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Does Rachel Alexandra Have to Die to Produce a Winner?

Written by Alisa Mullins | March 8, 2013

Some might consider Rachel Alexandra lucky. In 2009, she became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes. The next year, she was retired from the dangers of the track and training to live as a broodmare—a female horse used for breeding—on a farm in Kentucky. But motherhood isn’t coming easily to her. After the birth of her first foal, Jess’s Dream, last year, Rachel Alexandra experienced pain so severe that she had to be hospitalized. The birth of her second foal last month was even more hazardous: She sustained life-threatening injuries and had to have emergency surgery to remove parts of her large intestines, and she just had another surgery this week to treat an abscess. That is why PETA has written to Rachel Alexandra’s owner, Barbara Banke, urging her to retire the mare from breeding before pregnancy or foaling kills her.

L.Burchfield | cc by 2.0 

Many prize-winning horses—including Lady’s Secret, Meadow Star, Typhoon Tracy, and Urban Sea—have died after giving birth. Rachel Alexandra’s own mother, Lotta Kim, has a history of foaling complications: One of her foals was born prematurely and died, and another died at just 2 years of age because of wobbler syndrome. Lotta Kim rejected Rachel Alexandra, who then had to be raised by a nurse mare. Nurse mares, who are used to produce milk for orphaned foals and those whose mothers are being rebred, are routinely forced into a cycle of serial breeding, only to have their own babies torn away from them.

Tens of thousands of thoroughbreds are bred each year, often in assembly-line conditions like those documented by a PETA undercover investigator. Only a fraction of the 25,000 thoroughbred foals born every year will be winners, resulting in a “surplus” of about 20,000 unwanted thoroughbreds annually. Many of these horses, which can even include former Triple Crown race champions like Rachel Alexandra—and their offspring—are sold at auction and wind up in the hands of “kill buyers” who ship them to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.

Surely, after earning more than $3 million for her owners, Rachel Alexandra has earned the right to a peaceful, leisurely retirement that is free of repeated pregnancies and dangerous foalings. 

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  • TBJunkie says:

    to the comment that says RA’s owners could use a surrogate mare to carry her foals–this would not be true. The Jockey Club does not allow Embryo Transfer (nor do they allow artificial insemination). They are quite strict on this, so in order for RA to have Jockey Club registered Thoroughbred foals, she would have to carry the foal herself.

  • lorraine says:

    I agree with the comments about Rachel being able to be retired with dignity. I, personally am SO against breeding a horse year after year after year after they retire and basically until they are at death’s door, or pensioned, if you will. So, this article AND people’s opinions makes me feel better about my opinion. And, I too think it’s all about money. And, I SO agree that SO many of the foals don’t even make it to the track but they make it to slaughter houses. It’s all about the almighty dollar at the sales ring, too. I always wondered if I owned a great filly would I have to send her off to a farm somewhere. I find every year too excessive and abusive. Check out the Youtube video of I believe it’s Mighty Martha TRYING to foal a Big Brown foal, wow, this is what mares have to go through every year for selfish owners, disgusting. Would I be kicked out of racing if I didn’t allow it, oh well. My filly would be #1. Thank you.

  • Carolina says:

    You know, if they REALLY want her offspring and to continue her bloodline, it could be done with embryo transfer, which isn’t allowed – if i’m not mistaken- on thoroughbreds. It could prevent the death of mares like Rachel and with DNA it can be proved a horse’s bloodline (they use to say embryo transfer would open a door for illegal activities such as fake registers).

  • Lanceferd says:

    Animals are not meant to be breed over and over again until they are near death.Rachel Alexandra already earned her owners over $3 million dollars. What do they want more? Rachel Alexandra should be able to live the rest of her life in peace, not as a breeding machine.

  • Cher Williams says:

    Rachel Alexandria does not have to deliver or carry these foals. In Ocala, Florida they use surrogate mares of any breed and stature to carry the foal instead of valuable Rachel Alexandria. Dont feel sorry for these surrogate mares, they have no other purpose, made to be moms!

  • MARLEEN POTOSKY says:

    I GUESS MONEY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A HORSES LIFE

  • MARLEEN POTOSKY says:

    I AGREE,RACHEL SHOULD RETIRE FROM BREEDING… IF THEY DON;T RETIRE HER, I AM CONSIDERING, FORGETTING HORSE RACING…. MONEY IS NUMBER ONE HORSES LIFE NUMBER TWO

  • Joan says:

    Please retire Rachel Alexandra from breading. She deserves respect and quality care. She should be allowed to retire with dignity.

  • Joan says:

    Please retire Rachel Alexandra from breading. She deserves respect and quality care. She should be allowed to retire with dignity.

  • Desiree Stone says:

    I agree Rachel Alexandria should be retire from breeding… She did enough for her owner and it is now time for the owner to show some respect to her.. She shouldn”t be put into this postion if she is having problems.. How wuld the owner feel if this was happening to her.. Please think about Rachel Alexandria

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