Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Elephant in the Room

I have a love hate relationship with horse racing. As I sat and watched Big Brown and Eight Belles come down the stretch, I couldn't help but start to cry. To me the thunder of hooves and the sound of breathing as they round the last turn incites goosebumps. I am overcome with emotion and this sense of pride that I know and love these animals. They blaze down that homestretch, glorious athletes. I almost hold my breath as they cross the finish line. This is how I feel watching every race, the Kentucky Derby is no different for me than watching a $500 claimer at Portland Meadows. I grew up on racetracks as most of my readers know, so I have seen the good and the bad. On Saturday, I was cheering for 8 Belles. I wanted her to show up the boys. As I watched her come down the stretch, I knew Big Brown had it, but I was so proud of her. That is when the tears of joy started, minutes later they were tears of sadness. We all know what happened. This sport needs to change. We have horses running too young, we have trainers pumping any and every kind of drug into these horses, we have a broken test barn policy, we have minimal fines for huge infractions, we have sanctioned starvation of jockeys, we have inhumane gate practices, we have no mandatory vet checks before racing, we have uninsured jockeys who refuse medical treatment because that can't afford it, and the list goes on. The sport could be good again. I really believe that. I know for many, they don't agree that horses "like" to race. I believe that they do. A horse knows when it wins on the track and a horse knows when it has been beat. You can see it. They know they are athletes. The Racing Commission needs to make it a drug free sport. Currently test barn results come back after a week and if there is a positive test...trainers pay a wimpy fine that doesn't effect the mutuals for the outcome of the race. It needs to be a HUGE fine and possible racing license revocation. If a horse can't pass a vet check, it doesn't run. If a horse breaks down on the track...HUGE fines for the trainer and owner who put it in the race. If the commission tackles the drug problem and changes maidens to at least 3 years, ideally 4 instead of almost 2, we would see major progress. This week I read an article equating horse racing to dog fighting. I understand the analogy. The savageness comes from human greed and suffering for our entertainment. For horses, death is not assured but the possibility these race horses end up on a table in Europe is quite high. This can be a good sport, but right now it is as ugly as dog fighting. Please write the racing commission, email, complain, have dialogue. Make your voices heard. I am tired of staying silent.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the sentiment but I don't think it is just the horse racing industry to blame. I know plenty of dressage horses that have been pushed to their physical limit. Trying to get to Grand Prix when they are 8. Those horse are often retired in there teens because their bodies keep breaking. The F.E.I. has an age limit of 8 though and not 2. I know that some of my issues with Genny now are because he was raced. I know the race horse industry is not doing well these days but I, like you, don't want to see it go away. My horse loves to run. He races other horses in his field with no human input. I hope that reforms are made.

Simply Marvelous said...

I agree with you. Cannot stay silent or bury my head any longer.

Complex situation:
breeders, money grabbers, stupid people out for a thrill. It will only stop when people have had ... enough.

And, there are others that push their horses beyond the limits.
They are on my list, also.

Pony Girl said...

You have some good ideas here. I have never heard it compared to dog fighting. I read a lot of commentary that shamed NBC for not really giving what happened to Eight Belles airtime attention. They were avoiding the controversy, no doubt.

Rising Rainbow said...

I was screaming for Eight Belles as they flew down the home stretch. She was the only one anywhere close to Big Brown. Then I was sobbing when I heard she was on the ground. It was awful. You would think with this happening two years in a row that the public would get a clue. I think it's going to take that kind of pressure to fix it. It's such a waste.

Callie said...

There's a whole lot of issues in the horse industry that need to be addressed!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you sharing your insider's perspective. I've been unaware of the medication issues and the differences in what is allowed here vs. overseas and have to believe this is part of the problem.

What do you think about the effect of line breeding to the Bold Rule/Native Dancer lines. Has this helped sacrifice longterm soundness at the altar of young speed?

I'm just looking to learn more.

Callie said...

I agree and I just don't know what to think about it or even say about it anymore.

emma said...

Thank you for your insight. I have been so upset about the events that have happened at the Derby and at Rolex 3 Day. It is good to hear from other horsey people about positive solutions and perspectives. Your suggestions are great. I think things have to change or you will see less and less people willing to watch these events and participate in them. I know I am very unsure about eventing this year myself now...you can't watch something like that and not be affected.

Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

OOH, I was cheering for EIGHT BELLES too.

And I blogged about her too.

Such a sad day.

The Mane Point - a Haven for Horse Lovers

THE MANE POINT – a haven for horse lovers

Transylvanian horseman said...

You're right that racing needs to change. Where the focus is just on money, animal welfare suffers.

Just one other comment - I don't write this to be churlish or detract from the main sentiments of your post - it's not really correct to suggest that horses "end up on Europe's tables". Most of us (excepting a minority of French and Italians) don't eat horsemeat. (However I do wonder what goes into some brands of petfood.)