This fight in which we are engaged is a public-relations one – a war for America’s hearts and minds. And we are clearly winning. Yesterday, in my Google alerts on horseracing, the following headlines appeared. Again, this was one day – a day, as it happens, that is the most celebrated on the U.S. racing calendar.

New York Times: “Medina Spirit Was Pulled by the Forelegs Into a World That Let Him Down”

The Guardian: “Horse racing is too far gone to be saved. The next best thing is to be honest about it.”

NBC News: “Is American horse racing on its last legs?”

CBS Mobile: “Pro gambler: Online betting could be death of horse racing”

StarTribune (largest paper in Minnesota): “From Kentucky to Canterbury Park, horse racing faces its reckoning”

NBC Tampa: “Tampa trainer faces suspension over horse that died from overdose in New Jersey”

Green Matters: “The Kentucky Derby Has a Dark History of Horse Abuse”

Yesterday, the AP ran an article on dogracing’s impending demise: By the end of this year, there will be but two tracks left in the entire nation (both in West Virginia). We, along with activists everywhere, celebrate this development, and will, of course, continue to advocate for its final end.

Clearly, in regard to how the respective animals are treated, there is not a lick of difference between dogracing and horseracing. But just as clearly, in regard to the scale (money, that is) and how the respective forms are perceived in our society, the gulf is wide – e.g., dogracing was never really seen as a sport; horseracing is “The Sport of Kings.” And consider this from the article: “[At dogracing’s] peak in the 1980s…there were more than 50 tracks across 19 states.” You can basically double those numbers for horseracing today. In addition, Grey2K, the organization most responsible for getting us to the cusp of victory, formed 21 years ago; we’ve been at it for nine. What I’m trying to say is that for those who may be discouraged at the pace of progress, a little bit of perspective is in order.

There is one other point I’d like to address. While Grey2K has been the primary mover, they, as mentioned in the AP piece, have had some help along the way, most notably in Florida ahead of that game-changing referendum in 2018. Their principal ally then: The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). We, alas, have no such help, at least not at that level of player (several small groups have lent their voices, but no big ones). But rather than rehash what I call the HSUS’ crime against horses, I ask simply that if you are or ever were an HSUS supporter (financially or otherwise), and/or you care about the abuse and wholesale killing of racehorses, then please let them know. Not only will it serve to bring them to account, but hopefully it will help begin the process of providing us some desperately-needed reinforcements.

The Humane Society of the United States
1255 23rd St. NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20037
202-452-1100 or 866-720-2676 (M-F 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
President Kitty Block’s contact

Although newspapers are clearly not what they used to be, a letter-to-the-editor (or better yet, op-ed) is still a powerful tool in the activist arsenal. This one recently appeared in The Cornwall Seeker (Ontario, Canada). (My notes are bracketed.)

“No one would argue that horses are abused. The question is: how? There are several ways in which racehorses can be harmed, from being forced to run before they’re fully grown to taking painkillers and other drugs just so they can keep running. Horses also have their space confined by small stalls for hours on end, making them anxious and stressed out. In the worst cases, these animals will be euthanized after years of abuse when their bodies give up on them completely. No matter what kind of horse racing you prefer, the truth remains that all forms involve abusing these beautiful creatures in some way or another! Here are just several reasons why horse racing is cruel.

“Horses are forced to run before they’re fully grown: This can cause several health problems, including joint and bone injuries. Cartilage doesn’t fully form until a horse is around 3 years old, so making them run before this age can be extremely harmful. Additionally, horses’ legs are not fully formed until they’re between 4 and 5 years old [it’s actually 6], which means they’re more susceptible to injuries if they’re made to run too early. Additionally, many popular horse breeds are not meant to be raced. Thoroughbreds, for example, are bred specifically for racing and are often put into training as soon as they’re born [more like 18 months]. This is done to make them faster and more athletic, but it also puts a lot of strain on their bodies.

“Horses are given painkillers and other drugs: This is done to make them run faster and harder, but it can have serious side effects. Painkillers can mask injuries and make horses run even when they’re in pain, which can worsen their injuries.

“Horses are confined to small spaces and not given enough exercise: Horses are social animals and need to move around to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. When they’re confined to small spaces, they can become anxious and stressed….

“Horses suffer injuries during the race: Horses are often pushed beyond their limits during races, which can lead to injuries. It’s estimated that around 20% of racehorses suffer from some kind of injury every year. Some of the most common injuries include broken bones, tendon and ligament damage, and respiratory problems, not to mention the whip marks that are often seen on their bodies. Additionally, many horses are not given the proper care after they suffer an injury. This can lead to further complications and even death. It’s estimated that around 2% of racehorses die from their injuries every year [this is Canada, so I’m unsure of writer’s sources].

“Horses are often euthanized when they can no longer run [please substitute slaughtered for euthanized for this entire paragraph – yes, even in Canada]: When horses can no longer run, they’re often seen as worthless and are euthanized. This can happen when they’re no longer fast enough to win races or when they sustain injuries that make it impossible for them to continue racing. Euthanizing a horse is cheaper than providing lifetime care, so it’s often seen as the most practical solution. However, this doesn’t make it any less cruel. [S]ome horses are lucky enough to be retired to sanctuaries or adopted by loving families. However, there are far too many horses for these homes to take in and the majority of racehorses will still end up being euthanized.

“Horses are sentient creatures that feel pain and suffering just like we do. They deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, not abused for the sake of entertainment. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll think twice before supporting the horse racing industry.” – Allen Brown