A horse race is a type of sports competition in which humans ride horses in an attempt to win a game. Horses are trained to run fast over a set course, usually on dirt or grass. A horse race is a dangerous activity because horses are prone to serious injuries and deaths, including those caused by accidents and falls. The horses may also be injured or sick from the extreme physical stress and environmental conditions. Despite improvements in medical treatment, horse racing is still a cruel sport for the animals involved.
The horse racing industry tries to mask its cruelty by claiming that horses are “born to run, love to compete, and will never stop trying.” These claims, while undoubtedly appealing to the public, are unequivocally false. The horses are made to race for the sake of winning money, not because it’s something they enjoy or find gratifying. They’re pushed beyond their limits and then drugged with cocktails of legal and illegal chemicals designed to mask their pain and artificially enhance their performance. The result is gruesome breakdowns, amputations, and, in many cases, fatal hemorrhaging from the lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage).
Once the horses reach their prime years for racing, they’re shipped off to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada. The majority of the horses who die in this industry are American, but a significant number of the horses killed are imported from France and Australia.
Those who survive the exorbitant physical demands of racing, training, and breeding can only hope for a happy, healthy life in a small handful of nonprofit animal rescues around the country. Those charities struggle to network, fundraise, and campaign tirelessly on behalf of the thousands of former racehorses whose lives are ruined by this for-profit industry. Sadly, the deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit – as well as those of Keepthename, Creative Plan, and Laoban – have not led to any change in the industry’s business model or its treatment of young, promising horses.
The most important step that horse racing can take is establishing an adequately funded, industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution for all horses leaving the track. This is crucial to addressing the brutality of the industry and reducing the number of horses sent to slaughterhouses where they will hemorrhage. Without this, the future looks bleak for racehorses like Eight Belles and Medina Spirit, as well as those of the young horses who will follow them into a career in the for-profit racing industry. They deserve a better fate than the cruel, for-profit future that has been stolen from them by this cruel and outdated industry. Click through for a collection of research on horse race reporting.