Well-Known Trainer on Kentucky Derby Horses: “Every horse is held down with so much equipment it makes my mouth bleed just watching.” 

Gina Rarick is a well-known American trainer currently working in France. She is, also, a frequent critic of U.S. Racing; in fact, she was on the same “Real Sports” episode on which I appeared. She wrote the following on her FB page Wednesday:

“It’s Kentucky Derby week in America, and while I would like to appreciate the buzz that attracts people to the sport that normally wouldn’t pay any attention, I cannot find much positive to say. The photos of the horses are making my head explode. Every horse is held down with so much equipment it makes my mouth bleed just watching. Lip shanks doubled with crossed nosebands and sometimes tongue ties and more on every one. Every. Single. One. One trainer proudly posted a video of loading a horse to go to Kentucky. It took a lip shank, four people and a broom to get the job done. I would be humiliated to post a video like that.”

And then in response to a question on “lip shanks”: “It’s a chain that goes around the head collar and is placed between the teeth and the upper lip, so pulling it tight is supposed to have an effect sort of like a twitch. If you see some of the Derby horses walking, they are being held down like Macy’s Thanksgiving day balloons. Can’t take one natural step. What you see below the bit in this photo is a very fine tongue tie.”

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  1. How can any tongue tie be described as “very fine” may I ask? Or, is she being sarcastic?

    • Wanda, I don’t believe Rarick is using “fine” as in “of high quality” – but rather like when describing a thread that is thin. I could be wrong. But IF she means fine as in thin, one can imagine the damage a thin rope-like object could do to a horse’s tongue.

  2. Many race horses suffer injuries to their tongues. Many can’t eat or drink properly when their tongues are left hanging out of the side of their mouths. The trainers and jockeys don’t care.

  3. Trying to understand this….they are using tounge ties to prevent cutting their tounges or to control the horse? How can the horse pant? And what is the lip bumper for? This is all terribly abusive.

    • Horses can only breathe through their nostrils. They can’t “pant” like a dog does. This is why horses can drown easily once their head goes under water.

    • Tongue ties are used to prevent the horse from using his/her tongue to manipulate the painful bit. If they get their tongue over the bit, the jockey loses the control the bit provides (its painful pressure). Some apologists claim tongue ties are used to keep the horse from swallowing his/her tongue (claiming “welfare”, keeping the horse “safe”) – anatomically it’s not possible for horses to swallow their tongues. And horses don’t pant – their only means to cool off is via the surface area of their bodies. I’m not certain what you mean by lip bumper?…

      Hope this helps but Jo Anne will have great factual information – be sure to come back to read her post.

      • Have always hated tongue ties!! Used to cringe when we had to see them used on horses we held in the paddock. Hate lip chains just as much used on such sensitive animals as a thoroughbred horses. We have never used such items on any of the horses we have worked with & we refused to do so then or now. The trainers or owners had to use them if they wanted to as we would not apply them at the track where we groomed / galloped horses at.

  4. What I was thinking is (since all horseracing is unnatural and involves abuse, brutality and cruelty) that using tongue ties is for the benefit of the people who are exploiting the horses for racing. Tongue ties are bad for the horses for several reasons as far as I have read about so far. One of the bad things about the use of a tongue tie is that it keeps the horse from being able to keep his or her mouth closed and therefore affects the breathing somehow. There are more details that I can’t recall exactly at the moment but are significant. A bitless bridle is best for people who care about the horse’s health. In horseracing, winning the race is top priority over any concern about a horse’s health. That is a given. I know it’s obvious that in horseracing, keeping horses healthy is not the primary concern and the same with horsemanship. As far as I’m concerned, using tongue ties is one of the many forms of abuse, brutality and cruelty inflicted on horses exploited for racing. It would take a rider with much skill in horsemanship to ride a horse with no bit in the horse’s mouth and still keep in control and safe.

  5. The equipment is all designed to force submission and continued subjugation.
    As for the lip chain I will add, as I’m sure JoAnne will, that the chain actually sits on the gums.
    Yes – the soft fleshy highly sensitive gums where the nerves are located.
    I’ve seen gums and tongues bleed.
    I was continually criticized by many Trainers, when I was in the business, that I used minimal equipment on my horses and they didn’t like that.
    I had 1 high level jockey order me to put a ring bit on my horse or they wouldn’t take the mount and another order me to put a tongue tie on my horse neither one I did.
    So again I would defend my practice only to be negatively labeled and called “crazy Gina” of course.
    So I would tell them I own, train and pay for my horses and you don’t so they are not getting that and then they would call me a bitch.
    So protecting, defending and taking care of my horses meant that I was a “crazy bitch,” yea okay right.
    This entire business is motivated by control over a weaker species in order to exploit and most will do whatever it takes to flip a buck, knowing that there are no consequences for even the most egregious abuse, if that means doing it at the detriment of the racehorse.

    • When we took our horses from our farm to our now defunct local track we tried to use a bit-less bridle & for a little while until they noticed we got away with it! Then we were told to use a bit bride or else! So even later we rode our well taught horse with just a halter until the horse people threatened to fine us or revoke our license. They used to call us those crazy older couple who bring horses to the track in ancient, antique trucks / trailers. The track people also for the most part did not like it when we provided affection & attention to the horses we galloped either. The tracks outrider & his crew were the only exception as they gave their horses lots of affection & attention.

  6. Too bad that good looking horse with the fine tongue tie will probably end up in a slaughterhouse in France.

  7. You can tell a true horseman by the equipment he uses, or more to the point, doesn’t use. This type of abusive gear just shows how ignorant and abusive these people really are when it comes to handling horses, because NONE of it is necessary in ANY situation. It explains why so many horses have head injuries back at the barn – probably going over backwards trying to escape the severe pain these torture devices cause.

  8. For goodness sake another way to torture animals! How can this be sport!

    Horses beaten to go faster! Their mouth made sore!

    Those who breed these poor creatures, those who ride them and those who bet on them are all guilt of animal cruelty.

  9. My horse’s tongue was damaged by tongue ties….as were his arthritic knees. Living proof of the horrors of racing. Used up by racing at 4, now living the happy life as a trail horse with me. He was one of the lucky ones.

  10. Soup and Sandwich was last at the Derby and eased by Tyler the jockey. From what was gathered, people were wondering if all was well. The trainer said he had a soft palate displacement during the race and did not recover fast enough. However, he was fine shortly thereafter. For someone in the know, would that kind of reaction been caused by the mouthpiece equipment mentioned here?

  11. It’s hell to be born a thoroughbred. Fact: 70% of the thoroughbred foal crop of any given year will eventually go to slaughter. How is this allowed? Never forget that horse racing is a business and the living/breathing/feeling product – the horse – is simply discarded when no longer useful (profitable). Why does any of this surprise people? Self-described animals lovers should be beyond appalled – they should contact the authorities because this is cruelty – animal abuse.

  12. OMG! I did not know of this horrible thing they do to these wonderful animals. I did watch the derby but did know of the cruelty behind it. My friends were never informed about the cruelty and acted like they could not believe it. Such cruelty should be exposed more.

  13. We need to pay for more billboards that visually display these instruments of torture! Warren Buffet, where are you on this matter? Can you help us end this arena of torture for fun and profit called “Horse Racing”? How can we raise more funds to make the ignorant fans aware of what’s really going on? They must love looking at the beauty of these noble creatures without noticing their pain.

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