The Plight of Horse Racing

Horse racing is an unusual world with fascinating rules, traditions, and history to uncover. Yet much about this sport can also be less than charming; one aspect worth keeping an eye out for when viewing horse racing is how racehorses are treated from birth until their final end at slaughterhouses. Anyone interested in this form of entertainment should keep this topic top of mind when viewing racing events.

As far as horse racing goes, its origins can only be pinpointed to between 700 to 40 B.C. when Olympic Games became part of it as part of four-hitch chariot races and mounted (bareback) races for riders competing. Over time this activity spread to China, Persia Arabia, North Africa with highly skilled horsemenship cultures where horsemanship flourished.

Modern horse racing has seen numerous technological innovations that have produced significant changes, with race safety taking on an increased priority. Thermal imaging cameras detect heat stress; MRI scanners diagnose injuries and track healing; 3D printing technology creates casts, splints and prosthetics for injured horses; these advancements all add up to make an efficient racing experience.

Even with modern technological advancements, horse racing remains a risky sport. A recent spate of fatalities at Santa Anita in California brought the total equine deaths between 2009-21 to over 7,200; reforms included increasing safety measures. Protocol now mandates necropsy after each death for further analysis; yet still more deaths have taken place than expected.

As part of modern horse racing, one troubling aspect is the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Trainers frequently administer such substances to young horses to aid with development faster and keep them competitive as they age; these substances have numerous adverse side effects for horses including muscle breakdown, gastrointestinal problems and liver damage. Random drug testing exists; however many trainers choose not to adhere and over medicate and over train horses, ultimately forcing them into retirement.

No matter the best efforts of independent nonprofit rescues and individuals who network, fundraise, and work tirelessly to save them, many former racehorses continue to fall prey to slaughter pipelines despite efforts from independent nonprofit rescues and individuals who network, fundraise, and work tirelessly in their defense. They may get some chance in Facebook posts or short windows of opportunity before being shipped off for slaughter in Canada or Mexico; to ensure horse racing’s respectability in future it must end the exploitation of these sensitive, intelligent, beautiful creatures by giving them life they deserve in return!


June 2024

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