Sunday, June 15, 2008

Horse Racing Under Scrutiny

If you thought it was just your imagination that more horses seemed to be breaking down in major races across the country every year, rest easy. Or not. It isn't your imagination. According to a study by the Associated Press (since none of the sports governing bodies seemed inclined to keep track) fatalities on North American tracks have been increasing over the years.

The tragic death of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, and more recently George Washington and Eight Belles in major races (The Triple Crown series and Breeders Cup) has opened the eyes of the public to the dangers involved in horse racing. It seems that the industry has been trying to out pace the ability of the equine creature are bred more and more for speed, rather than stability. Sure our horses are faster today. But 50 years ago a 3 year old would have run in 10-12 races a year. Now we're down to six, and its not because the trainers want to give the horses a little extra time off to gear up for the next big race. Its because they HAVE to. They know their horses won't stand up to as much heavy racing as horses did in the old days. Today's thoroughbreds are faster, taller, finer boned. All BAD things when it comes to holding up over time.

Now think about this: Everyone knew about Barbaro, and Eight Belles because everyone was watching those races. Consider the thousands of horses who race and perhaps die every year, and no one ever knew their names. That's where I got my horse from. A broken down $2500 claimer from Rillito. Never heard of Rillito? Thats because it's in Tucson, Arizona, not exactly the horse racing capital of the world. Most likely no one but the multitude of trainers who passed him around and my riding instructor who bought him ever remembered his name. Hell, *I* don't remember his name, because it isn't important to me. The point is, if he had been destroyed when he fractured his pastern on the racetrack, no one ever would have reported it, it would never have been recorded, and no one would ever know that every day in America 3 horses die on our racetracks, and no one knows their names.

I salute the unnamed.

Here is a list of organizations that provide adoption and retirement services for thoroughbreds.
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
At MidAtlantic Horse Rescue you can buy a silicone wristband embossed with Eight Belles' name to benefit the rescue of off-track thoroughbreds.
The BloodHorse has a directory of Thoroughbred retirment and adoption services.
For more resources all you have to do is type "Thoroughbred Rescue" into your search window and let the results roll in.

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