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Horse Empathy Park at Pimlico: Barbaro’s Revenge?

Written by PETA | April 14, 2009


popsci / CC

It seems that people are getting wise to how the horse-racing industry causes horses to suffer and die, and they’re staying away from the tracks in droves. The most recent casualty is Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. Pimlico’s owners have gone bankrupt, and it now appears that the state may take possession of the track.

With the death of the racing industry looming, we’re asking Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley for his help in turning Pimlico into a horse empathy park. Pimlico should serve as a memorial for the thousands of horses who have died in pursuit of “the roses” (such as Barbaro, who died following his excruciating injury during the Preakness, held at—guess where?—Pimlico). The notorious racetrack can become a center where people can experience what it’s like to be a “champion.”

If Governor O’Malley comes through, visitors could tour educational displays about horses, see exhibits of painful bits and spurs, and even experience blinkers, whipping, and the “fun” of racing around a track with a heavy weight on their back. If it helps shut down more racetracks, I can’t think of a better way to spend a vacation!

Written by Jeff Mackey

Commenting is closed.
  • Paintmare06 says:

    I swear…how DARE you bring Barbaro into this! How DARE you! No one I repeat NO ONE including you people are allowed to bring his name up EVER again! You don’t care about the horse only the media coverage. How DARE you trash the memory of this champion’s name by using it in such a fashion! Words CANNOT DESCRIBE how furious I am right now. Leave my precious boy to rest in peace!

  • Lara says:

    In regards to the posting above there are inaccuracies in your statement as well as points you have left out. The cushy life of racehorses you describe only applies to a very small percentage of racehorses namely the horses that are talented enough to run in prestigious graded stakes such as the wellknown Triple Crown races or Breeders Cup. You fail to mention the majority of horses in the industry which run in the lower ungraded stakes races. These “secondrate” animals are subject to the ongoing shuttling between race courses and owners. And all racehorses are often subject to drugging with pharmaceuticals and steroids. Furthermore you have focused on the cause of Barbaro’s death being laminitis which it was. However he would not have been prone to contracting laminitis if he hadn’t shattered his leg on the racetrack in the first place. The heart of the problem in the horse racing industry is this the horses begin vigorous training often involving drugs to help their muscles bulk up when they are way too young. At 2 years old the bones in horses legs are not yet fully developed thus making them extremely susceptible to lifethreatening injuries on the track. In addition horses are often druggedup with painkillers allowing them to run when they shouldn’t be running. If you examine other disciplines where thoroughbreds are often used like Olympic show jumping and 3 day eventing which all require superior athleticism you will find that these horses do not seem to suffer the leg injuries so common in horse racing. Why? They don’t begin their careers as immature physically and emotionally babies and are allowed to mature naturally. You also fail to mention handicap racing where horses are given extra weight to carry based on their race history. Handicappers are not veterinarians or animal behaviorists and the extra weight can often cause unnecessary stress and strain for the horses. Now this is not to say that there aren’t exceptions to the rule and that there aren’t owners trainers and jockeys that love their horses and do what’s in their animal’s best interest because there are. But the point is when an industry involving animals is ultimately defined by the bottom line money! the animals will almost certainly be subjected to various types of cruelty and suffering.

  • SQ says:

    Barbaro was euthanized after he contracted laminitis in his front legs not directly from his injury. Get the facts right. It was an unfortunate complication. Things like that happen especially with such large animals. His recovery was hard but he was a soldier throughout it all making many milestones that horsemen ought to be proud of. The Barbaro memorial fund was created after his death to help other equines in the racing industry. Obviously the horse racing industry cared deeply for this young horse as well as the others that race every day. There are numerous charities and research efforts today that have helped to advance medical care and track infrastructure. Many breakthroughs have been made. “visitors could tour educational displays about horses see exhibits of painful bits and spurs” Painful bits? As if! Most racehorses have very mild eggbutt or snaffle bits. The more complicated therefore more harsh bits are used in precision sports such as dressage as they allow better communication between the horse and rider. There are cases in racing where a horse will be so excited that they pull against a bit hard and tear at the ends of their mouths. However no bit in racing is painful. Remember horse in painless chance he’ll win. Simple logic. Oh and spurs are prohibited in racing. Top up your knowledge PeTA. “and even experience blinkers” Horse racing does not use blinkers they use blinders bits of cloth hoods that contain plastic cups. Shadow rolls are also used. These devices are meant to direct a horse’s attention and reduce the likelihood that the horse will spook or become frightened on the track. The famous Secretariat performed phenomenally with this trademark blue and white blinders. They do not hurt the horse and are used only when the horse benefits from them. It’s only for two minutes people the horse won’t die from it. It is much akin to the sensation of a fly mask. “whipping and the “fun” of racing around a track with a heavy weight on their back.” Sigh. Again with the whipping? CROPS not whips don’t cause inherent pain unless used improperly. Used well they direct a horse and allow better horse human communication. This is a racetrack not a school ring and jockeys can find it hard to direct a horse while going so fast riding in an aerodynamic position that decreases control. Heavy weight? That’s an insult to jockeys. Horses can carry over 20 of their weight on their backs. This is akin to about a 200 pound person for the average 1000 pound horse. Jockeys weigh on average 100112 pounds. Not heavy at all plus in an aerodynamic position the horses have no problem at all carrying them for two minutes or so. When the race is over the horses are cooled get plenty of praises on how good they were winners or not get a nice bath and get to go home and have a nice dinner. They race on average once every couple weeks or so. After that career they are retired and can either go into breeding or another offtrack career. Not a tough or “inhumane” life whatsoever. If I were to come back as an animal I would hope to be a racehorse.

  • Battle says:

    I’ve seen too many horses ruined both physically and mentally by this cruel ‘sport’… it’s gotta be stopped.

  • Donnelle says:

    I knew about that I was there working and im glad that I am not working there anymore all they saying that horses has no minds and smart all they talk about the money is import than horses’s feeling!! I wish the horses can be enough smart poop on there face than money!!!!!!

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I vote for the Rescue Center idea. I would also have a veterinarian talk to the visitors about why these accidents happen what happens when a horse breaks his or her leg and why the animal must be euthanized when this happens instead of attempting to treat the break.

  • katelin says:

    As an equestrian I know the dark side of the horse industry like horse sales and horse racing. I think horse racing is an American past time but it needs to come to an end. Horses today compared to the past are not being bred the to the same quality. The quality of the horse is being forgotten in the racing industry and that is why some many injuries have happen on the tracks in the past years including Barbaro. I think it is a great idea to ask the Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley to change Pimlico into a horse empathy park. However I feel if the Governor OMalley is going to make Pimlico into a horse empathy park it should be about educating the public on the dangers of horse racing and the industry rather than scaring them off jockeys do not weigh that much. I think a better idea of the state of Pimlico is to change the park to a race horse rescue center. A rescue center can help educate the public in seeing the different types of harm the race industry does to horses and how much horse racing needs to be stop or have limits put on it like the age of the horse.

  • Justine says:

    Many people know greyhound racing is cruel but then they turn around and bet on a horse race. I wish people could see that both are cruel and unnecessary.