The Dark Side of Horse Racing
In horse racing, a race is a competition for the honor of winning a prize, which may consist of cash, trophies, or other items. A race is generally run over a distance of one, two, or three miles. The rules of a horse race differ from state to state, but typically include such things as the use of whips and what types of medication horses are allowed to take.
The sport of horse racing has long had a dark side. It’s no secret that the industry has a number of issues with equine welfare including abuse, injuries, breakdowns, drug use, and the slaughter of countless American horses in foreign slaughterhouses. Growing awareness of these problems has spurred a number of changes, but more needs to be done.
The race horses themselves are often pushed beyond their limits and subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs designed to mask injuries, improve performance, and enhance the appearance of these magnificent animals. Many race horses, particularly older ones, will bleed from their lungs during or after a race, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. These horses are routinely given the drugs Lasix or Salix to help prevent this from happening.
It is also common to see horses with strained or pulled suspensory ligaments, which is when the fibrous material that supports a horse’s foot is disrupted and dislocated. Sadly, this is not uncommon and it is believed to be a result of the intense and repetitive nature of the sport.
A strained suspensory ligament is a serious injury that can be fatal to a horse. In addition to the physical demands of the sport, horse races are often contested on dirt tracks that can be jarring for the horses’ joints and muscles. These conditions can lead to a breakdown in the connective tissue of a horse and cause severe pain. If a horse is not treated promptly, the injury can worsen and cause lameness, a condition in which a leg becomes deformed and is not supported properly by its bones.
The for-profit business model of horse racing must be changed to place the best interests of horses at the forefront if it is going to survive and thrive in a modern society, culture, and justice system that recognizes animals as equals with human beings. The time is now to begin the difficult but necessary process of change. Let us not forget Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, Creative Plan, and the thousands of other racehorses who have died in vain for the sport they love. Let us not take these things from the young horses to come. It is in their names that we must speak up and demand change.