To preface, this will be a bunch of first hand knowledge, coming from a complete laymen in the industry. I am simply a constant observer with an opinion…and I like animals, but enjoy making animal rights organizations look ridiculous because I believe that for the majority they are poorly organized and totally corrupt. My family farm is in Indiana just across the river from Louisville Kentucky. My grandfather bred and ran racehorses as my uncle does now, many of them at The Downs. I have wandered the horse barns there, and braved the cigar smoke in the trainer’s room as a child.
Horse racing is a horrible industry as is any industry that involves animals and gambling. Animals constantly get hurt because of people’s greed. Horses legs get iced so that it will numb the pain, and this makes them more likely to stumble on the track and suffer sever injury. In the history of horse racing, horses have been poisoned and killed, and barns of thoroughbreds have been purposely set on fire. I have been around a lot of racehorses and I honestly have to say that I have never really met a happy one. Maybe they are only actually happy when they are on the track. Otherwise, I learned at an early age to keep my distance because they often bite and throw their heads. Imagine an animal that is bred to want to run so badly that it is constantly wired. They are like horses that are on methamphetamine all of the time, and the only thing that calms them is to run and run and run. I can’t see how it is a very happy existence for them.
This is likely surprising info. Especially when it is coming from a woman who has a racehorse named after her. Her name was Krissy Kes and she did okay back in the late eighties, even won a few races. The worst part about my whole story is that many years ago the animal rights groups managed to get legislation passed that illegalized selling old horses for meat. If you are ignorant to how horses die, this may sound like a good idea, but the reality is cruel and torturous. I am sure that most people believe that retired racehorses live out their years on happy farms being bred and well taken care of. That is not the case for the majority of them. The Derby happens one day a year, and those horses that you watch on television are the celebrities of horse racing. There are many, many, horses out there that are not nearly so entitled or well treated as they are.
A great deal of horses end up being kept on small farms by elderly owners who do not have a lot of money. They take care of the horses because they care about them, even though they can barely afford to feed them. Before the new law passed, when a horse started to get old and sick, their owner could call “the killer” to come and pick them up and take them to be slaughtered. This may sound cruel, but the horses were slaughtered humanely, whereas the alternative is gruesome. When horses get old and sick their hooves rot and they cannot be shod. Parasites and maggots infest them from the feet up and literally eat them alive. This can go on for months and months while the once majestic animals suffer. When farmers have very little money, and cannot afford the fees involved in calling out a professional to put the animal down, and haul away and dispose of the body, they are often forced into this situation. In my opinion, I would much rather die a quick and easy death, no matter who ate me after I was dead, rather than suffer being eaten alive.
Yes, the horses are beautiful to look at, and the events are very exciting. Beyond what happens to these beautiful animals are the stories of the people who have lost their livelihoods to betting on races, and the jockeys who have been permanently injured or killed. The sparkle and the glamour is all just a big cover for the ugliness of the reality of horse racing.