Another of the converted (she wishes to remain anonymous):
Hi Patrick – I have been reading your Horseracing Wrongs blog for well over a year, but I do not post comments. I greatly appreciate the work that you do to end horse racing, which I view very differently than I originally did some years ago.
When I was a kid I was nuts about horses. I was always drawing [them], and faithfully watched the Kentucky Derby every year and watched Secretariat win his Triple Crown. Then I moved abroad for several years and drifted away from an interest in horses. However, when Barbaro broke down in 2006, that, ironically, pulled me right back into horses because (and in retrospect this seems amazing) I had NEVER heard of such a thing as a horse breaking down. I had to find out more. I read a lot, and then began to go to Emerald Downs.
From 2007 until 2017, I went to the track once or twice a month, and for two years during that period was a member of a racing club at Emerald. My club experience was enjoyable (how could being up close with horses not be?). We had an excellent (now-retired) trainer who really cared for the welfare of her horses. In addition to our trainer, another female trainer at Emerald retired after last year’s meet. Both of them had reputations as being good trainers, but I can’t speak to anything other than what I personally saw. I wonder if they both also recognized the handwriting on the wall for horse racing, and decided to leave before everything fell apart.
My better half once told me, after we had gone to the track together for a couple of years, that there would come a day when I would say, enough. He eventually said he no longer wished to go because he didn’t like what he was seeing. For me, he knew, it was all about the horse. I’d go to the saddling paddock to see them up close, and stand by the finish line to watch them come in. The underdogs had a special place in my heart, the ones who came in at the back of the field, the ones that didn’t really want to race. What will become of them, I wondered – but I knew I couldn’t do anything about them.
After the second year of membership, my interest started to wane – I was reading about more and more things that I did not like. I had seen a few breakdowns, which were always disturbing, but I thought they were anomalies, like Barbaro’s. Now it’s impossible NOT to see, at every level and in every type of race, no matter where it is run.
I can’t pretend that I didn’t enjoy much of the time I spent there, especially being able to visit my horses, and the few people I met. But I can’t look back now and not feel that I should have paid closer attention to some things. Now I would like to see racing end, and I think you are doing a valuable service to help make that happen.
PS – I broke the cardinal rule of ownership: never fall in love with a horse. I did, with all of the ones who raced for our club. How can one not? Having a horse in one’s life is a joy and a privilege. They will never not put a smile on my face.