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Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704


Letter from Denice Re Horseracing

(Denice is from San Diego, CA; we've corresponded regarding a class speech she chose to make on horseracing. Below her letter is our response)


Well, I wrote my speech on horseracing and presented it 5 times this weekend.  It was a huge speech tournament and many people heard the speech.  Most were touched, but not all the responses were positive.

I have received about ten "hate-emails."  People telling me I should be ashamed of myself and that I will destroy a perfectly good sport.  Some even personally attacked me in emails.  Huh!

I also received emails and had people tell me they would never attend a race again or thanked me and asked about the foundations.

The bad emails are upsetting, but it makes it all worth it to hear just a few people say they had no idea and now that they knew they wanted to help make a difference.

So here's the speech...let me know what you think!!  I hope I have made a difference.

Horseracing:  A game of death

 …And they’re off!!  It’s a beautiful day at the racetrack.  You’ve placed your bet and worn your finest hat.  You sit anxiously as your horse rounds the final corner and heads for the finish line.  NO!!

The horse you bet on has lost!  You drive home calculating your monetary loss…but there’s a bigger loss here…the potential loss of that horse’s life.

Chances are if you have been to a horse race you have witnessed things you are not aware of and do not agree with.  By betting on a horse, you have encouraged cruel actions.  Chances are you have seen a beautiful thoroughbred run injured, ill, or drugged.

Chances are you have seen a thoroughbred run it’s last race.

Horse racing is a huge industry that brings in millions of dollars every year, yet we know so little about it.  The racing industry not only BRINGS in money annually, but IS ALL ABOUT money; from the initial purchase of a foal to the training, upkeep, and winnings of the “investment.”  The investment must NOT exceed the winnings in horseracing.  Therefore, horses run too early, suffer injuries, and face early retirement or an untimely death.  Horses are racing injured and drugged and no one says a word.  No one does a thing.  Humans are the superior species and it is our duty to help animals that cannot help themselves.

Today, I will paint for you a behind-the-scenes portrait of what we call the “Sport of Kings.”  First, I will tell you about injuries in racehorses.  Second, I will explain how injuries lead to death.  Finally, I will tell you how saving a horse’s life is within your reach.

 Racehorses, or thoroughbreds, are bred mutations.

They weigh 1,000 pounds, and are supported by ankles the size of a humans.  In an attempt to save money, racehorses begin rigorous training at one and a half years old.  Their skeletal system is still growing and their bones are not fully developed.  When they begin to race their body is unprepared to handle the pressures of running at a fast speed on a hard track.

Because of this, injuries occur.

A study in May 2001 by Ted Miller, author at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, revealed that in 1out of 22 races an injury occurred which prevented the horse from finishing a race.  The same study concludes that 800 thoroughbreds die a year because of injuries on the racetrack.  Those are 800 lives that could have been spared.

Injuries are the norm in horseracing.  Many injuries will lead to death.  A common injury is bone chips.

According to a veterinary orthopedic surgeon bone chips “are like taking two pieces of rock, rubbing them together and seeing pieces of sand rub off.”

Fifty percent of all racehorses will suffer from bone chips.  ANY injury is serious when it comes to horseracing because the consequence is that the horse must be taken out of the race.  If the horse cannot run a race, the owner will lose money.  If the horse is of no value to the owner as a stallion or broodmare, and will not race again, that horse has probably seen its last days.

Aren’t there other ways to work around injuries in horseracing?  YES!!  And they are sad, scary, and shady.

Simply put, a horse can “run through” an injury.  A horse can be forced to run in pain.  War Emblem, a famous racehorse, won two Triple Crown races while suffering from bone chips in one ankle and two knees. Although surgery was recommended, top trainer, Bob Baffert responded with, “Let the chips fall where they may.”  War Emblem, now failing as a stud, is headed to his grave.

Another way to race a horse through an injury is a very common one…DRUGS.  Many horses are turned in to junkies, relying on drugs to make it through a race.

Drugs given to horses are broad and vary.  Lasix, which controls bleeding in the lungs, was given to every horse at the 2003 Kentucky Derby according to an article dated April 27 2003 by John Scheinman, an author at the Washington Post.  Most were also given phenylbutazone, and anti-inflammatory.  These horses are not well, and should not be racing, but drugs mask the pain and keep them on the track.

In a recent article dated September 2004 in The San Diego Union Tribune, I learned of about “milkshaking.”

A tube is inserted in to the horse’s nostril and a baking-soda-like substance is fed to the horse.  This neutralizes the build up of lactic acid produced during exercise.  The horse can run faster for longer and not feel fatigued.  

Milkshaking may seem to make sense, but at what cost?

If the procedure is done incorrectly the tube can be directed to the lungs and cause the horse to drown.

Deaths from milkshaking have been reported, but the exact number is uncertain.

What IS certain is that no horse should die drowning in an attempt to make it run faster.

When a horse is injured and is of no use to the owner any more, the owner will “retire” the horse.

What that word REALLY means in racing circles is SLAUGHTERHOUSE.

Retired racehorses can be put to death a few ways.

One, the owner can humanely euthanize the horse at their own expense.  A more popular way is to deliberately kill the horse in hopes of recovering insurance.  

Finally, there is the dreaded slaughterhouse.  For many of these racehorses, their lives will end in a slaughterhouse before they are even five years old; before their bodies are even fully formed.

Slaughterhouses offer the owners about $200.  This is perfect for the money-hungry racehorse owner.  They figure, “The horse is going to die anyway…I might as well make a few bucks.”  Here’s the catch:  in order for the owner to collect the money, the horse must be alive when it reaches the slaughterhouse.

The two remaining equine slaughterhouses in North America are located in Texas.  The journey can take days.  The horses are cramped in to trailers made for cattle and sheep, not suited to their height.  They are denied food and water and the injuries sustained during the trip are ignored.  Upon arrival, the horses thrash around in fear and panic in order to avoid the pneumatic gun that would render them unconscious before death.  Odds are, the horse has its throat cut with no anesthesia or other humane help.  Most racehorses, even the winners, will meet their end in the worst way possibly imaginable…they will die in fear.

 Horseracing simply comes down to one thing…MONEY.

Money is what keeps this business going.  So long as there is money to be made, horses will die for the sake of a bet.  Let me ask you this…is this what you want to bet on?

These beautiful, precious creatures are being exploited.

Their lives are thrown away for our amusement.  We go to the races to have fun, gamble, and hopefully make some money.  But you are not betting on something as simple as a race.

In a world filled with animal rights activists and so many animal cruelty laws, how is it that horseracing is overlooked?  Cockfighting and greyhound racing is under scrutiny and is banned in many states.

Where is the voice of the racehorse?  The voice is muffled by politicians and the state that know racetracks and horseracing bring in money.  People turn a blind eye; cruelty is overlooked and ignored because there is too much money at stake.

There are solutions to this problem.  Now that you know the problem, YOU can help make a difference and stop the unnecessary deaths of racehorses.

One way to solve the problem of cruelty to racehorses is to pass laws.  Surely, if greyhounds and chickens are protected, then why not the racehorse?

Laws could and would ensure the safety of the racehorse.

Another way to save racehorses is to support a thoroughbred retirement or rescue foundation.  There are only a few thoroughbred rescues and they are struggling.  Horses are turned away each day for lack of funding and support.  These foundations take in ex-racehorses that would otherwise be killed.  It takes them in, rehabilitates them, retrains them, and finds new homes for them.  If an ex-racehorse is injured beyond rehabilitation, the horse will live out it’s days in pastures with other horses like it.  Most former racehorses can be rehabilitated and enjoy a long life with a new career. Sadly, there simply is not enough money to save all of the ex-racehorses.

However, with your help, you can make a difference.

Visit or and donate what you can.  With financial support they can grow and take in more horses.  A few dollars may not seem adequate, but if everyone who heard this speech was touched by it many lives could be saved.

A final solution to horseracing is to refuse to support the racetrack.  Simply do not go to the racetrack.  Tell people you know about what you have learned and ask them to help by not going to the races.  Educate yourself and others about the cruelty of racing.

Today you have learned about the true lives of racehorses.  First, you heard of why racehorses sustain injuries.  Second, you learned of how injuries lead to death.  Finally, I told you what you can do about it.

 …It’s a beautiful day at the racetrack.  You sit anxiously as the horses head for the finish line.

After the race you drive home content because you know the horses will be fine.  Horseracing is once again "The Sport of Kings."

Hi Denice,

I have read your speech (or as much as I could read; to this day I can't watch videos, can't read detailed abuse records, I just can't take it).  Your speech is excellent; it bothered me that you got some negative responses - that is one issue I haven't been 'slammed' on (though possibly because I seem to be known for anti-rodeo more than anything else).  And usually I get flak from that, circuses and hunting issues.

Look: I hope you let the criticisms 'roll off your back.'  I think it is absolutely wonderful that you chose to eloquently speak up on this issue, which IS largely unchallenged in animal protection circles, though they all want it banned.  The fact that so few speak for these animals makes it all the more crucial that you did, and I am thrilled for you.  I would like to put your speech on my website, with a note that it was delivered to students (which, in my opinion, is critical; the 'older generation' is lost as far as horseracing goes).

So: big congratulations on your speech and a job beautifully done!  

You and members of your generation are the true hope for animal liberation - I mean that from the bottom of my heart.  And I am so glad I was able to be of some assistance.  

Best and blessings always,

Kiley B

[email protected]  

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