Equine Rescue

Congrats, American Pharoah! Now End Horse Racing

By as published on BloombergView
Forward by R.T. Fitch ~ Pres/Co-Founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Last week’s win of the Belmont Stakes (Steaks) by American Pharoah left me with a feeling of emptiness and a sour taste in my mouth that I simply could not shake.  The massive amount of press about the “World’s Greatest Athlete” winning the Triple Crown was both stunning and disappointing.  Horse racing and those who make money whipping young horses down a dirt track was portrayed as the “Sport of Kings” while not one word was whispered about the horrific fate that befalls the bulk of the horses that are unfortunate enough to be involved in this cruel and abusive “industry”.  And then out of the darkness arose a beam of light bringing with it clarity and sanity via the well chosen words of Kavitha A. Davidson.  Her article on the subject, below, clears away the media hype and centers the spotlight back on the dying and smelly practice of horse racing.  I formally tip my hat to Ms. Davidson for the breath of fresh air she brings back into the world of American Equine Welfare Awareness and highly recommend the reading of her thoughtful writing.  With two rescued off the track TBs in the backyard, we want to thank her for her compassion and concern.” ~ R.T.

American-PharoahNow that American Pharoah has captured the first Triple Crown in decades, many are wondering what that means for the future of horse racing, and of the colt himself. The New York Times’s Joe Drape believes the feat will give horse racing “a badly needed shot in the arm,” with no indication of whether the hypodermic metaphor is meant to be ironic. American Pharoah’s trainer, Bob Baffert, said he wants the horse to race as long as possible, though he did give a nod to the idea of letting the three-year-old quit while he’s ahead.

Here’s  my wish: That American Pharoah goes out on a high note, and with him, the entire sport of horse racing.

Frankly, it’s a wonder that horse racing has lasted this long. Idealists would point to the sport’s long history in this country and to the unique place horses occupy in the American consciousness. But save for a few big races each year that are ultimately more cultural events and excuses to drink than marquee athletic showcases, the sport has been on a steady decline. And despite its blue-blood reputation, the “sport of kings” is really just the sport of vice, kept afloat by a system of gambling and doping that amounts to institutionalized animal abuse.

The main controversy today is over an anti-bleeding drug known as Lasix. In the U.S., it’s often administered on the day of the race, along with up to 26 other permitted substances; race-day medications are banned in almost every other country. Several top trainers have banded together to push for a plan to ban race-day medications in the U.S., citing the negative effects on the health of the animal and the reputation of the sport. Those resistant to change, including the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, claim that injecting drugs is actually good for a horse’s health.

This argument about what’s “best” for the horses blatantly overlooks the sport’s role in endangering their health in the first place. Lasix is used to treat bleeding in the lungs, a condition called exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage. EIPH is for the most part found only in racing animals, camels and greyhounds as well as horses. There are two theories of what causes EIPH in horses — that is, the mechanism by which hemorrhaging occurs — but as the disease’s name would suggest, it’s undoubtedly related to abnormally strenuous physical activity. You can debate the benefits of Lasix all you want, but it’s clear the best thing for a horse’s health would be to keep him off the track.

Horse racing is inherently cruel, and the problems start, literally, from birth: As the Indianapolis Star’s Gregg Doyel notes, we should expect nothing less than physical breakdown from an animal bred to sustain an abnormally muscular carriage on skinnier-than-usually legs. What you don’t see behind the veil of seersucker and mint juleps are the thousands of horses that collapse under the weight of their science-project bodies. This weekend at Belmont, all eyes on American Pharoah meant nobody was paying attention to Helwan, the four-year-old French colt who had to be euthanized on the track after breaking his left-front cannon bone. It was Helwan’s first time racing on Lasix.

Helwan’s breakdown is by no means an outlier. In 2008, a national audience watched in horror as Eight Belles collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line at the Kentucky Derby with two broken ankles and had to be immediately euthanized. In 2006, then-undefeated Barbaro suffered a similar injury at the Preakness and was eventually put down as well.

In 2012, the New York Times conducted a thorough investigation of the dangers of racing and the unchecked doping that furthers the risks, revealing that, “24 horses die each week at racetracks across America.” From 2009 to 2012, 6,600 horses suffered injuries or breakdowns. In that same period, 3,600 horses died at state-regulated tracks. ..(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at BloombergView

20 replies »

  1. It is far past time for this uncivilized, heartless atrocity to end. Horses are
    noble, and far superior to the humans who brutalize, use them and cause their deaths. Many owners have even sold these horses to slaughter. Now they want to keep racing Pharoah? Pharoah loves people and he gave it all he had, and it is lucky he didn’t break a leg or suffer other consequences. The owner and trainer want to continue to boast, brag and look good at the expense of this wonderful horse. There you see the thoughtless uncivilized mindset of these self serving monsters.


    • because horse rcing is so public, it is the equine sport that gets the worst rap-you quit horse racing then quit every sport done with these beautiful creature and the killer pens fill with unwanted horses-Every sport had its issues, many that lead to death or a life of pain-check out navicukar in 2 yearl old reiners and cutters, horse tripping, rodeo, eventing, etc etc-regulate these and have compssion but you dont realize the horrible end result of our article


  2. I agree with all the posts. Stats claim that 1 out of every 30,000 foals make it to the Derby let alone the Triple Crown. Please pass this aloing. There will be a protest and march in Washington, DC on September 29th to push for the passage of this newly created bill. If anyone can attend and bring a friend this is our opportunity as Horse Warriors to show our support. Check the internet for more info. The organizers are planning a good group of speakers. And yes as the fan fare went on with the Triple Crown many horses were being loaded on trucks bound for slaughter!!! Just Disgusting!!!


  3. Just like greyhound racing–a despicable industry that has little concern for the welfare of the animals. Luckily dog racing is slowing dying–and only legal in a few states now. Drugs are a way of life there too.


  4. Heres where we are at. The entire riding and carriage driving part of the Horse Industry IS the Industry and if we shut down racing…hunting…jumpers.. pleasure…barrels…poles.. orienteering ….trail….and all things risky then youve eliminated the horse. In essence no place for horses to do anything destroys the reasons for our industry to exist. The regulation and welfare margins should be revisited and yes there is corruption however the elimination of all things competitive then discharges horses to have no options. The ideal you have may mean well but better body type breeding with more frequent soundness checks as well as cooperation to admit some people should not be racing and stop those offenders permanently would reduce deaths. The elimination would literally just mean backroad illegal racing would crop up outta control. I know you dont see it this way but if every horse is unemployed so are people and again you just opted for horse slaughter incidentally. You have to stop staring into the clouds as if you can solve every problem with closing down. The plants and maybe New York carriages and truly abused carriage horses however there are lines once they are crossed the industry cannot rebound from. Horses do have jobs and yes some horses like the jobs more than the people respect them for. Livingbin a cloud thinking All racing must end or all horse related activities must end. ..take a look at NASCAR deaths and injuries or other sports around the World. Reducing injuries and deaths yes but not elimination. Once its gone then people condemn horses. The fact they have died is appalling and galls my every fiber but some part of me says If every job is gone then every horse is too. I dont agree with horse slaughter AT ALL but were meeting them at the fence on this one. Theres outcries and then theres simply crazy lets not cross the line. No I hate seeing injuries and drugging….I rode Western Pleasure Circuit I witnessed nerve blocking.. tail deadening…ear cropping… and so many insane things to keep horses walking let alone loping but they cleaned it up. No industry is perfect but we cant eliminate every industry…we can only strive to improve upon it to keep horses alive. Closing every event entirely would literally be what horse slaughter needs. Horses to kill for no damn reason!


    • absolutely-thank you for this-i have rescued over 300 horses from the killer pens-many breeds, not just race horses


  5. There is a vast difference between a Horse enthusiast and a Horse Lover
    PROFITS and EGOS….the twin demons
    I remember hearing this a long time ago. It was written in an old training book that I was given years ago.
    “You will most often find the REAL Horse lover in the barns and the stalls….those are grooms that take care of those Horses. THOSE are the REAL Horse lovers.”


  6. I agree with this article. Whipping a horse down a track needs to stop. And since this horse has won the triple crown, let him have a good rest of his life, instead they say there going to keep racing him. Don’t run him until he breaks a leg and has to be put down. Let him live and leave him alone. I hate people who put greed first.


    • I couldn’t agree MORE! Why do they have to be so intent on getting the glory from what only the horse deserves by continuing to make him race. It says a lot for the lack of integrity of the owner and the trainer to say they will keep racing this horse who deserves better. People get worse by the day.


  7. I know. I have mixed feelings about racing and only watch for the beauty of the horses. American Pharoah barely seemed to work up a sweat winning this Triple Crown!


    • Ever since that happened to Eight Belles, Barbaro too, I usually am on the edge of my seat with anxiety that they will all make it without getting seriously injured. I’m sorry to hear about Helwan. 😦


    • I agree Idalupine! I watch for the beauty of the horses! I agree with many of the commenters that hopefully he will be retired before he gets hurt and can live a long and joyous life.


  8. He provided them the Triple Crown, isn’t that enough?! Let him live out his life in pasture…it’s well deserved! Unfortunately, far too many do not live out their lives in pasture, after giving their all. Great article, R.T., with the spotlight on the true horror of racing!


  9. I do wonder if things are different in the UK in racing as I read many American posts similar to this. (Please correct me if you are not in America!) I know that there are many things that need improving in the racing industry. However, top racehorses MUST enjoy racing as it shows in their performance. I often think it’s sad when racehorses, especially stallions, retire young so that they can make more money at stud.
    Ex racehorses are becoming very popular in the UK, I am currently retraining my own and have always loved them. Many are very well cared for and although they can be pushed too hard, my biggest worry is when they retire. Because they are cheap to buy, anyone can pick them up and I feel inexperienced hands are a bigger threat to these top class athletes than the racing industry.


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