As thoroughbreds race down the stretch, jockeys (as instructed by trainers) whip the horses mercilessly. Sadly, this abuse is standard practice in the U.S., since trainers, owners, and jockeys are all driven by the desire to make money, leaving the horses to suffer terribly.
At a 2008 race, the horse named Appeal to the City suffered hemorrhaging around her eye when jockey Jeremy Rose “engaged in extreme misuse of the whip ….” There are few penalties for extreme whipping in the U.S., even though jockeys in other countries face severe penalties for hurting horses in this way. One U.K. jockey was banned from racing for five days for excessive use of a whip after his horse required oxygen after a race.
PETA has long called for a ban on whips, and there are signs that the industry is bowing to the pressure. In 2009, following persistent pressure from PETA, several prominent tracks, including Churchill Downs, replaced hard leather whips with softer air-cushioned whips. While whips should be banned altogether, the softer crops do not sting or leave welts and cuts on horses as traditional hard leather whips do.
While these are steps in the right direction, the racing industry remains far from humane. Young horses are still forced to race before their bones are fully grown, horses are given drugs so that they can run while injured, and “retired” racehorses—who may be only 3 or 4 years old—are still sent to slaughterhouses. These are just a few of the many abuses that horses endure in the racing industry.