The Dark Side of Horse Race

Horse race is a sport where horses are raced against each other over distances ranging from 440 yards (400 m) to two miles (3 km). The contest has a long history and has been practiced in many civilizations throughout the world. The steeds used in these races may be ridden by jockeys, or pulled by sulkies with their drivers. The sport is a favorite for bettors, who place wagers on the outcome of each race.

Despite its golden era when legendary thoroughbreds like Seabiscuit, Man o’ War and Secretariat graced the covers of magazines, today horse racing is an aging sport with declining popularity. The industry is also suffering from a number of severe ethical issues, including the overbreeding of horses and poor management of their welfare.

Most horses are pushed beyond their limits, often to the point of injury or death. Horses that have to travel long distances over hard surfaces will bleed from their lungs, a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. The bleeding is made worse by cocktails of legal and illegal drugs used to mask the effects and boost performance. Many of these horses are then sent to slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico or Japan. Their flesh is then turned into dog food, glue and other products. The few independent nonprofit rescue groups that exist to save ex-racehorses from such a horrific fate are constantly fighting an uphill battle to network, fundraise and work tirelessly for their equine charges.

There are some who would argue that the problems in horse racing aren’t as bad as they were in years past, thanks to improvements in track surfaces, medication regulations and other areas. However, there is a growing awareness of the dark side of horse racing. This is fuelled by PETA’s investigative reports into abusive training practices for young horses, drug use and the transport of countless American horses to foreign slaughterhouses.

The sport’s decline is a major issue for animal advocates who argue that it’s not sustainable without addressing the underlying cruelty. Sadly, despite the best efforts of many people, horse racing can never truly be safe for the animals.

Until these conditions are changed, there will be few if any more sulkies pulling racehorses through the gates of racetracks. Rather, the majority of America’s retired racehorses will spend their days in cramped shipping containers or dying in foreign slaughterhouses. This is a fate that could be avoided if the horse racing industry had the courage to make real reforms and put the welfare of its horses first. A zero-tolerance drug policy, turf tracks only, a ban on whipping and competitive racing for horses only after they have reached their third birthday are just a few of the reforms needed to ensure that horse racing is a fair and humane sport. Please support the efforts of those who are trying to make these changes a reality.