Monday, May 05, 2008

Walking a mule in someone else's horseshoes

Don't know how many of you follow horse racing, or at least heard about what happened to the second-place finishing horse this weekend- in short, Eight Belles, who finished second behind champion horse Big Brown, broke both of her front legs in a random freak accident a quarter mile after she completed the race. As a result, on-site vets could not splint her legs and the animal had to be euthanized right there on the track. (sidenote: I am still amazed and saddened that with all of modern medicine, we haven't figured out a way to mend a horse's broken legs!)

PETA is all up in arms, and the Hubby and I disagree on the issue at hand as well. Is it cruel what these trainers and jockeys put these horses through?

My argument is that race horses were bred for racing- that's all they know, and I would imagine they are happiest doing what they do best- racing. These animals live pampered lives, and once their racing careers are over, they are usually bred and then allowed to live the remainder of their days in peaceful pastures.

Brian however hearkens horse racing to the same level of cruelty to cock fighting and sissy dogs in dog shows who aren't allowed to play, get dirty, and live "normal dog lives." He is playing devil's advocate of course, but argues that it's cruel to whip the horses like the jockeys do, and blames the death of Eight Belles in vain for purely entertainment purposes.

What do the rest of the readers say? Is horse racing cruel treatment to the animals or should instances such as Eight Belle's be overlooked as a freak accident?


Anonymous said...

well since you asked i shall give my humble opinion on the issue...
i think that it is sad that race horses are treated the way that they are but that is what they are bred for. i think that there should be a better way to handle broken legs rather than killing the poor animal right then and there. i do not agree with horse racing, it is just as bad as dog racing and the poor conditions that the greyhounds have to suffer.

Bart and/or Ari said...

i'm a fence rider on this one. i love horses for their grace and amazing agility and to watch them race is just a beautiful spectacle. this is also a tradition that has been passed down for ages and as a native kentuckian, it's hard to think of growing up without keeneland being a stone's throw away. on the other hand, i don't like the "if it's broke, kill it" mentality. i'm amazed that there isn't some medical treatment to help horses out of such a predicament, although i do know that it is so difficult and excruciatingly painful for a horse to have to suffer through healing a broken bone. can't give an answer. sorry, still riding that fence.

Sarah said...

Having grown up in and around Kentucky's most beautiful and successful horse farms, I have trouble seeing anything wrong with this particular segment of the sport or the treatment of the animals. My own lack of concern for how thoroughbreds are treated is based on the knowledge that, often, the horses live much more decadent and lavish lifestyles than do the jockeys, trainers, groomers, etc. that cherish and take care of them. My church participated in a ministry for years that brought food, toiletries and clothing to the impoverished men and women who tend to the *less glamorous* needs of the horses, those who never reap the benefits of a multi-million dollar industry. Now there's a story to get misty-eyed over.

But back to the question: are these animals treated unfairly, simply because they have no say in their fate? My answer is "no." Call me heartless but I'd rather see a once-proud racing horse "put down" than see him hobbling around the countryside in shame or given away for an even worse fate...(and believe me, those places exist not so far from the well-kept grounds of Churchill Downs or Keeneland). Animals are animals; they deserve our respect and our attention and our care, but they do not retain the same rights that we do.

Clearly I'm not much of a bleeding heart when it comes to los animales, but I understand those who are. I challenge them to join their local animal care and rescue centers.

As for me: I will continue to enjoy the beauty and tradition of horseracing and its part in shaping my home state. And when I need to step back and feel sorry for someone, it will be for the caretakers and not the horses themselves.

I think I just intended to say hi...

Big Blue Barry said...

This has been a hot topic on the local sports talk airwaves this week. Several local trainers and horse breeders called in to lend their knowledge to the subject.

From what I recall of their phone calls... If a horse has one broken ankle, there is a slight chance that rehab will work. The problem is that the horse must be able to stand on it's own, otherwise a condition known as laminitis will sit in. If the horse has two broken ankles, then the laminitis is guaranteed to occur. All of the callers said that the action taken by the vets on Saturday were the most humane actions that they could have taken.

Being a native Kentuckian, and also working on a horse farm for a brief time (ok, I worked in the office at the horse farm, but the office was located in the middle of the farm!) I can not give an unbiased answer. I know the trainers and jockeys care very deeply for their horses. I don't think any one was more sad on Saturday than the jockey and the horse's owner and trainer.