Do Something About the Abuse of Horses

Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest and most enduring sports, developed from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two horses into an enormous spectator entertainment industry involving huge fields of runners and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment. But despite the technological changes, the basic concept hasn’t changed: the horse that finishes first wins.

It is the responsibility of all those who care about horse racing to do something about the abuse of horses, whether it’s publicly mourning a notably bad loss or simply refusing to bet on races where there are serious problems. To do anything else deprives the sport of one of its defining characteristics: its enduring passion for equine welfare and its commitment to do all in its power to keep it fair.

Runners are weighed at the end of each race, with their weight adjusted according to their age and stage of development (two-year-olds have less to carry than three-year-olds). There are also sex allowances, whereby female horses, or fillies, are permitted to compete at slightly lighter weights than males.

The most famous thoroughbred race in America, the Kentucky Derby, is run on dirt at Churchill Downs in Louisville, and is one of the most prestigious in the world. It is a showcase for the best horses, and it’s been a model for races throughout Europe and North America.

In a major study of sex and performance data on horse racehorses, researchers found that a horse with an early lead in a race often ends up in the winner’s circle, but the horse can overrun itself by running too fast and wearing itself out prematurely. The research suggests that the way jockeys use their whips may be to a large degree responsible for this phenomenon, although the findings don’t necessarily indicate that all riders do so.

A racehorse can suffer from many illnesses, including respiratory ailments, leg injuries, and gastrointestinal problems. It can also suffer from stress and anxiety, especially when it is forced to perform in front of thousands of fans.

As a result, the number of equine fatalities is high. Horses die in races and in training, from catastrophic injuries, and from routine medical procedures like castration and dental work. The abuse of horses, alleged by animal activists, is widespread and deeply disturbing.