It’s painful and sad to see a horse go down during a horse race. I’ve watched it several times and each time it happens, I shudder. The joy and pleasure of the Kentucky Derby was diminished a bit upon hearing that Eight Belles, the talented filly who ran second to Big Brown, had gone down on the gallop out and had to be euthanized.
Since that harsh event, there has been a bit of an uproar about the death of Eight Belles. Photos and videos of her falling appear daily, although I’ll watch none of them. There are cries of animal cruelty, banning the jockey, Gabriel Saez, punishing the jockey for animal cruelty, banning horse racing. The list goes on and on.
I love horse racing. I hate to see these beautiful animals die when such an event occurs. I’m am not going to be an apologist for this sport either. There are dangers in racing both to horse and rider. Most jockeys have broken many bones in their bodies during their careers of riding on top of 1200 pound animals traveling at 35-40 miles and hour. Several have been paralyzed for life, and others have died during a race.
I’m not even sure they know when or how the injury to Eight Belles occurred. Most racing injuries are to one leg, Eight Belles painfully broke both ankles. That’s very rare.
The answers are not simple. There are some positive safety results in using a synthetic racing surface such as the one at Keeneland. Three year-olds are young animals, their bodies are not completely developed yet. Horses are bred (and significantly inbred), favoring speed over strength and stamina. Performance altering drugs are rampant in the industry.
Horse racing is dangerous for all participants. So is car racing and football. The argument about those sports is that the participants in those sports make a choice, where horses do not.
I will continue to love and enjoy these beautiful animals in racing. I’ll celebrate their achievements and be saddened by their deaths. I’m glad, in some respects, that a discussion is going on about racing. It is needed. On the other hand, a knee-jerk reaction is not.
Your comments are welcome.