Former Exercise Rider: “Racing Is Attrition Warfare”

Some excerpts from a new Guardian article penned by former exercise rider Elizabeth Banicki. (all emphases mine)

Horses running in the Kentucky Derby have only just hit their third birthday. Those magnificent creatures…are but enslaved toddlers. No horse at two or even three years old is physically or mentally prepared for what is forced upon it by the racing industry. Even with new measures and oversight in place, young horses continue to break down, suffer injuries that will be chronic for the rest of their lives, and are medicated when they would not otherwise be if not for the damage done by the immense pressure they are under.

Many two-year-olds are hammered through training because their three-year-old year is critical to their success as a racehorse and their future in breeding. … A horse whose legs are not even close to reaching maturity but can remain cold and tight through all of this would truly be a wonder of nature. 

“[W]hile there are numerous hardworking donation-based thoroughbred rescues across the United States, thousands of racehorses who have exited the industry due to injuries sustained during racing languish ignored and forgotten in the filthy and disease-infested hell of the slaughter pipelines.

For years I rode babies on the track. … Like bony-kneed children, they stumbled and zigzagged lost and wide-eyed down the stretch by the grandstand. … We were encouraged to ‘make them gallop’, meaning push them to exert, and we did by kissing and clicking into their ears, driving them forward, whipping them. Some had breathing issues and would be so exhausted they felt nearly ready to collapse beneath you. Some came off the gallops unsound. Sometimes they did not return to training at all. The body of a racehorse is remarkably fragile. The shins and ankles, particularly of a baby, are hardly thicker than a man’s wrist. But even for the horses who uphold well, racing is attrition warfare.

“When I hear Baffert say these horses are like his children, I ask: Is this how he treats his children?

“[I] work to come to terms with whatever damage I may have done to horses in the name of the sport. In the name of my own legacy. I left racing because as I grew older, I began to recognize the track as an abusive place for horses.”

Thank you, Elizabeth. (full article here)

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  1. Child labor laws governing human beings were put in place to protect human children from being forced to work as though they were adults in the United States and in England for good reasons. Children were treated like slaves in many cases. They worked in factories and coal mines for room and board and a small percentage of what adult workers were paid.
    We need to pass laws to stop the INHUMANE PRACTICE OF EXPLOITATION OF HORSES AT THE IMMATURE AGES that is standard routine practice in this vile gambling business also referred to as the Sport of Kings. The industrial revolution exploited human children. The racing and Pari-Mutuel gambling industry exploits colts and fillies when they are immature. It is FUNDAMENTALLY INHUMANE to demand and force immature horses to perform as though they were adult horses.

  2. We have read Elizabeth`s article & what she writes of is correct! It is an industry of attrition to both horses & people too! Over a 25+ year experience within all facets of the industry, groom, exercise rider , sales consignor , breeder , farm operator we would say she is correct about her views. Racing is just a ” crooked , crummy , gamboling game ” in all aspects including the veterinary care aspects too.

  3. The Horse Racing Industry now suffers from “Normalization of Deviants”-a phrase which defined the failure within the NASA space program which lead to the Challenger’s blowing up with several astronauts and a school teacher on board. The heat deflecting tiles of the nosecone kept falling off but they did nothing to stop it because, even though they knew it was “wrong” it became accepted as “normal” because it happened all the time. Constant Race horse fatalities absent trainer accountability, administrative authorities manipulation instead of enforcement of rules are primary examples of the corruption (tiles falling off the nosecone) which is accepted as “normal” in the horse racing industry.

    Unless today’s trainers quickly become good enough horsemen to end their dependency on drugs and figure out how to condition horses without destroying their soundness horse racing will continue its downward spiral into HORSE HELL. Every horse which is made unsound or killed from over-training is another tile falling off the nosecone.

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