By Jenny Moxham, December 2011
The first Melbourne Cup was held on the 7th November 1871 and watched by approximately 4000 people.
The prize was 710 gold sovereigns (£710) and a hand-beaten gold watch.
These days around 350,000 people attend the Cup and the prize money amounts to $6,175,000 plus trophies worth $125,000.
But what do the "stars of the show" get out of it?
How enjoyable are the lives of the thoroughbreds around whom racing
Sadly there is nothing glamorous about the life of a racehorse.
After being taken from their mothers at 3 -5 months the young thoroughbreds undergo rough treatment to determine whether or not they are champion material.
Being forced to carry a rider by the age of one - while they are still
growing - puts enormous strain on them, not only physically but also
Spurs, whips, and cruel bits are used to inflict pain on them to make them do their "best."
The physical damage inflicted during training is great.
By beginning training so early, growth is stinted, which leads to bone
compactions, sway backs, compacted spinal vertebrae, and many other
The method of training also leads to problems. Running the horse on hard ground has a detrimental effect on the bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons of a horse. Not to mention the countless hoof and fetlock problems.
On the race track the possibility of physical damage heightens. Speed
itself can hurt a horse. The stress on their body, if they are trying to
race too much, can cause weaker bones.
For up to twenty two hours per day racehorses are confined in a stall
about the size of a standard bedroom.
Harmful drugs are used to cloak pain and aggressiveness and improve
Frequent administration of drugs by needle, drench or stomach tube soon
causes severe stress, pain and fear in horses. It is not uncommon for a
horse to start to shake at the approach of someone who looks like they may
use one of these ‘treatments’ on them.
Drugs are also used to control an exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage
in which a horse’s capillaries burst in the lungs. Studies have shown that
50% of racehorses have blood in their windpipe and 90% have blood deeper in
Most racehorses also have stomach ulcers due to their unnatural feeding.
When a thoroughbreds racing days are over the lucky few get rehomed, but
approximately 18,000 of these noble animals are unceremoniously trucked away
to be slaughtered.
Transportation often involves long hours in cramped trailers with no food or water. Injuries are common.
At the slaughterhouse they are killed in the same manner as cattle. The kill
is not always instant and the horse may suffer a slow, lingering death.
Some will be ground up for pet food while others will be sold as meat for
human consumption and exported to countries such as Japan and France.
This is the cruel and brutal reality of this so called " sport of kings".