“They Love to Run”

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2 min read

Well, about 500 or so comments later, the thread on this post about the recent Kentucky Derby horror is still going strong. It’s clear that this issue has deeply affected a lot of people—and hopefully, all this emotion about Eight Belles’ tragedy will result in some actual reforms that will give at least some degree of protection to the horses who are abused by this industry.

I don’t usually make a point of singling out certain comments on this blog, but there were enough people who made statements along the lines of “But horses are born to race. That’s what they love,” or, like, “They’re treated better than most humans,” that I figured it was worth pointing out a few more things about the horseracing industry, which, like any industry which depends on animal domination and exploitation, will try to get away with any abusive or neglectful practice that might make them an extra dime. And the real victims—Eight Belles and the thousands of less famous horses who died under similar circumstances or else were shipped off to Europe for human consumption—live miserable lives and die painful deaths.

Here are a few key points about how this works, and there’s lots more info on this horseracing factsheet:

  1. Nobody “loves to run” when they’re suffering from bleeding lungs or painful leg injuries, but that doesn’t stop trainers from pumping these animals full of drugs to mask the pain, enhance their performance and just plain keep them going. We are getting calls and faxes about all kinds of cocktail mixes that “are common knowledge in the back stretch.” Sometimes people are caught and suspended when they’re careless—as was the case with this veterinarian who got busted for injecting cobra venom into a horse as a nerve blocking agent. For real.
  2. Why was Eight Belles so fragile? Well, horses begin training when their skeletal systems are still growing, and they’re completely unable to deal with pounding their limbs into jelly on a hard track at high speeds. Don’t tell me that all those people who “really know about horses” didn’t have an inkling that this filly – a filly, no less – was a high risk for serious injuries like the ones she sustained. But she was raced anyway. Any gue$$es as to why?
  3. As I mentioned before, horses that don’t make the cut get shipped off to slaughterhouses. The fact that anybody who knows this would still have the gall to comment on this blog saying that these animals are “treated better than most humans” is just too depressing to even think about.

For better or for worse, Eight Belles is now a very public representative of an industry that’s rotten to its rotten core. My only hope is that people will keep looking deeper into the way these horses are treated. And don’t dare try and tell me that they like it.

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