Horse Racing and Steeplechases: Sports of Death
May 12, 2016
Ashley Roth, Communications Director
Nashville’s annual Steeplechase is happening in a matter of days. Many associate this event with big hats, Southern tradition, and a mint julep or two. These patrons never think about prescription cocktails that numb horse’s pain or abnormally speed up their performance. They never think about overworked horses discarded and sent to slaughter. They never think about the damaging injuries or too frequent deaths. And why would they? The industry has worked hard to shield the public from the truth.
Arcadius, the most famous horse to publicly meet his tragic fate at the Iroquois Steeplechase in 2012. Arcadius won the biggest race of the day and on his way to the winner’s circle he collapsed and died in front of the spectators.
When you examine the horse racing industry, you find their torture glaringly obvious. Horses may enjoy a galloping stroll through a pasture naturally, but the intense sprinting at the mercy of the human riding on top of them is totally contrived. It isn’t the horse seeking first- place–it’s the people who profit from equine victory.
Here’s the path from horse to overflowing pockets:
It begins in their cultivation of racing horses, with breeding and unnatural alterations. Trainers like horses to have skinny legs and ankles to make them lighter and controlled breeding makes this all too possible. With this unnatural physical adjustment, horses are more prone to broken bones–often fatal. Skeletal fractures make up 87% of fatal injuries at a racetrack. The American Association of Equine Practitioners can verify that number. Surely, you’ve heard of horses dying at race tracks? The horse racing industry will tell you it’s rare, that they love the horses. The reality is between 700-800 racehorses die annually. At 2012’s Iroquois Steeplechase the winning horse died of an aneurysm two minutes after he crossed the finish line (see photo on right/below). Maybe it was stress from the repeated whipping on the track. Maybe it was from the synthetic liquids coursing through his body.
PETA did an undercover investigation (see video below) so convincing even the New York Times covered it. They found the most prevalent tool in horse racing training was the myriad of injections race horses receive. There’s thyroid medication to increase metabolism. Muscle relaxers and high doses of pain relievers to force horses to race beyond physical capabilities. Many injection sites become blistered, with discolored pus oozing from open sores. And that is the horror associated with legal medications. There are also several illegal drugs being administered, such as the steroid Winstrol.
Beyond the excess medication pumped into horses are other “band-aids” to get them to the finish line–alive or dead. PETA’s video showed a horse’s sunken hoof filled with superglue. Even the malicious players of the horse racing industry were a little unnerved at that revelation.
Not all horses die on the race track. Some are slaughtered. They live in filthy barns at the mercy of greedy humans; they run and compete. Their legs are shriveled, but don’t break. These horses are retired after their exploitation is over. Being of no more use as a commodity, they are killed. Scrapped horses are sent to other countries, such as Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Sweden–and it looks like the United States has renewed interest in slaughtering horses. Remember when Congress approved funding for equine slaughterhouse inspections?
After all that, I’m guessing you aren’t interested in the spring dresses and wide-brimmed hats anymore, right? Hopefully, your stomach is turning over what these horses endure. You’re probably angry that the horse racing industry is deceptive and cruel. Bring that anger, that disgust, and that passion for these beautiful creatures to our protest. Tell the Iroquois Steeplechase that their event is unnecessary and heinous. Horse should run at their own will and not for human wealth.