Let’s start with the obvious: All horseracing is animal abuse. All of it – no matter the form, no matter the level, no matter the country, no matter the state, no matter the “connections.” Horseracing is inherently cruel. Period. But every once in a while, someone manages to ratchet up that cruelty just a tad.

5-year-old Blazingulch was raced at Rillito Park in Tucson at 3:45 pm Saturday. (That race, by the way, was about as cheap a race as you can get: All the entries were “For Sale” prior to at a pittance – $2,000.) At 1:00 pm the next day, Blazingulch was put to the whip at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. So: raced, loaded onto a truck, shipped some two hours away, unloaded, raced again (where, unsurprisingly, he finished dead last, “trailing the field”). All in less than 24 hours. Oh, and injected with Lasix for both races.

The wretched (feel free to insert your own adjectives) man responsible – among others: where were the Turf vets/stewards? – is trainer/owner Juan Pablo Silva.

Yesterday, at three of the (only) five tracks active (Equibase):

In the 3rd at Parx, Creative Genius was “reluctant to load.”

In the 5th at Parx, Gunfighter’s Girl “reared up badly at the break.”

In the 1st at Sunland, Pain for Gain “was fractious at the gate.”

In the 3rd at Sunland, Shio “was reluctant to load.”

In the 6th at Turf, California Appeal “was reluctant to load.”

Then this from the 2nd at Parx:

“Cape May Ferry, Stormy Highway, and Bobby’s Song all injured themselves in the starting gate and were ordered scratched on the advice of the veterinarian.”

Pulled, pushed, wrenched, jerked, yanked. Yelled at, shouted at, cursed at. Chains, ties, bits – whips. But they “love their jobs,” right? Vile.

The 9th at Fair Grounds Friday, according to Equibase:

“MISS YOU JO clipped heels with BAND BOSS…then fell and was struck by two foes from behind before regaining his feet, went off the wrong way for about a quarter-mile before being caught and was also walked on the horse ambulance then subsequently vanned off.

“JACOBS FLYER collided hard with the fallen foe [above] at the three-eighths as that one began to regain his footing and fell, returned to his feet and went the wrong way for a about a quarter-mile before being caught then was walked onto the horse ambulance and subsequently vanned off.

“OHMYMY OHMYYES struck the fallen foe [above] while jumping over that rival at the three-eighths then checked very sharply and was eased but walked off.”

While Paulick and the other racing rags afforded ample attention to the injured jockeys, I have yet to find anything on the status of the horses. Will, of course, update.

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)