Shame On Anyone Who Attends a Steeplechase

The website for “The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens” in Pine Mountain, Georgia, boasted the following in advance of this year’s running on November 7: “Each November, magnificent champion thoroughbred horses gather on the Callaway grounds to charge through our stunning woodland setting. Thrilling jumps and deft maneuvers will leave you breathless, while the foxhound parade will put a smile on your face. On Saturday, savor a picnic on the infield, show off a traditional race hat, and soak in the festive hunt club atmosphere.”

In this “festive atmosphere,” says the Stewards’ Report, two of those “magnificent champion thoroughbred horses” were killed. Killed. In the 4th race, Zanzi Win, five, “fell at the next to last hurdle, was not able to get up, and was euthanized on the course.” Very next race, Just a Whim, four, “fell at the last fence, did not get up and was euthanized on the course.” Two dead horses right there on the course in back to back races. Still, the stewards closed with this:

“The race committee is to be congratulated on their efforts to put on the race meet and putting in place all the procedures and safeguards to enable patrons to attend in a safe environment. The turf on the racecourse was in excellent condition and the clerk of the course is to be congratulated on providing lush turf.”


As to those “patrons” – why were they even there in the midst of a raging pandemic? – let me just say this: Shaming, the experts admonish, is an ineffective way to modify other people’s behavior. Worse, we’re told, it likely deepens divides, more firmly entrenching positions. But sorry, with the wicked steeplechase I can think of no other word but shame. If you’ve never been but are considering, there’s no excuse: information on steeplechase cruelty is readily available. If you have, you know first hand that horses fall and are injured regularly at these events – in addition to the two dead, six other horses went down at Callaway, one colliding with Zanzi – and you must know that some die (as mentioned, the two above were euthanized where they lay). Which means you consciously prioritize your own fleeting pleasure over the suffering and death of other sentient beings. For shame. For shame.

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  1. This is so horrific! The humans attending this event have no shame or concern for the horses. This event should be prohibited.

  2. Having said this many times (and the regulars here know my stance), the GLORIOUS Steeplechase is the most barbaric racing ever. It is setup to be survival of the fittest running 2 to 3 miles and jumping over “hurdles” of various obstacles. Toward the end the jockey starts escalating the speed to an exhausted horse. It is gross abuse and is seen in other countries as a weekly pastime. I could go on but you get the point. Another money making past time that should jump a hurdle and disappear

  3. You would really have to be a bloodthirsty devil to actually enjoy watching horses fall from exhaustion and not be able to clear a jump or a hedge or a stone wall and be killed. As most people who know anything at all about horses and that know that Thoroughbreds are not fully grown and developed until the age of SIX-YEARS-OLD, racing 4-year-old and 5-year-old Thoroughbreds is bad enough on a flat track. It is even worse on a jump course!!!!

    • Another thing that is SHAMEFUL is that the Humane Society of the United States does nothing to stop this horrendous, barbaric, inhumane treatment of horses!!!!!!!!!

  4. I watched a steeplechase once, and once was enough. No horses died, but one cut it’s leg and the jockey, who did not realize the horse was injured, kept galloping. I saw the blood streaming down the horse’s leg, and that turned me off to the sport completely.

  5. thought we had evolved that we do not need to abuse animals for entertainment. Outdated-needs to stop.

  6. It is always the poor horses forced to do these races that suffer. Don’t give a toss about the jockey. It is their choice which the horse doesn’t have. If the jockey gets killed, so what. The greedy owners & trainers are just money grabbing evil people. This just sucks & should have been banned years ago.

    • When Karma rears its ugly head, I hope I’m first in line to buy the T-shirt. Will wear it proudly,

  7. If providing the truth about steeplechase is “shaming”, then so be it. And if the “experts” feel the truth needs to be prettied up so it’s more readily accepted, shame on them. These poor animals are forced to live (and die) the ugly truth – and some humans are so weak and selfish they can’t acknowledge it?

  8. This is disgusting!..”hicks from the stakes in Georgia!” All about the money im sure!..sick bunch of people

  9. The wretched human species seems incapable of doing anything for entertainment that doesn’t involve the torment and death of animals and of course, involves money.

  10. Back in the mid 60’s, my mom bought me a TB gelding to show in hunters and equitation. His name was Bit O’ Scotch and he came from Meshewa Farm owned by Mary Stephenson. Meshewa was also the home of Jay Trump so Bit O’ Scotch and Jay Trump were stablemates. I remember meeting Jay Trump at Meshewa and suffice it to say I was awe struck. I felt honored to be in his presence.

    Jay Trump won the English Grand National in 1965. He was the first American owned, bred and ridden horse to win that race. Sounds exciting, right? Well, you would be wrong because out of the approximately 50 horses that started that steeplechase, only 14 finished. The video of the race is truly troubling and, after realizing the horrors these horses faced, I turned against that industry, too.

    Here is the link if anyone is interested.

    • Mary, that is a very interesting story. Did you continue to ride your horse, Bit O’ Scotch, in hunters and equitation? I think 3 foot jumps on the flat are not too bad. I have seen several videos of people letting their horses run loose in an indoor covered arena, and sometimes outdoor arenas, to jump small hurdles without a rider on the horse’s back. A lot of people don’t have access to such facilities, especially members of 4-H and local saddle clubs.

      • Yes, Wanda, I showed Bit O’ Scotch in Junior Hunter (3′ 6″ jumps) and Equitation (over fences and on the flat) throughout the 60’s and then, when I was no longer a Junior rider, I showed in the Amateur division (also 3′ 6″ fences) into the mid-70’s. Bitsy was my “heart” horse back in those days and we were soul mates. I know that sounds silly but it was true. I sincerely believe that Bitsy enjoyed his life with me and he was with me until he was euthanized in 1984 at the age of 28.

        I no longer ride. I just do rescue but I firmly believe that horses can have a job that they enjoy, especially when that job is a low level one. None of my horses ever entered a show ring or hunt course with drugs in their systems. They were never injected to keep them going and enjoyed being turned out regularly. Now, is it necessary for a horse to have a job? I no longer feel that it is but to say that horses should never be ridden isn’t something that I agree with at this point in my life.

        Jumping small hurdles/jumps without a rider is part of training a horse. It was done years ago and still is a part of training. Just to be clear, though, I am not a fan of 4H. I refuse to support it for many reasons that I won’t go into on the blog.

    • Thank you for the link! Have always disliked jumps racing. The attrition rate for the race that J trump won was horrific! Noticed that the next Grand National race shown for 1973 the announcer said it might be the last. Certainly hope it was for the sake of the horses! We would have been awestruck & honored to have been in the presence of J. Trump to after seeing what he went through & survived!

  11. God does it hurt to see that large beautiful body in such an unnatural position, hurtling to a devastating impact upon the ground. They just do not deserve this.

  12. See, I didn’t know this was cruel. That photo is obviously bad. But the blockhouse steeplechase in tryon NC is the only horse race I have ever been to. People don’t go to watch the race, they go to get dressed up, get drunk, and tail gate. Its not about the horses for hardly ANYONE in attendance.

    I even know a few of the jockeys. They aren’t evil people.

    But I work in dog sled racing now. So Im VERY familiar with the concept of normalized cruelty. I’ve been to a steeplechase and didn’t think twice about the training methods or whether its a humane event or not. I don’t know anything about riding horses.

    Thats what im up against with sled dog racing. People just have no idea what they are looking at. Just because people DO it, and its a tradition. Doesn’t mean its not inhumane or we should KEEP doing it.

    The Iditarod is cruel beyond measure, but people really can’t see that from the outside. Its just so far outside of their general experience and knowledge base.

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