Opinion Piece: “Romanticizing horseracing is harder to do when you know the facts.”

Excerpts from an opinion piece in the Concord Monitor Wednesday:

“When I was a kid, my favorite movie was ‘Phar Lap,’ based on the true story of an Australian racehorse. I loved that movie and that horse. It was tragic and made me cry in heartbreak. A kind boy trains a mistreated horse, and then he wins and wins and wins horse races.

“As moving and memorable as that movie was, it never made me particularly curious about the realities of horse racing. I thought jockeys were interesting, and the horses were extraordinary specimens of beauty, strength and agility. I would wonder about the treatment of the horses from time to time, but that was it.

“Fast forward to today. Working with the NH Animal Rights League, I volunteered to research the reality of horse racing because of last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. And here are the facts.

“According to the organization Horseracing Wrongs, over 1,000 racehorses died on-site in 2019. That is about 20 a week and does not count deaths from other sites related to horse racing (private training facilities, euthanized on farms, the thousands of ‘retired’ ones sold to slaughter).

“Although the use of illegal performance-enhancing and pain masking drugs is rampant in horse racing, even if a horse is drug-free, the strain of a 1,200-pound animal storming down the track at 40 mph exerts incredible stress on the horse’s comparatively fragile legs.

“Ending horse racing is within our power. Look to greyhound racing for proof of that. Only three states now have greyhound tracks. After a long awareness campaign and the changing of laws by animal rights activists, we have realized that racing dogs for monetary profit is not okay, and the same is true of horses.

“Horses have a long history of working for us. They helped plow our fields, pulled our wagons, went to war with us, and even died on our battlefields. Isn’t it time we do something for them? Romanticizing the Kentucky Derby and horseracing is harder to do when you know the facts.” – Emily Murphy

13 Comments

  1. This is so true!!!! Knowing the gruesome facts about how badly horses are treated makes all the difference!!!

  2. The facts are hidden by the media. Horseracing would’ve been shut down yesterday except for the media’s avoidance of the subject.

  3. Well stated, Emily Murphy! My personal favorite racing glamorization back then was “The Black Stallion” (book series followed by a movie that came out when I was a horse-crazy child). It would never have occurred to me then to question the movie’s ridiculousness, because I’d been so captivated by the visuals and the (supremely absurd) storyline. I mean, really? A horse with blood running down his legs, miles behind his adversary in a MATCH RACE, goes on to a courageous and heartwarming WIN? Thus redeeming his former-fellow-castaway child owner’s honor, and instantly salvaging the will to live of a washed-up old, alcoholic trainer? Can’t believe I ever found that obscenity remotely entertaining — talk about a willing suspension of disbelief!
    Nowadays, of course, I’d be about as inclined to accept that typical industry tripe as watch a movie that glamorizes dog fighting: “A lonely little girl rescues a mangy, misunderstood, homeless bitch, who then goes on to kill every one of her adversaries in the ring, thus teaching us all the true power of love…blah, blah, blah.”
    Oh well. We live and learn, I suppose. Most of us do, anyway.

    • I went to hammer the “Like” button for a minute straight, Kelly, in response to your comment!…and came to my senses that I’m not on Facebook. 😳

    • I hear you, Kelly! I’ve been an Arabian horse enthusiast since I was a tiny child. I loved the Black Stallion. And now, in retrospect, I have to ask myself, “What was I thinking? Celebrating a horse with a badly bleeding leg continuing to run in a race and winning! The things we rationalize in the name of entertainment! Shame!

  4. Today I saw a picture on a website of a black horse jumping straight up vertical in mid air so high that his hindquarters with legs tucked up were next to the man’s head who stood beside him with furrowed brows and a terribly mad look on his face as he stared up at that horse with an evil look on his face as if to say, I’ll show you, you rat! I can only imagine that he was punishing the horse by holding down the button on the buzzer/electrical shocker for a long time. How can any person do that to an innocent animal?!

    I know it happens all the time in horseracing, but this was pretty extreme considering that the horse was up above the man’s head except for his hindquarters which were level with the man’s head. No wonder racehorses flip over in the paddock and the gate and run into things on the track. I’ve read that they are so conditioned to it that even just the sound of a buzzer alone terrifies them and makes them flip, and of course injure themselves, often times fatally. I’m pretty sure the people holding the buzzer enjoy this reaction very much because it makes them feel so powerful over the poor scared-to-death animal victim.

    After reading all about tongue ties, bits, and blinker cups from yesterday’s HRW article by Jo Anne Normile and the comments that followed from some of our most experienced and knowledgeable members, it just drives home how knowingly cruel and heartless these racing people are, to the point of even preventing the poor horses from breathing as they’re running as fast as they can with their tongues hanging out of their mouths while being beaten to within an inch of their lives by the overly aggressive angry jockeys that drive these horses around the track like race cars. I hope that article opened the eyes of lots of people who just don’t realize how bad horseracing really is.

    All of this made me hurt so much more and feel even more sad than I already do for the beautiful horses. I hope more and more people are beginning to realize what goes on and that we really do need to defund horseracing.

    • You really need to do some more research. You all sound so stupid. These horses are bred to run. They do not have to be beat to runs around that track and would be more than willing to. Horses that don’t like racing are just more costly so they get retired and sent into another discipline through adoption networks that are run straight at the tracks. Do half of you even own horses. Or ever owned an OTTB for that matter.

      • Wow. I’m sorry to say you are showing great ignorance about horses, breeding and racing. Yes, many of us DO know about horses and own them. These animals are bred to be light and fast, indeed. Quite breakable. If they loved running at the very top of their endurance over a preset distance they wouldn’t need the whippings. You are invited to visit me anytime and I can whip you around my ring while my neighbors and I make bets on how long you last…
        Thousands of horses die on the track. Thousands of disposable, washout racers go to slaughter. Few horses off the track are adopted, and many of those that are fortunate enough to be adopted, need lengthly and expensive rehab, both mentally and physically. There are very few re-homes available for these “disposables”. Their numbers are too great. Equine charities spend huge sums trying to care for these unwanted horses who are overbred to provide a constant stream of chattel for the tracks. In other words, there are many of us trying to clean up the mess and the discards from the racing industry, but it’s an impossible task.
        Even top money makers – such as our recent Kentucky Derby winner – are medicated so they can continue to run when their tendons, ligaments, bones and cardio vascular systems are damaged.
        How do I know this? I’ve been to the tracks, I’ve seen the training practices, I’ve cared for 7 thoroughbreds and Standardbreds from off the track, and I read the official statistics on racing injuries and deaths. The facts are indesputable – racing is a gambling activity that abuses and monetizes animals for betting purposes.

        • Charlotte,
          Thank you for the perfect answer to this incredibly delusional person who continues to deny the reality of the facts!!!!!! False statements are not helping any of these victims of the cruelty and routine abuse of the racing and Pari-Mutuel gambling industry!!!! You told the truth Charlotte! Thank you!!!!
          #HorseracingisAnimalCruelty

  5. Thank you, Emily.
    Education and facts are changing minds about horse racing. It’s past time to do away with a “sport” that kills thousands of it’s athletes…and disposes of tens of thousands more when they stop making money for owners and gamblers.

  6. The horse racing industry is cruel and gruesome. Too many young abused, drugged horses dying at tacks. Look at the rate. It must be stopped. I stopped watching when 8 Bells shattered both front legs crossing the finish line at the Derby.

  7. What a powerful commentary! Thank you, Emily Murphy. I absolutely hate the term “woke,” but I now have been since the terrible breakdown of Mongolian Groom. Yes, I was a rabid racing fan, and I also called myself an “animal rights activist.” You can’t be in favor of animal rights, or for the more timid, animal welfare, and be in favor of horse-racing. Once educated, you can find no logical reason to support this cruelty-laced industry. It needs to be tossed on the scrap heap of other human traditions and activities that exploited both animals, and people!

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