They are beaten and forced to race around tracks typically built of hard-packed dirt at speeds of more than 30 miles per hour while carrying people on their backs. They weigh more than 1,000 pounds, have ankles the size of a human’s, and are supported by ankles the size of a human’s. Racehorses are victims of a multibillion-dollar industry plagued by drug misuse, injuries, and race rigging, with many horses’ careers ending in the slaughterhouse.
The Race to the Grave
Horses begin training or racing when still growing, and their skeletal systems are inadequate to bear the stresses of competition racing on a hard track at fast speeds. One horse in every 22 races sustains an injury that prevents them from finishing the race. At the same time, another estimates that three thoroughbreds die every day in North America due to catastrophic injuries sustained during races.
Veterinarians often have difficulty diagnosing strained tendons or hairline fractures, and the damage can progress from mild to irreversible in the following race or training. Horses do not respond well to surgery, and many are slaughtered or sold at auction to save owners money on veterinary bills and other expenses for horses who can no longer compete.
When popular racehorse Barbaro broke his ankle at the start of the 2006 Preakness, his owners spent no money on his treatment, but “many in the business have noted that had Barbaro not been the winner of the Kentucky Derby, he might have been destroyed after being injured,” according to The New York Times.
Deception and Drugs
Trainers and veterinarians use a variety of legal medicines to mask pain and regulate inflammation to keep wounded horses racing when they should be healing. This leads to breakdowns because horses can run when they would otherwise be unable to do so due to pain.
Illegal substances are extensively used as well. “Every day, trainers are injecting illicit chemicals into horses,” a former Churchill Downs public relations director said. “With so much at stake, people will go to any length to get their horses to run faster.” One trainer has been barred from racetracks for using clenbuterol and, in one case, having the limb of a euthanized horse chopped off “for study.” Another has been banned from racetracks for using clenbuterol and, in one case, having the leg of a euthanized horse cut off “for research.” When the body of a missing racehorse was discovered at a farm, police found that her death was caused by the injection of a “performance-enhancing medication.”
Even the ‘Winners’ are defeated
Few racehorses are retired to pastures when they stop winning races or become injured because owners don’t want to pay for a horse that isn’t profitable. Many of them end up in slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico, or Japan, where they make dog food and glue. Their flesh is also shipped to nations regarded as a delicacy, like France and Japan.
Most horses shipped to those facilities spend days in confined trailers with no access to water or food, and injuries are widespread. Horses are slaughtered in the same way as cows, but because they aren’t used to being herded, they flail around to escape being shot by the captive-bolt gun, which is designed to knock them out before their throats are cut.
What You Can Do To Aid in the Ending of Cruelty:
Refuse to patronize current tracks and fight against the installation of new ones as long as the misery continues.
Support PETA’s efforts to change and enforce animal racing legislation. While horse racing will never be completely safe for the animals, a zero-tolerance drug policy, turf (grass) tracks only, a ban on whipping, competitive racing only when the horses turn three, and other improvements would make a huge difference.