Horse News

Santa Anita’s Hollow PR Ploy (and PETA’s Shameful Endorsement Thereof)

Horseracing Wrongs

In the wake of the 26th dead racehorse (since Christmas) at Santa Anita yesterday (two broken legs), and faced with an unprecedented media-fueled national outrage, the track’s owner, The Stronach Group, announced, among other things, an immediate ban on raceday drugs. Complicating things, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, immediately praised the action – thereby helping this vile industry recover from its current PR disaster. A strange, sordid state of affairs indeed.

On the move itself, the primary target, Lasix, has long been controversialwithin racing ranks. Some consider it a simple performance-enhancer (the diuretic causes horses to shed water weight; lighter equals faster), while others say it’s necessary to control the pulmonary bleeding that as a matter of course is caused by forcing horses to run very fast. (Really, I’m not making this up.) In any event, file this in the “throw it at the wall…

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  1. Thank-you for posting this information to your readers.
    As a former person who grew up in this business, who later owned/trained racehorses, and as a former Associate Steward for the CHRB I was once a fully fledged participant/apologist.
    It didn’t take just one episode for me to walk away or for me to realize how this is not a “sport,” and it certainly isn’t “entertainment” unless your a sadomasochistic person who enjoys watching a voiceless, defenseless racehorse get beaten for $2 bets while snapping their legs-off and dropping dead in the dirt.
    Rather, it took a multitude of episodes and being a seasoned veteran and supporter of horse racing those episodes were horrible in order to penetrate a deeply layered onion that I was conditioned to accept.
    I kept rationalizing these horrible incidents every time I saw something else happen until I could not rationalize anything anymore.
    I took off my blinkers, peeled away the onion that I was socialized to accept and what I was left with?
    Utter disdain, disbelief that this business dopes, whips/beats, dumps, and kills racehorses on a daily basis and presents it like it’s totally acceptable and even fashionable.
    How could this possibly be acceptable and still permitted in 21st century America?
    Take away the fancy hats, the “sports” and “entertainment” banner and what your left with is blatant, unequivocal racehorse cruelty that often results in permanent bodily damage or dying – not unlike pit bull fighting rings only the victim is different.
    Then the disposable aspect – horse racing REQUIRES slaughterhouses to dump their commodities after they maim them, after nobody wants them, and when they can no longer bring in a buck.
    This is all going on while they boast, and make BILLIONS of dollars in wagering money off their bones, backs, and lives.
    This had got to be one of the most despicable and vile businesses in America.
    It’s time to end it now.
    No changes, no compromises can eliminate the horrific inhumane treatment of racehorses, and it won’t eliminate the dying either.
    This is precisely why I can no longer support horse racing, I can no longer rationalize what now seems so obvious to me, and that’s why I’m making my voice heard wherever I can on behalf of the poor racehorses who are nothing more than profit slaves for a bunch of abusers.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Gina…. THANK YOU thank you!
      You certainly have my respect, and my empathy. I can only imagine what you, as someone who ‘has been there and done that’ and now has awoken, must feel in battling that Leviathan… just WOW.
      It’s people like you that will bring IT Gina… don’t give it up!!
      Most of us have to choose our battles wisely if we are caring souls who are outraged and appalled by the enormity of pure evil going on in our crazy world right now, and sometimes it seems like we are just ‘sweeping feathers’ and all of our heart, sweat and tears is making no difference.
      But if not for you, where we would be?
      You were meant to do what you are so courageously doing, and your shining light is a deep and powerful inspiration.
      Thank you, and I know that the thousands of beautiful equine souls that are being sacrificed on that bloody altar of human greed and blindness are thanking you from the bottom of their hearts as well.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. A wise old horse trainer who had once raced the bush track circuit told me something that I never forgot…when a horse runs full’s out of fear/adrenaline..the flight response. When they’re running down that track with the rest of the horses, they have kicked into “herd stampede” mode. When we see them galloping out in the pasture (or in the wild) just because they feel like galloping, that comes from an entirely different biological response. This was someone who had bred, raised, and trained a lot of horses and colts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have to respectfully disagree here, in that SOME horses really are competitive and are not “stampeding’ but measuring each other in a particularly horse way, eyeball to eyeball, testing each other, at least in the thoroughbred races, which are longer than the pure adrenaline quarter horse races, certainly. I’ve had some very small and insignificant horses who simply would NOT let a larger, fitter, faster horse pass them, ever. It was a matter of pride and heart, not fear or adrenaline. Think of some of the wild horse videos you’ve seen where a harem stud counters every move of a challenger, at full gallop, for his own reasons, not those of humans. The best of the best of racing horses have that, honed fine and fitted to specific, optimized conditions.

      That said, our racing industry has strayed far from this example, though it does give it lip service from time to time. Organized crime and gambling, along with an enormous influx of non-horse people money in the 1980s surely didn’t help what was already a floundering industry. A closed registry limiting breeding also contributes to magnifying genetic flaws throughout the breed. Sadly, if a filly doesn’t win at all, or much, but is registered, she’s typically bred so at least she’s contributing something to potential income. As I mentioned elsewhere, in some European registries breeding rights are NOT automatic, but must be earned generation after generation, with the intent to breed better, more sane and more sound animals. What we have in the US is mostly inbred 1,000 lb. jackrabbits, being bred, well, like rabbits, which as others mentioned, feeds the “disposable horse” slaughter pipeline.

      Liked by 1 person

      • IcySpots, you brought back some very dear memories in your first paragraph while so eloquently describing the competitive portion of the equine brain and tapping into that competitive spirit can be a thrill like no other.

        When Terry and I lived in Brazil our scope of entertainment was distilled down to going out to dinner with expat friends while consuming copious quantities of Brazilian beer and it was through that activity that we found the horses and changed our lives. The girls had little to do during the day and after getting bored with painting and pottery classes they somehow found the ponies, Brazilian ponies, Mangalarga Marchadores. And with that our weekends changed, we rode…we rode to the restaurants and bars and often dined at reduced rates because our horses tied up out front of the ocean-side bar would always bring in more customers, just out of curiosity, to see the gringo cowboys.

        But I mention this as Saturdays were not like Sundays. Once we showed the horses what we wanted to do they began taking things into their own hands, or hooves as we may want to say.

        Once we made our way out of our stables and clopped our way through our cobblestone roads to the beach we could either turn left to the north and head up to all of the beach-side restaurants and bars or we could turn to the right, south, and ride on almost totally abandoned beaches with a quaint little bar many miles down where we could refresh ourselves after our long beach ride. After time, when they learned where was what and what was where, the horses always wanted to turn to the right, first thing Saturday morning. After five days of being cooped up in their stalls, they were ready for the wide open spaces and a race down the beach, if we would let them, and let them we did.

        This was not a human inspired event as it first it scared the living bejesus out of me because if you were in the head of the pack and fell the hopes of being missed by the following horses was pretty slime. But once I learned how to sit ride the gallop it was nothing less than awe inspiring, if you were in the lead. Being even second meant that you were eating sand, and lots of it.

        Once we all got down to the beach, and often there was as many as 12 of us ‘Expats on Hooves’, we would point our horses south, relax the reins, lean forward and someone would scream “VAI” (go, run in Portuguese) and off the ponies would go, no easy feat in the deep beach sand.

        But those memories are powerful as the horses were truly competing against each other and we were only along for the ride. I remember being in the lead, which was most of the time as my horse was the only American Quarter Horse in the crowd, hearing the the rumble of hooves behind me and the synchronized breathing within that rhythmic rumble and if that breathing would get too close or if we began to feel the sand from the front hooves of a gaining horses the breathing and rhythm of my steed would accelerate without any prompting from the passenger on his back. It was like flying at 7 feet above the beach with the few Brazilian beach goers gazing in wonder and delight, and we ran. We galloped until there was sound of contenders behind us and once it was only the breathing and beating of my horse would he slow and automatically turn to see where the others were. Usually, that had tired and peeled off at separate areas and the last to give up and the nearest to us would be my wife aboard her soulmate, and still current riding buddy, Apache, the Mangalarga. Damn it was fun, I truly miss it and you are right, it was a horse thing as my Bob Adonis would prance up to Apache, without my coaxing and push his face into him and you could just hear the dialogue going on and it was apparent that Apache would want none of it.

        That competitive spirit was obvious with our lost Harley as he did not mind being a former TB racehorse on the trail but he sure as hell was going to be lead horse or he would make my life a living hell, otherwise. He was an almost uncontrollable snot even if he was up from and second. In fact, I think of him often when I hear the words from one of the most ridicules movie characters of all time, Ricky Bobby, when he said, “If you are not first, you are last.”

        Bob Adonis and Harley’s take on the whole thing was, “If you are second, you are just the first loser.”

        I loved those guys.

        Sorry, I got a little carried away, here.


      • I can still remember the first time I got to ride a horse at the gallop..that was.WAY better than the trot . Then came jumping…WOW that was almost as good as flying. We did a lot of fun things with our horses when we were kids..and a lot of stupid things…LOTS of stupid things.
        I entered my gelding in one of the races at a local rodeo and we even won the first round but on the final race he was so revved up at the starting line that he was turned sideways when the starting gun went off. So much for our racing career.
        I feel that I owe horses a lot so I try to see things from their point of view and do my best to tell my fellow humans what horses would like us to know.


      • RT, you in turn reminded me of my first “real” horse, who was about as green as I was but somehow took care of me nevertheless. I didn’t have a saddle for quite a while and borrowed some bridles, and cobbled some together with hay twines, but dang that horse LOVED to run! I lived near what we called the “hundred acre field” which was a hilly dryland hayfield where I could just let him run, and aim at the hills to slow him down (he was very difficult to stop). Anyone from the nearby boarding stable who looked at us would often dare us to a race, and we never lost. I’d always give them a two or three stride head start and just smoke ’em! We flew like a tornado, and like you said, there is something downright terrifying about being on top of that much unharnessed energy, and just trying to stay with it. Thankfully the field was fenced and I hadn’t yet taught my horse to jump, so we spent a lot of time making very large circles up and down the hills at a gallop anytime we raced. No whips, no drugs, no helmets, no flat ground or manicured footing, just going hellforleather every time. Super horse, will miss him and his spirit forever.

        When I first went off to college I felt bad only seeing him on weekends, so a local 4H family expressed an interest in him. I let them take him home for a week’s trial, concerned since they had two little kids and only one horse, but didn’t seem up for a horse with his number of gears. As it turned out, they had an ancient horse the girls shared but wanted another, and the report I got back was my horse was cantering in the ring SLOWER than their old guy was trotting, so I sold him and never looked back. He was taking care of those girls, too.

        Super horse, taught me a lot and I will miss him and his spirit forever.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. For a while there was horse racing at the local fairgrounds in my area. I went to watch one race and saw a young filly run into the chain link fence on the outside border (they also used that track for car races). They had to put her down right there on the track. I have never forgotten that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Louie, that is terrible! But sometimes a horse will panic, or is pushed too soon into a race and freaks out, and honestly, a chain link fence is something they might find hard to even see, especially at speed, or if they have blinders on. I’ve seen once in a while a horse that just veers and crashes for no evident reason, sometimes killing the jockey. A horse having an aneurism isn’t unknown either. Not to excuse the horrors, but accidents do happen. Anyone who cares about their horses could ever feel good about them coming to harm of any sort. And let’s not forget the grooms here, who don’t have an ownership stake or any political clout (and are often kept silent), but are often those most in relationship with a racehorse.


  4. Thank-you to everybody who took the time to read my comment and to support my position.
    I wish you all the best, and I hope that we can share some ideas again.

    Liked by 2 people

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