Most of you probably remember the tragedy at the 2008 Kentucky Derby, in which a young filly, Eight Belles, was whipped mercilessly in the final stretch, only to break both her front ankles after she crossed the finish line.
At that time, we called for the racing industry to eliminate, at a minimum, some of its most abusive practices, including permanently banning the use of whips.
In an encouraging sign, California’s Del Mar Racetrack has just announced that it has officially banned the use of hard leather whips and will only allow softer riding crops on the track. These softer crops will not sting or leave welts on horses like traditional hard leather whips do.
All whips should be banned outright, but considering that this reform comes on the heels (hooves?) of similar improvements by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, it seems that the industry is getting the message that “business as usual” won’t fly anymore.
Of course, while these are steps in the right direction, the racing industry is still far from humane. Young horses are still forced to race before their bones are fully mature, horses are pumped with drugs so that they can run while injured, and “retired” racehorses are still sent to slaughter—and these are just some of the many abuses that horses endure in the racing industry. The only way to stop the cruelty altogether is to end horse racing once and for all.
Written by Jeff Mackey