The Kinds of People Who Race Horses

I’ve come to believe that horse-racers fall into one of three categories. In the first, surely the majority, are the grinders – those who race as career, for paycheck. Whether they were raised in the industry or came to it later, the bottom line with this group is always the same: It’s just business; the horses, to them, are but interchangeable cogs, resources, means to an end. No declarations of equine love here, just trade and transact – and often, especially in the claiming ranks (the bulk of American racing). And when one goes down, it’s plug another in and move on.

With the second, money, though always important, is not the primary allure. For these – whether blueblood racing families or rich celebrities mired in hollow lives – it’s about prestige, glory, ego. They hobnob and glass-tip, and cheer on their expensive pets. Yet where is that obscene wealth when rescues come calling? Better yet, where are their rescues? Truth is, while they play, many of their erstwhile toys are wasting away at the hands of an Ernie Paragallo or some misguided hoarder; more, still, are making their way through the slaughter pipeline.

In the last are those who not only believe that what they do is not unethical, but, in fact, is in the best interests of horses. When questioned, their responses are quick and predictable: “come visit my stable”; “my horses are treated better than humans”; “horses are born to run, love to run”; “a horse with a job is a happy horse.” Beyond merely protecting, they care – as evidenced by the tears, prayers, and condolences when one of theirs falls. Their horses, they say, are like “members of the family.” All of this, of course, is self-delusion par excellence. Not to mention, repugnant: True loved ones are not whipped, drugged, and sold – repeatedly – to the highest bidder.

In the end, though, the motive (income, hobby) or purported motive (love) is wholly irrelevant, for the core relationship between these people and their horses – exploiter-exploited – is inherently cruel. Quite simply, it cannot be otherwise.

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  1. Once again I thank you for enlightening me. I wish this would be required reading in schools!

  2. Every picture tells a story and this is a sad one.
    Pre-race horse reluctant to take part and/or has history of not wanting to race, so the strapper who could be the trainer, an employee of the trainer, an owner of the horse or a trainer/owner, uses brutal force upon this poor horse. One only has to look at his eyes to see the pain and fear he’s suffering. The chain through the horse’s mouth and over his lips (a bit already in his mouth) would be hurting his lips, his mouth and all that’s in it i.e. his tongue, teeth, gums and nerves. This scene is very common in racing, in my experience there’s always at the very least one horse who doesn’t want to take part. Sometimes a horse will rear and throw a jockey off in the pre-race parade or on the way to the gates, or behind the gates or in the gates and it’s in the gates when the horse suffers injury, serious injury or death.
    Horses in the racing industry do not love to race.

  3. Having worked on the backside of a cheap track for nearly ten years, it was the “grinders” I came to know. While I agree with your categories and descriptions of those in the three, I will add that even many of the grinders claim love for their equine slaves.

    When I began my years with the racehorse rescue organization as an ignorant racing fan, I (somewhat) believed the owners/trainers when they’d list the racehorse they no longer wanted for sale, saying “I just love this horse.” Time and again, the horse wouldn’t sell so eventually we’d take the horse (at times having to match meat price to acquire him) into our program to (hopefully) adopt out. I’d pick the horse up at the track and listen to their exclamations of love one more time – often followed with “make sure he gets a really nice home!” as I drove away.

    Then the horse would undergo a full veterinary evaluation at Michigan State University – at least two-thirds of these horses would have injuries they’d been training and racing on…and I’d think back to those earnest declarations of love.

    What kind of love sells the beloved? – continues to force participation in an activity that had already stolen the beloved’s healthy limbs? – risks the beloved’s very life?

    Actions always prove why words mean nothing.

  4. Looking at the picture above, the sensitivity of a horse’s skin comes to mind. I read that a horse’s skin is more sensitive than human skin. I don’t know if this is really true. I’m going with the thought that it is true.
    Can you imagine what it would feel like if someone put a lip chain in your mouth? I can imagine that it would be excruciatingly painful and I think a heavy handed person could cause a lot of damage to the inside of the upper lip.
    One of the fascinating characteristics of horses is that they are able to wiggle their skin in certain areas of their bodies. A fly lights on these areas and the horse or pony can wiggle their skin in that particular spot to make the fly get off. They are very sensitive to a lot of things and they suffer immensely and relatively quietly at the hands of cruel, sadistic, insensitive people.
    This horse in the picture above looks like a baby. In true horsemanship where the owners actually care about the health, development and well-being of their horses, this cruel, sadistic, inhumane forcing of a very young horse to run fast while carrying the weight of a whip-wielding jockey would not even occur at all.
    It takes people with a complete lack of compassion for the horses as horses to make such extreme demands on a horse continually and without remorse for causing disabling injuries to horses. To cause death to horses continually and without remorse is evil.
    In racing, the horses are gambling chips. The horses are just a commodity to greedy, narcissistic people who have the audacity to call themselves horsemen or horse people. If they wanted to admit it, these people would be calling themselves vile.

  5. And the obscenely wealthy racehorse owners? – check out the following…

    “Ultra-wealthy Americans’ horse-racing operations have produced a combined $600 million in losses they have used to offset their federal taxable income, according to ProPublica’s analysis of IRS data.
    “Among them was Paul Fireman, who made his fortune by turning the shoe company Reebok into a household name before selling it to Adidas in 2005 for $3.8 billion. Fireman was new to the endeavor, but he’d already spent millions building a professional horse-racing operation, including dropping almost $1 million on a single thoroughbred, a descendant of a Preakness winner. His horse, King Fury, was scratched from the Kentucky Derby after spiking a fever.
    “Charlotte Weber, a Campbell Soup heiress who Forbes says is worth $1.6 billion, saw her appropriately named horse Soup and Sandwich break well from the outside before faltering with a breathing issue and finishing last. Brad Kelley, who made his money selling his tobacco company two decades ago and is worth $2.7 billion, owned Bourbonic, who finished 13th. Hedge fund manager Seth Klarman, worth $1.5 billion, entered a horse named Highly Motivated that would place 10th.
    “The tax records obtained by ProPublica shed light on how much each of these owners was able to write off. Over 16 years, Kelley claimed $189 million in losses for his racing business; Weber claimed $173 million in 21 years, and Klarman $138 million over 19 years. Fireman, a relative newcomer to the game, had taken only $9.3 million in losses as of 2018. (Kelley and Weber did not respond to requests seeking comment. Klarman, who has donated to ProPublica in the past, declined to comment.”

    Link to the article following in the next comment.

    • My understanding is that ProPublica is a reliable source of information that is factual and exposes things that are horrible and shocking.

      • Nancy, when I read the part that they hobnob, glass-tip, and cheer I immediately thought of Bobby Flay, the celebrity cook who had his own cooking show on cable television.

    • I had brought this article quite some time ago. It didn’t seem to garner any attention or response,which surprised me,because I was mad as hell. There’s nothing I HATE more than the wealthy catching breaks 🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮. I remember during the Trump administration when I heard about him giving the racehorse owners all these breaks. Our country has been for quite some time in horrible shape but sure let’s waste that money on the wealthy.

  6. Thank you for this thoughtful piece of writing.

    The mentality of horse owners that you so carefully break down reminds me of the alien masters in the old sci-fi books “The Tripods.” Aliens have enslaved the human race. Some of the masters are indifferent to their slaves, some cruelly exploit them, and some seem genuinely attached to them. But the point the book makes is that in none of these cases is it okay to keep humans as slaves, because humans are meant to live natural human lives.

    It’s exactly the same with the horses.

  7. The kinds of People that Race Horses have their Hearts shut down & money is their God. Thank you Patrick for your incredible hard work on behalf of the horses.

  8. Of course they ALL profess to ‘love their horses’ but lets be honest, they ALL love the money-grabbing profits and the five minutes of fame and glory more….if these are not forthcoming, then as much as they ‘love their horses’ they’re quite happy to move them on, whether to a new stable, the sale ring or even straight to slaughter, then its goodbye and move on to their next victim…the innocent, defenseless horse.

  9. MY ROXY GIRL is suffering for this vile business and the parasites in it.
    This mare has been running for 4 years consecutively with no rest, has been claimed 6 times (twice by the same Trainer) has earned over $675,228 and that’s STILL NOT ENOUGH for a safe and soft landing!
    Now unable to run in the upper ranks after earning all of this money she gets dumped into the parasitic nest called claiming.
    Racehorses can never earn enough to ensure a safe landing especially when there are parasites like Linda Rice whose supposed to be suspended due to serious criminal activity that she was found guilty of.
    She just claimed ROXY GIRL for another round of abuse.
    Horse racing takes from taxpayers, casinos, wage theft from stable workers, our public coffers, children’s education and, of course, the racehorses are their biggest hosts who often die these bunch of parasites.

  10. The third group (“come visit my stable”, etc) includes, I believe, those in fractional ownership. Like many other racehorse owners, they know absolutely nothing about equines and what enriches their lives. They simply OWN a racing machine that lives and breathes.

    These folks are racing fans that get into racehorse ownership believing the lie – they’re incredibly ignorant and haven’t taken the time to learn about horses. They’re walked up and down shedrow aisles, shown horses standing stalled with hanging hay bags, and think that’s “love”. To them, poultice and leg wraps, standing in buckets of ice water and hydrotherapy are evidence of “treatment better than family” when all it really is? – maintenance of their racing machine to get the best possible results – a win and a check. Trainers tell owners the horses love this life, they want to race (they even KNOW when they’ve won!)…and they blindly choose to believe it.

    The “come visit MY stable” thing? – I laugh every time I read that…it shows how ignorant these types really are because someone who DOES know equines and takes them up on their offer will not be impressed nor convinced that racehorses live a great life, but, in fact, will only see more proof they don’t.

  11. It’s beyond belief that the vast majority of people involved in the racing industry are truly clueless – and content to be so – when it comes to the proper handling and care of horses. They use tongue ties, stud chains, bits, and whips because they don’t know any other way to get a horse’s cooperation. They don’t know, or care, about the first thing regarding proper feeding and general care of a horse, and they certainly don’t, or won’t, admit to a horse having any emotional or mental capacity beyond that of a machine that at times refuses to do what it’s told. These people are not interested in the horse as a sentient being – horses are disposable assets that are given the minimal amount of “care” needed to keep them earning money.

    • The billionaires -repole, vinny whatever,etc.,are just pure evil greed. ALL of them that are involved in this bullshit. They KNOW this is a totally unnecessary thing that is going on. If they truly loved horses they wouldn’t do this evil slavery to the horses. Have you ever noticed wealthy people are so often your most vile,self absorbed, stingy,shallow humans. They say they’re in the scam because they love horses. Yeah right. When you love something you do everything to protect them. repole, alone has the money to provide a FOREVER home for all of the horses. But these billionaires won’t even lift a finger! But …they sure have their hands out for those tax breaks for the huber wealthy. VILE to it’s core.

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