all race tracks. This only further proves the point that they are nothing more than money-making machines, or else their owners would happily keep them... right? And if we didn't breed so many with the sole purpose of racing, there would not be an issue with the overpopulation of horses who could end up without homes. This is why we don't like this situation. Sure, you say that the horses are treated well by their owners. We only need to see how they are 'disposed of' when they are too old to race, yet still very healthy, to see what they meant to their owners. We only talk of the ones that get injured, but they are not the only ones that meet a sad fate. There are a lot of stats out there that show how many retired racing horses actually go to good homes. The number is shockingly low.
  7. Andreana Dorrs
    Andreana Dorrs
    As well as the amount of horses that are seriously injured and die through the racing industry there are also the many horses that do not make the grade and end up being sold for meat. Unfortunately I don't believe that people that are or were completely and genuinely interested in the welfare and care of horses would be involved with horse racing in any fashion at all as it clearly is not an industry that puts welfare above financial gain or human enjoyment. People may argue that the horses enjoy what they are doing but I am sure there are many other ways for them to derive enjoyment out of life. Even those that do not get injured or die during their career will more than likely have more health issues or have a shortened life due to the grueling training they endure as youngsters. Horses have supported humans for many generations from farming to hunting, wars and pleasure riding and I think it is about time we showed them the respect and dedication they deserve and stop putting our needs or whims above their welfare. They deserve to have quality of life as much as we do if not more so as they are not a destructive species.
  8. bosalqueen
    Horse racing is an abyssmal business built on the human ego. There is NOTHING in it for the horse ~absolutely NOTHING. except pain, sprains, broken limbs, colic and mental & physical cruelty and a euthansia needle waiting at the end of the line if the horse is lucky. The killers are always buying left over race horses or they are sold drugged (of course denied by the industry) to be used up in pain. Shame on anyone that participates in this atrocity. By the way, alot of money does'nt make some idiot kind if you will notice.
  9. PonyGirl
    Chestnut Mare, I just read an article I thought you might be interested in. Penn National Racecourse has an anti- slaughter policy which states, "Any horseman stabled at Penn National Gaming Inc.-owned or operated horse racing facility who knowingly, or without conducting proper due diligence, sells a horse for slaughter directly or indirectly, will have his or her stalls revoked, and may, in addition, be barred from all our racing facilities. (Losing stall privileges would be a large monetary set back. Stall rent is generally $6 to $10 a day per horse. Also there would be shipping costs to and from the track on raceday. A trainer will risk losing owners as well, if he's thrown off the track). This came up because an owner sold (through a bloodstock agent) one of his horses for a dollar (basically giving the horse away, but transferring legal ownership and papers with the token dollar) to a man who subsequently ran the horse through a killer sale. The horse was bought by a private owner, and the incident was reported. The sale is being investigated to see if the owner had any knowledge that the horse would wind up at the killers. For the whole story, it is titled Penn National Anti-Slaughter Policy Put To The Test, it is on the Paulick Report page which you should be able to access either through their facebook page or through Google.
    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Thanks for drawing that to my attention PonyGirl, I am naturally very pleased to hear about this policy! I will have a look at the full report when I have time. Good to know some racecourses are welfare-minded like this. I have just submitted a new post, btw, which you might find of interest: Hobson's Choice for Horses. Please check it out if you have time. :-)

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