“I Can’t Watch Anymore”

Earlier this month, I highlighted a Psychology Today piece by world-renowned ethologist Marc Bekoff. Most recently, Dr. Bekoff interviewed Danish journalist Julie Taylor, author of the book ‘I Can’t Watch Anymore’: The Case for Dropping Equestrian from the Olympic Games and an essay entitled “Won’t Somebody Think About the Horses?” Obviously, everything said about the abuse and cruelty in Olympic equestrian “sports” applies to horseracing in spades, and I encourage a full read of Ms. Taylor’s insights: here, and here. For now, my standout quote:

“Begin with the horses. What kind of animal is a horse? A social animal, a grazing animal, a curious animal. What then needs to be in place for a horse to live a meaningful life? A bonded social group, the possibility to roam, graze, and explore together. These criteria are difficult to fulfill in domesticity even before you start thinking about using a horse for sport.”

11 Comments

  1. If the rate of deaths in the Olympics equaled the rate of deaths on the track- I’m sure the whole world would be in an uproar over the Olympic equestrian sports, but yet the world tolerates racing.
    Recently there were 2 deaths at an eventing competition, and it was covered in a paulick report article. Of course, the pro racing folks jumped on this and said “See it’s not just OUR sport!!”. Well, AT LEAST 2 horses most likely died on US tracks yesterday! (Thistledown strikes again!)

    • Racing has a far higher number of starts per year than eventing, but I would argue that even if eventing had an equal number of starts, the death and injury rates would still be much lower. For starters, you can’t even compete a horse at the lowest recognized levels until she’s four. The higher you go in the levels, the higher the minimum age. In eventing, a seven year old horse is still a young horse. In racing, he’s on the verge of being too old to compete. Horses in their late teens regularly finish (and finish well) at the Olympic level; there’s no such thing as “in her late teens” in horse racing. And every time a horse dies at an eventing competition, it triggers an investigation that includes a necropsy to determine cause of death and any contributing factors, a full assessment of the sequence of events, and potential recommendations about how to keep it from happening again.

      I’m not really defending eventing. I hate what we do to horses at the upper levels, and there are a very high number of thoughtless, selfish and ignorant people at the lower levels, too, but we sure don’t kill them the way racing does. In fact, eventing (and most other English disciplines) absorbs so many cast-off race horses that there are multiple award opportunities just for OTTBs.

      Eventing is at least trying to take a look in the mirror. They won’t stop, that’s for sure, but they’re making an effort to make fences and courses safer and to tighten qualifications for the upper levels (probably the single biggest safety issue at the moment). You can’t say any of that about racing.

      Looking forward to rading Julie Taylor’s book. I’m sure it echoes a lot of my own thoughts about horse sports.

      • Totally agree, LS. I’ve been around dressage, and eventing all my life. Never were our horses confined, in fact, the more turn out the better, because we didn’t want them to be high strung and crazy.
        I remember when eventing rolled out the frangible cups, and tried to improve as much as they could for safety’s sake. Even with minor incidences we had to create reports that were sent to the higher ups. The vets were right there to draw blood work to ensure no doping was occurring. The tolerance for doping is much less than racing.
        Of all the events I’ve been to, I’ve never even seen a career-ending injury, much less a fatality, though I certainly have seen some terrible riders and felt horrible for their mounts.
        But what I saw at the track made up for all that. I’ve seen the bleeders, the heat strokes, the bows, the catastrophic injuries.
        I don’t agree with the very upper levels of eventing, but it still sure has a way better safety record than racing.

        • Well said by both of you. I wholeheartedly agree, and just want to add one point. Just because most of us are vehemently anti-racing, it doesn’t mean we’re anti-RIDING. No other equine activity kills off its equine participants nearly as often and as grotesquely as racing does. (With the possible exception of certain Latin countries’ Horse-TRIPPING events. But those are illegal here, anyway. So, not something racing folks are gonna crow about: “Hey, look! We kill off OUR horses at a slower rate than third-world, blood sport-embracing butchers! Aren’t we HUMANE?”;)

          • I knew horse tripping events were popular in some locations in the United States among certain types of people. Well, in Oregon they called it the BIG LOOP RODEO.
            I found an article dated May 17, 2014 that says the tripping part is illegal after legislation was passed, but they still have the roping of horses event. The so-called cowboy that ropes the horse’s front legs is supposed to let the rope go (after the rope goes taut and time is called) instead of tying it on to his saddle horn. This is not just a third-world type of animal cruelty. There is absolutely no practical need for this type of ABUSE to horses. It is for perverted, sick creeps that get entertainment out of ABUSING HORSES, the same as racing.

            • Look up SHARK as he has done a tremendous amount of exposure relating to this cruel & inhumane rodeo venue in our home state! Sad to admit that Oregon allows such barbaric treatment of horses & cattle. Can`t stand 90% of rodeo`s events. Too hard & dangerous to all non-human participants.

  2. Any riding of horses that depends on severe and artificial means to control the horse is a substitute for HORSEMANSHIP skills.
    In some of the Dressage classes and other equestrian events including the AQHA horse show classes, they do things to the extreme to where it just looks really sick and abnormal because it is really sick and abnormal.
    Horseracing is extreme and really sick and abnormal. I think people get bored and they want to do something that is a little different or a lot different than what they have been doing so they go to extremes. It’s like they need a new drug.
    In about 2017ish, I read about how in the world of AKC registered dogs and in particular the German Shepherd Dog they started giving the German Shepherds with hunchy backs the blue ribbons and Grand Championship trophies because it involved people with lots of money influencing the judging (in recognized dog shows) of the breed this way to the detriment of the dogs. Basically, the breed standard was ignored in certain aspects to the detriment (and suffering) of the dogs, because of certain rich, greedy, powerful people. The same type of things are done in the equestrian world to the detriment of the horses in all disciplines.

    #HorseracingisAnimalCruelty
    #EndHorseracingNOW

  3. I grew up with Race Horses and Polo Ponies and my daddy must be rolling over in his grave to see how HORSES ARE BEING TREATED TODAY. This country would not exist if it weren’t for horses and they deserve better. I can no longer watch horse races or even Equestrian events for fear that I am going to see a horse killed.

  4. Fredjoan, I saw some of the SHARK videos in 2012+. The WESTERN HORSEMAN Magazine published an article (in the 1970s or ’80s) on this type of “roping skill” which is sickening. But, the barbaric show-offs like to brag about how well they can rope. They should run around in the arena (which is not that easy to do because it is almost like running in a plowed field) and rope each other on foot. These so-called cowboys should get a taste of what it’s like to be roped and jerked to the ground for themselves.

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