Horse Racing

The bodies are piling up.

Twenty-nine horses have died at Santa Anita Park since Dec 26, in what appears to be an accelerating rate of death tolls. Despite the California Horse Racing Board’s recommendation to close for the few remaining days of the season, officials at Santa Anita Park refuse to do so, effectively gambling with the lives of their athletes.

“We are collectively working on behalf of everyone in the sport — grooms, hot walkers, jockeys, exercise riders, starters, trainers, owners, track managers and every horse wearing a bridle and a saddle — to reform and improve racing every day,” said the Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers.

Whatever actions are being taken are obviously insufficient. Horses continue to die with shocking frequency, and it’s unconscionable to continue the races in the face of these catastrophic incidents. This unwillingness to put a hold on operations to protect the horses once again shows that horse racing is not driven by the love for the sport and its animals, but solely by profits.

It’s no secret that training and racing puts an enormous strain on young horses, but an even more sinister reality is the pervasiveness of drug use to mask the pain. This leads to injured horses who are forced to run, which in turn dramatically increases the likelihood of serious, even fatal, accidents.

“This is just a recipe for disaster,” says Dr. Tom David, former chief veterinarian for the Louisiana Racing Commission. “Inflamed joints, muscles and mild lameness are masked by medication and therefore undetectable to the examining veterinarian.”

In the United States, race horses are commonly given drugs on race day in order to enhance their performance, a practice which stands in sharp contrast to the standards and regulations in other major racing nations.

And it’s not just Santa Anita: On average, 24 horses die each week at racetracks across America—more than 1,000 animals per year. But what about all the horses that won’t even make it to the races? Of the 25,000 thoroughbreds born each year, only few will compete. Tens of thousands of them will never become a household name, will never make their owners famous. Instead, they are typically sold off at auctions to be exported and slaughtered for human consumption abroad. This long, harrowing journey in overcrowded trucks and trailers eventually leads to a grisly death in foreign slaughterhouses. The vast majority of horses killed at these facilities are not old and sick, but in good condition. If given the chance, they could live long, happy lives as companion animals.

In the meantime, there is a simple thing you can do for these animals: never bet on horse racing.

PS: Want to help more? Contact your representative today!