Horse Racing: An Elitist Sport or Animal Abuse?
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM Erika-Marie Kissh, Animal Blawg
April 2019

The births, lives, and deaths of racehorses are unnatural and can be seen as out-and-out abuse at every stage of a horse's life.

The life of a racehorse is one that even before its conception is planned out and greatly influenced by human beings. Their birth, life, and death, are unnatural and can be seen as out-and-out abuse in every stage of the horses’ life. The main reason why racehorses are forced to live such unnatural lives at the hands of humans is because horse-racing is an extremely lucrative “sport”. The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities estimates that prize money for races worldwide is approximately $3.5 billion dollars a year, and the global industry of horse-race betting makes approximately $116 billion dollars of revenue in a given year.

For thoroughbred racehorses, in particular, their conception and birth is planned out as meticulously as possible to ensure maximum race training time. Mares are forced to procreate at a speed much faster than natural. A mare will be pregnant for more than 90% of her life, her only purpose in life will be to breed more and more foal, she will not know anything else in her lifetime other than the strain of rearing offspring.

Once a foal, baby horse, is old enough the process of “breaking” and training begins. For those horses that do not obey the commands and succumb to breaking will be pushed harder into submission, and if they do not submit they are deemed rogue and discarded. Those horses that do comply to command and training regimes are then sold from anywhere between $40,000.00 to $65,000.00. The training involved to make the horses “race-ready” puts enormous strain on the horses, they are often forced to do tasks that are unnatural for them, and there are often many injuries to the horse as a result of the intensity of the training. Those horses that do not comply with the training regime or show resistance are forced to more intense “breaking” by their trainers, where pain or intimidation is used to force compliance of the horse. This abuse and forced compliance all comes before the racing even begins, for some horses, the injuries they receive during this pre-race time will render them useless to their owners and they will be disposed of. The horses performance during the race will impact the potential purse earningsof its owner, this creates intense competition and strain on the horses and their trainers.

Many racehorse’s careers are very short, roughly 3 years depending on the horse. During their racing years, the horses are often confined to their stable for extended periods of time and not given the chance to socialize with other horses, which is unnatural for them. As a result of such isolation, they tend to develop neurotic behavior and become more prone to disease. Such treatment can be seen as counterproductive, considering the health and wellbeing of the horse is vital for its success in the races, and ultimately the profits of the owner. If owners were to allow the horses to roam free in a drove, rather than living in close quarters and/or solitary confinement, the health and wellbeing of the horses would increase, and could potentially help keep major injuries and illnesses at bay.

When the career of a racehorse has come to an end, and its owner no longer considers it an asset, the racehorse is discarded. Many racehorses are sold to knackeries, and a very few fortunate horses find homes after their careers have ended. While the United States has shut down slaughterhouses in the United States in 2007, it has not banned the shipping of horses overseas to be slaughtered, many horses meet their fate on an over-priced dinner plate overseas. Racehorses are deemed to not be useful after a serious injury or if they are too old. Such was the case with Helwan, a racehorse that broke his canon bone at the Belmont Race Track and was euthanized behind a curtain at the track, in June 2015.

Often horses receive a cocktail of race-day drugs to enhance their performance. Some tracks, such as the Santa Anita Track, have phased out the use of race-day drugs on horses. Since the implementation of such changes by tracks like Santa Anita and other tracks, the entire industry has followed suit by slowly phasing out the use of such drugs. These changes are intended to stop and/or slow the volume of horse deaths at the tracks. At the Santa Anita track over the last decade approximately 2,294 horses died either from training, illness, or racing. These numbers are only for one track, there are approximately 300 horse racing tracks throughout the United States.

Horse racing is portrayed as an elite lucrative sport, but there it is more of a business centered in animal abuse, than a sport. You wouldn’t euthanize a gold medal Olympic athlete if they broke their bone, but yet it's okay to put down a Triple Crown racehorse if they broke their bone. Horse-racing has been glamorized by the media, when the truth of the matter is that it is animal abuse not sport. Horse-racing started in the United States in 1665, it became popular after the Civil War, and since then, the “sport” has been glamorized by the media when the truth of the matter is that it is animal abuse for entertainment, not sport. Unfortunately, the only way this industry will change is if individuals stop participating in the spectating and gambling that comes with this “sport.”


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