Among the many wrongs of horseracing – the drugging and doping; the whipping; the buying, selling, trading, and dumping; the killing, of course – perhaps the worst of it is the everyday, unremitting cruelty of confinement and isolation. Dr. Richard Ryder, British psychologist and one of animal rights’ true giants, once wrote: “Pain [suffering] is the one and only true evil.” Yes, even worse than death. That horses – naturally social, innately mobile animals – are kept locked, alone, in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day is, in a word, evil. Prominent equine vet Kraig Kulikowski has likened this evil to locking a child in a 4×4 closet for over 23 hours a day. Imagine that.

The racing people, of course, know this. That’s why some add what they call “enrichments” to their horses’ stalls – “a mirror, a hanging ball, a bell, a window, more feed, straw bedding.” Turns out, says a French research team, that the windows and the rest are in truth just window dressing. One of the scientists, Dr. Léa Lansade, told The Horse: “There’s this idea that adding toys and brushes and windows and different bedding can make stalled horses’ life dramatically better, but that’s clearly a myth.”

The “enrichment” efforts were studied against the unmistakable signs of distress – “stereotypies (crib-biting, wind-sucking, and weaving, primarily), aggression toward humans (biting and threats), a ‘depressed state’ bodily posture (neck and back at about the same level, with low ears and poor response to any kind of stimulus), and stress-related behaviors such as ‘acting nervous’ with a high neck and excessive alertness or frequent defecation” – and the result: “enrichment had little effect on signs of poor welfare.” Lansade: “Our results with these horses showed that these little ‘improvements’ we do in stalls just aren’t sufficient. Removing some window bars, adding an extra meal of concentrated feed—these don’t really serve much purpose…”

Furthermore, says the article – and again, this should be obvious – “the older the horses were, the more signs of poor welfare they showed…over time, the horses’ welfare worsened.” Lansade sums it thus: “The horse, which has lived in open spaces for the last several millennia with unrestricted access to forage and especially while establishing strong and complex social relationships with other horses, just isn’t made for living alone, isolated in a box, regardless of how well-set-up it is.” Put another way, forcing any sentient being to “live alone, isolated in a box” is evil. Simply evil.

(The Horse article)
(full study here)

In the 5th at Hawthorne yesterday, R Rocket Man, says the (Equibase) chartwriter, “[was] restless in the gate before the start, settled near the inside, was pulled up nearing midstretch, then was vanned off the course.”

Later, in the 8th at Charles Town, Runnin’toluvya “became fractious in the gate then broke through prior [to] the start…gave chase leaving the seven sixteenths pole, showed little response from that point…pulled up and vanned off.”

“restless in the gate”; “became fractious in the gate”: Two enslaved animals telling – the only way they can – their enslavers that they did not want to do what they were being forced to do and that perhaps something was wrong with their bodies – to no avail. Both “vanned” away after the race – to unknown (as of this writing) fates.

This is horseracing.

This from the Los Alamitos stewards for September 15:

“Jockey BRYAN [sic] PENA was in to answer as to why he had to hit his horse during the post parade. Mr. Pena stated that his horse was acting up. After reviewing the video, it shows that Mr. Pena’s horse was indeed being a little unmanageable. In a majority decision no penalty was issued. Steward Sawyer voted for a fine.”

He hit his horse because he was “acting up,” but it’s all good for said horse was “being a little unmanageable.” I’m out of words.

(Note: This may or may not be the same horse who was hit in this video.)

The latest Stewards Reports from Delaware Park reveal the following:

“Consultation with trainer Claudio Gonzalez with reference to a ‘sudden death’ on July 1st.” The victim, alas, was not disclosed; I will make inquiries.

Wednesday, the stewards reported a temperature of 94 degrees with an “extreme heat advisory“; they went on to mention that it was “straight to the gate, no post parade due to excessive heat.” Three horses were scratched for “anhydrosis” – failure of the sweat glands – another for “heat/best interest of the horse.” And yet, 59 horses were put to the whip in those oppressive conditions; one, 3-year-old Crossbow’s Wildcat, “collapsed [after finishing last] on the horse path returning to the barn due to a heat stroke – multiple lacerations.” Imagine that.

What the preceding constitutes is unmitigated animal cruelty – in fact, a felony under Delaware law. While we continue to work to end this vile industry, it can’t hurt to hold the bastards’ feet to the fire. Contact info for Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings: 302-577-8500, attorney.general@delaware.gov. As for all who attended or gambled on those races Wednesday, two words: for shame.

For shame.