In June, Dr. Kraig Kulikowski, renowned equine veterinarian, testified (along with me and several others) before two NYS Senate committees. Highlights and video follow:
A two-year-old horse is equivalent to a six-year-old human. A three-year-old horse is equivalent to a nine-year-old human. Yet, the biggest races…are for three-year-olds. They still have their baby teeth. Their bones are not mature. Their brains are not mature. I can just tell you that as a two and a three-year-old, all their body parts are immature at that point and that they’re still developing.
These juveniles are herded out to the racetrack for less than 30 minutes of exercise per day. Then, these juveniles spend the rest of the day standing in a 12-foot by 12-foot stall. A 12-by-12 stall for a thousand-pound horse is equivalent to a four-foot by four-foot closet for a one-hundred-pound child. Most of these juveniles never see pasture or a moment of playtime once they start their racing career. What impact would twenty-three and one-half hours of standing in a closet have on the bone strength of a child? What impact would twenty-three and one-half hours of standing in a closet have on the mental health of a child?
The juvenile racehorse often comes off the track with stomach ulcers from the stress of their work and environment. These juvenile racehorses also leave the track with tendon and ligament injuries which severely impact their comfort… These juvenile racehorses often have evidence of osteoarthritis, even at the ripe old age of four years old. Some of the arthritis is from straight wear and tear. The rest of the arthritis is from chronic repetitive and excessive joint injections with corticosteroids. These juvenile racehorses also often have been mentally stressed to the point where many boarding facilities do not accept thoroughbred as boarders because they are considered dangerous or wild.
Twenty years ago…I learned that two and three-year-old horses are juveniles and should not be stunted for greed. I learned I wanted to help horses stay sound and healthy throughout their entire life, not just until the next race. I actually learned to be a good equine veterinarian. I could not be a racetrack veterinarian.