Monday, May 05, 2008

Eight Belles Tragedy

I don't know much about horses or horse racing. But I love watching horses run. They are such beautiful creatures. Not far from my house, there is a field that always has two horses in it. I look for those horses every time I drive by. They are so lovely.

I have always thought it would be fun to go to the Kentucky Derby. To put on a fun hat and watch those wonderful horses run. In Northern California, we have some horse racing at our local fair and we often go and watch them run. Gary has even won some money on the horsies. After this weekend's Derby however, I'm starting to rethink horse-racing.

I'm so glad I wasn't watching the race because with my current level of hormones and my sensitivity where animals are concerned, I would have been a wreck. The loss of Eight Belles is just heart-breaking. I just read this article and it is making me question my views of horse-racing. If I am against dog-fighting and greyhound-racing, why am I not opposed to horse-racing? In light of the recent tragedy, I'm going to have to give this some thought.


Genevieve said...

you know, everyone I know who rides horses is totally opposed to horse racing.

Literary Feline said...

I only heard what happened to Eight Belles yesterday. So sad! I'm not too keen on horseracing myself, to be honest. Like you though, I do love watching horses run in a more natural less competitive way. :-)

Gary said...

Caution: probable oversimplification and anthropomorphization of animals ahead

I watched the Kentucky Derby on Saturday and, unfortunately, saw the whole thing go down. I'm on the fence regarding this topic.

As a former competitive runner, it gives me goosebumps to watch the fastest horses in the world line up and give it everything they've got for 1.25 miles. It's hard for me get beyond the perception that the horses have all the fun and everyone else (including the jockeys) are mere spectators.

The big sweeping track, pre-race adrenaline, throwing elbows and hooves to nastily shove their way to the front of the pack, draftng and trying to make a homestretch move with muscles full of lactic acid are exactly what I loved about running the mile. For me, it was four and a half minutes of pure life.

Of course, I never broke two ankles and had to be put down right on the track (not that this compares, but I did break a bone in my foot in one epic wreck). Still I wonder that, if I had to be a horse, what kind of existence I would want to have. Would I want to give kids horseback rides and stand around in a pasture for 25 years, or live a few spirited years and finish second in horse racing's greatest race? I'll take the latter any day.

Not that any of this made the aftermath of Saturday's race any easier to watch.

Gary said...

I now completely retract what I said earlier (except that fierce, competitive running will always be in my blood). The following blog post is by someone whom I know, respect, admire, and who has a particularly close relationship with her own horse:

The Horrors of Horse Racing
Horse racing is an archaic, barbaric, immoral sport that is dressed up in a classy, almost romantic robe of deception. Once the horses leave the track, they are subjected to a life in a tiny stall, abuse from their trainers, and the distinct possibility that they will be killed for insurance money if they don't measure up on the track. These horses are bred to run. This translates into tall, skinny bodies with exceptionally thin leg bones. They are much more at risk for breaks which, with horses, can be fatal. Please read this statement from the ASPCA on the Eight Belles tragedy at the Kentucky Derby:

“The fragile nature of thoroughbred racehorses and the stress and rigors that the industry subjects on these animals is loudly evidenced in the tragic death of Eight Belles who, as we saw, was euthanized after both of her front ankles collapsed just after coming in second at the Kentucky Derby,” said ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres.

Continued Sayres, “The sport of horse racing is no different than other forms of entertainment where animals are forced to perform, often times in stressful and inhumane conditions. These include being raced too young before reaching physical maturity, being raced excessively, being forced to run on hard or slippery surfaces, or being injected with drugs to enhance performance.”

Almost all racing jurisdictions—New York being one exception—now allow potent anti-inflammatory analgesic drugs to be administered to injured and lame horses to keep them racing in spite of chronic and painful injuries. This ultimate abuse nearly always aggravates injuries. Often an injured leg shatters under the stress of racing, leading to horses becoming crippled and destroyed. Even less fortunate than the horses who are humanely destroyed are those who are less severely injured but forced, through the use of “legalized” drugs, to continue their racing careers.

While there is no evidence that Eight Belles was the victim of abuse, the fact remains that she was subject to compete in a sport known for its inhumane tactics. The ASPCA is opposed to any use of animals for the purpose of entertainment if it involves inhumane practices."