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How can you love horses and be a racing fan?

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  • How can you love horses and be a racing fan?

    I have been a major racing fan since I was a teenager in the 1980s. I grew up near Saratoga but couldn't afford to take lessons or even be around horses so I got my "horse fix" by following racing. My goal was to become a trainer someday.

    Well, now I am in my thirties and even though I can't stop following racing, I am really getting to hate the "sport". I've worked for a few seasons as a hotwalker at Belmont/Saratoga and I've worked as a groom at bush tracks in the SW, so I've pretty much seen the top and the bottom of the racing world. I have seen so many horses break down that I've lost count and it is very devastating to me, even if I don't know the horse. I hate the fact that most owners don't take reponsiblity for their horses and don't care what happens to them. It makes me sick that millionaires could let their former stakes horses drop down to the bottom claming levels, when they could easily buy the horse back and retire it for life without making any kind of financial sacrifice at all. I hate seeing so many older horses who could potentially make nice pleasure/sport horses being medicated with Bute, Lasix, corticosteroids, etc., and raced until they break down or are permanently lame.

    I know that there are good people in the sport but I believe they are a minority and I personally feel that there are too many tragic things to overlook in the world of racing. For instance, it never fails to happen, you're having a great day at the track but then one hour later,a horse snaps it's leg right in front of you.

    OK,just wondered how you fellow race fans feel and how you handle the downside.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    I have been a major racing fan since I was a teenager in the 1980s. I grew up near Saratoga but couldn't afford to take lessons or even be around horses so I got my "horse fix" by following racing. My goal was to become a trainer someday.

    Well, now I am in my thirties and even though I can't stop following racing, I am really getting to hate the "sport". I've worked for a few seasons as a hotwalker at Belmont/Saratoga and I've worked as a groom at bush tracks in the SW, so I've pretty much seen the top and the bottom of the racing world. I have seen so many horses break down that I've lost count and it is very devastating to me, even if I don't know the horse. I hate the fact that most owners don't take reponsiblity for their horses and don't care what happens to them. It makes me sick that millionaires could let their former stakes horses drop down to the bottom claming levels, when they could easily buy the horse back and retire it for life without making any kind of financial sacrifice at all. I hate seeing so many older horses who could potentially make nice pleasure/sport horses being medicated with Bute, Lasix, corticosteroids, etc., and raced until they break down or are permanently lame.

    I know that there are good people in the sport but I believe they are a minority and I personally feel that there are too many tragic things to overlook in the world of racing. For instance, it never fails to happen, you're having a great day at the track but then one hour later,a horse snaps it's leg right in front of you.

    OK,just wondered how you fellow race fans feel and how you handle the downside.

    Comment


    • #3
      I am kind of in the same place. I loved horse racing as a kid. I read all the black stallion books, begged my Mom to take me to the track. I even carried around a portable radio on the weekends all summer because they would broadcast the races and I never wanted to miss any of them.

      I am also in my thirties now and still follow racing some but am also much more aware of the downside of racing. I don't like the horrible stuff that goes on but like any sport involving animals and money there is going to be bad as well as good. I still go to the local track in the summer but I am finding it harder to bet or spend any money while I'm there as I don't want to support the industry.

      I think what bothers me the most is all the excess horses that result from the sport. It makes me sad to think of all the unwanted, washed up, non winners that end up in the auction headed to slaughter or bad homes. And since I own the most wonderful, sweetest, off track TB its even harder to think about.

      So I send money to the TB rescues, and pray for no injuries every time I watch a race and sometimes feel a bit like a hipacrite (spelling?).

      Comment


      • #4
        I'll have to admit that I get caught up in the same predicament. I love watching the horses run but knowing what goes on behind it is tough. I just wish the racing industry wouldn't start them so young and give them a chance to mature. Its too much pounding for young legs.

        "I'll care when I'm dead" - me

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          " So I send money to the TB rescues, and pray for no injuries every time I watch a race and sometimes feel a bit like a hipacrite (spelling?)"

          This sounds just like me- I do feel guilty for going to the track and now the main thought I have during the race is hoping no one breaks down. I do believe that the racing industry will be extinct in the future and I hope it happens. I just signed a petition to keep slot machines out of the tracks in my state.

          Comment


          • #6
            You have the wrong perspective. Race horses are not pets. They are not companion animals like dogs or cats. They are domesticated work animals similar to cows, sheep, etc. The only difference is that we do not eat horses (in the US). They have been bred for thousands of years specifically to perform work. The job of a race horse is to race.

            People took this work animal and developed many uses for it as a pleasure and sport animal. They are also beautiful and have a lot of heart. But human-equine love is often unrequited, meaning people become more attached to horses than horses to people. Not to say that there are not affectionate horses, but horses can't hold a candle to dogs with respect to affection.

            The job of a cow is to provide food, milk and leather. The job of a sheep is to provide food and wool. the job of a pig is to provide food and pigskin. It's not like wild horses were rounded up, broke, and forced to race.

            What else is a race horse going to do? Most riders are not capable of handling TBs without professional help. they don't make good pets. Should people just stop breeding TBs? they are the foundation of most of today's sport horses, and many eventers come from the track.

            I've been in racing since 1983. Yup, there are some bad people who take poor care of horses. But go to the H/J board and see how overmedicated today's show horses are just so Little Susie can win a blue ribbon! I say racing is much more honest to the horse than showing. At least race horses are winning money for their efforts. do you think a hunter or jumper knows he won the class? Do you think he understands why Little Susie is pulling on his mouth and jabbing him with spurs when he is trying his best to get around the course despite his sore back and his sore hocks? [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif[/img]

            Please, you can criticize racing when the abuse stops in halter, gaited, h/j, dressage, and other horse sports.

            I'll tell you once more before I get off the floor don't bring me down...
            Man plans. God laughs.

            Comment


            • #7
              forced to agree with Flash. Racing may well be cruel, but so is most, if not all showing. AND much of showing really IS so little Suzie can brag to her less fortunate friends about her blue ribbon collection. Little Suzie doesn't give a $h1t about the horse, as long as she looks good.

              "Smile: It makes people wonder what you're up to..."

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                So, just because there are unethical practices going on in other horse sports that makes everything that goes on in racing OK? That's pretty poor logic.

                Yes, tbs were bred over the years for racing, but to say that they can't make good pleasure horses is not true. Yes, they generally do require a more experienced rider, but there is also a BIG difference between ottbs and never-raced tbs. I've noticed that the horses at the track tend to be tough to work with off the track because they still have the habits they developed at the track. Like walking all over their handlers, anxiety, being unsuitable for pleasure riding because they were never broke/started correctly. I am working with a mare now who was a dangerous, nervous wreck at the track but I think she is going to turn out to be an awesome riding horse, with time. Yes, tbs tend to be hotter than the average QH, but I think that most of them would be FAR better suited to being a pleasure horse if they did not have any on-track experience.

                I think the main difference is that MOST people who are in other horse sports are just people who truly love and care for their horses. They do not "discard" them when they can no longer produce. Of course, at the top levels perspectives may get skewed and the best interests of the horse may get pushed aside.

                Racing IS a business, at all levels.
                If racehorses can't keep racing at the level they are at and have no breeding value, they WILL be claimed lower and lower until they reach the end at the auction or hopefully, adoption. I think that like grayhound racing, this type of attitude is something of the past. There are better forms of gambling available that don't use animal's lives.

                This is just my observation. One that I never thought I would come to- I loved racing so much as a kid.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sorry Flash44 and horselips, I cannot agree with the argument that just because other horse disciplines have cruel traing methods, than that justifies the lack of right to criticize (and try to correct) cruel training methods in one's chosen horse discipline - in this example TB racing.

                  Whether it be in our specific horse disciplines or in other venues in our lives, our society, our government, etc., I believe that we have a responsibility to act in the best and most responsible way we can in our specific arena...regardless of what so-and-so in doing "down the hall".

                  Frankly, this is the only way that a society advances in terms of enlightment and moral progress. If we all just waited to improve things in our individual areas until the "next guy" got his act together, then progress would never be made, and we would remain fixed at a Neanderlath level.

                  (For example, can you imagine if that was the logic that prevailed in terms of granting women the right to vote..."We're not going to do anything about it until so-and-so does something about it, and so-and-so isn't going to do something about it until the next guy does something about it, on and on, in a never ending circle of "non-progress".)

                  Yes, cruelty in the horse industry is widespread, and there is not a single discipline that is free of it. But a way to step-by-step improve things is to take action in one's own area, however small one's "sphere of influence" may be.

                  Allowing someone's bad behavior in one area as a as permission for deficits in one's own area simply brings you down to his level.

                  [This message was edited by Whistlejacket on May. 23, 2002 at 12:33 PM.]

                  [This message was edited by Whistlejacket on May. 23, 2002 at 01:05 PM.]

                  [This message was edited by Whistlejacket on May. 23, 2002 at 01:08 PM.]

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Racing is not cruel, people are cruel.

                    Not only is racing much more regulated than any other equine sport, it spends way more money on research and product and drug development to help horses stay sound and healthy than any other equine sport. No other equine sport puts forth such effort.

                    Racing is doing everything possible to keep the sport clean. When was the last time the state vet stood in the schooling area at a horse show to determine whether or not the horses were sound enough to compete? With the exception of bush league tracks, the 1 and 2, or 1, 2 and 3 finishers in EVERY race in the country are drug tested. A favorite that runs unusually bad is also tested. The stewards have the power to test any horse in any race. They can also test any person holding a track license, whether it be a trainer, exercise rider, jockey, hotwalker, or groom. All of the above are fingerprinted and on file with the FBI, as are all owners.

                    What exactly is your solution? Horses are examined by the state vet before they are allowed to run, and the vet watches them warm up on the track. The jockey has the power to scratch the horse as well. Trainers that run sore horses do not win races, and if the horses break down, they will probably lose the owner as well.

                    Racing is a much harder sport than showing. The horses are exerting themselves 100%, and injuries are unavoidable. Horses are much more diffucult to treat than humans, or even dogs, and injuries such as compound fractures become fatal.

                    And comparing TBs to other breeds, they are almost least suited to life as a pleasure horse. They are athletes, need regular exercise, and are more high strung than most other breeds. Plus, they are harder keepers as a whole. And other than eventing, there is not a big demand for purebred skinny fast horses in the sport horse world. Is the solution the breeders? Go ask any sport horse breeder how much money they are making breeding TBs for the show ring. It's more a labor of love.

                    I'll tell you once more before I get off the floor don't bring me down...
                    Man plans. God laughs.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Racing is not cruel, people are cruel <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                      excellent point

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by MKM:
                        <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Racing is not cruel, people are cruel <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>excellent point<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                        Yes, excellent point. The track is fun. It's a blast to have a few drinks, eat dinner, spend some money (win some?) and jump up and down.
                        [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] I have friends who won't go because it's morally wrong.
                        Free country. Their choice.
                        Longeing a junior hunter for 2 hours is cruel.
                        Training Big-Lick Walking horses is WAY more cruel.

                        Don't make me feel guilty for having fun. Sadly animals do get used for our entertainment. I know that the horses in my life have been well treated.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          yd, it is not my intention to make anyone feel guilty. I just wondered how people who care about horses feel about racing and deal with the bad aspects of it. I love a day at the races as much as anyone and life on the backstretch is addicting, but when it is all said and done now, knowing the fates of so many of these horses outweighs any fun I have.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by saratoga:
                            to hate the "sport". so I've pretty much seen the top and the bottom of the racing world. I have seen so many horses break down that I've lost count and it is very devastating to me, even if I don't know the horse. I hate the fact that most owners don't take reponsiblity for their horses and don't care what happens to them. It makes me sick that millionaires could let their former stakes horses drop down to the bottom claming levels, when they could easily buy the horse back and retire it for life without making any kind of financial sacrifice at all. I hate seeing so many older horses who could potentially make nice pleasure/sport horses being medicated with Bute, Lasix, corticosteroids, etc., and raced until they break down or are permanently lame.

                            I know that there are good people in the sport but I believe they are a minority and I personally feel that there are too many tragic things to overlook in the world of racing. For instance, it never fails to happen, you're having a great day at the track but then one hour later,a horse snaps it's leg right in front of you.

                            OK,just wondered how you fellow race fans feel and how you handle the downside.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                            A good friend of mine is the farm manager for the mares, foals, yearlings and two year olds at a TB farm. I admire their "growing up" plan- everything is kept outside 24/7 except for the twice daily hand walking into the stable for meals. The owner does sell off horses which are not suitable for racing which I think is kind, they aren't forced to race. I can't fault them for that plan.

                            I know how they start their two year olds and it's not a bad start, much less "ride time" than my friends who are showing 2 year olds in WP so I do think Flash's post did bring up solid points.

                            I hate the breakdowns but it does happen in every riding dicipline.

                            I dont hang out on the track up in Kansas City and I don't know how the "not quite so famous" horses are kept. However, I see such sad situations at a local clinic due to owner ignorance. One gentleman brought in a horse which looked poor, VERY poor and it was not eating well. The horses was filled w/ worms. The owner offered that he wormed the horse last spring and he thought once a year was enough. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif[/img] Another person brought in a foal, they bred the mare, because the mare kicked the foal off of her. They were clueless as to basic "what to do when the foal hits the ground" care and the result was the foal got joint ill, of the three cases I've seen it was the absoulute worst- hocks the size of grapefruits. The vet worked on the foal but it had to be put to sleep- all because backyard owners were clueless. The saddest thing was that they had another mare at a breeders getting her bred......

                            Support the good race horse owners.

                            SLW
                            "It is I."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              As I stated in my original post, there ARE GOOD AND BAD in ALL disciplines and saying one sport can be critisized after all the others haved cleaned up their act is not a logical statement. If there are bad things going on in your sport than work to clean it up, don't say it is okay because other sports do it.

                              And as long as we are NOT generalizing, not all racing TBs are good for one thing. I own a wonderful off track TB. I am far from an experienced rider and though I do take lessons I don't require a "professional" to handle my horse. Matter of fact he is downright lazy. And God forbid I was crippled and unable to ride tomarrow, I would keep my off track TB because I think he would make an excellent pet. I know several people who have off track TBs and they are all wonderful. Initial training off the track might take someone familiar with the retaraining of TBs, but I think a huge percentage of them could go on to a variety of careers. They have wonderful personalities and if any horse could rival a dog in affection it is my TB. He will leave his food for scratches and always wants to be petted and played with. It is the sterotype that all TBs are raging monsters is what probably keeps a lot of people from getting a really good horse. My TB and I got scores in the mid 60's at our dressage show and the lady who showed him before was getting high 60's and the occasional low 70's.

                              I doubt that race horses know any more that they have won their OWNERS money than Little Susi's pony knows he won her a blue ribbon. Yes they are bred to run, but given the option I doubt they would load into a starting gate and run around the track any more than the pony would go jump a round by their own devices. They are no less "forced" than a wild horse would be.

                              But these sports are not going away and I don't think they should. But we should be trying to treat the animals we use for our entertainment with all the respect that they deserve. They aren't machines, but living things afterall.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                ...I believe my 7yo Mo' horse would load into the trunk of my car, if he could fit. He certainly walked right into the scary-looking wheel chair ramp chute (with stairs) all on his own. And up some bleacher-stairs, once just because he's curious and loves to make me laugh. But then, he's my big buddy, and yes, he knows it [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_cool.gif[/img]

                                "Smile: It makes people wonder what you're up to..."

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I just found this thread and I agree with Flash. I too work in racing and I have some H/J friends who hate racing because it's "cruel." Most of thewm have only heard vague talk about abuse or ill feeding etc.
                                  I would add to Flash's posts that for most trainers/owners or other connections, the horse is a meal ticket. It is in their interest to preserve a decent horse. Sub par horses, as in ANY equine sport are the ones in possible peril. An inordinate percentage of racing people care enough to place slow horses. I work at Saratoga over the summer. I personally know of 6 well know trainers who placed horses in retirement right off the Saratoga backstretch.
                                  Race horses are bred to RACE. The ability that many have to perform as ring horses of all manners is testament to the breed.
                                  I realize that just because there is cruelty in other sports doesn't it right in racing BUT for a h/j rider to have an issue with racing beacuse of cruelty is unfair. Hunter riders should peek into some barns in their own sport before pointing fingers accusingly at other disciplines.

                                  Resident racing historian
                                  May the horse be with you -Harvey Pack May you be with the horse - My last trainer
                                  F O.B
                                  Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
                                  Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    I am NOT a hunter rider (I event at the lower levels and also do competitive trail) and I am not pointing fingers at anybody. Racing was the very first horse sport that I was involved with. I am very aware of what goes on in the racing industry, having worked in it for many years. My best friend has a trainer's license. I know that there are concerned people who do find homes for their horses but they are not the majority, from what I have observed. I simply wanted to know how fellow horse-lovers feel about the "unmentioned dark side" of the sport, but apparently, there is a lot of denial.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by saratoga:
                                      I simply wanted to know how fellow horse-lovers feel about the "unmentioned dark side" of the sport, but apparently, there is a lot of denial.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                      I for one will not deny the "dark side" but what do you do? Walk away from horses because there are New Hollands, because there are big-lick walking horses, because there are over-medicated hunters, because there are exhausted western pleasure horses plodding around in a "pleasure" class, because there are sore-footed, sore-jointed, buted to death horses in the barn down the road?

                                      I DON'T turn a blind eye to the problems in the horse world. And I educate those who are willing to listen. And I take care of the one horse I have been blessed with, and draw the line at acquiring any more because I don't have the means to support another horse in what I consider a proper manner.

                                      What else can one person do?

                                      "I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship."
                                      -Louisa May Alcott
                                      "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." ~ Jack Layton

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        My feelings exactly. MY 1st love was racing, too. When I got my 1st horse, I didn't have time to follow racing as much. AND I also felt guilty, but old habits die hard. After I witnessed 1st hand what goes on in other breeds, I began to feel that maybe the racers weren't so bad off after all. At least they get to retire after a few years. Not so in the (fill in the blank) world. Yes, many go to slaughter. So do QHs, Apps, Arabs, TWHs, Hunters, Jumpers, Dressage horses, ad infinitum.

                                        "Smile: It makes people wonder what you're up to..."

                                        Comment

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