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.