Horseracing apologists are forever crying how unfair it is for us to characterize stall deaths as industry casualties. These deaths, they say, can and do happen to horses everywhere horses are kept. Well, leaving aside that racehorses are enslaved – yes, I realize that’s inflammatory, but it is what it is – and anything that happens to a slave is the slaveowner’s responsibility, we do have science to bolster the case.

The three most common causes of stall deaths are colic, laminitis, and pleuropneumonia. Yes, of course horses die of these the world over, but…

Colic: A study by Dr. Nathaniel White, professor of surgery at Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center, identified risk factors for developing colic. There were only three that presented a “higher than normal” risk: fed grain before hay at meals; horses in training for racing or eventing; horses confined to stall more than 12 hrs/day. In addition, gastric ulcers are, at the very least, associated with colic; research indicates that up to 90% of active racehorses suffer from ulcers, most chronic, many severe.

Laminitis: According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, three of the most common causes of laminitis are: excessive concussion to the feet (like the pounding a racehorse’s feet are forced to absorb); excessive weight-bearing on one leg due to injury of another leg (see Barbaro); severe colic (see above).

Pleuropneumonia: From the Merck Veterinary Manual: “Race and sport horses are particularly at risk [of developing pleuropneumonia]. The majority of horses with pleuropneumonia are athletic [emphasis added] horses younger than 5 years old.”

And that, is that.

Arizona: request filled

Arkansas: request filled

California: request filled

Colorado: request filled

Delaware: request filled

Florida: request filled

Illinois: request filled – but with large gaps

Indiana: request filled

Iowa: request filled

Kentucky: request filled

Louisiana: request filled – but without training/stall deaths

Maryland: request filled

Minnesota: request filled – but with names redacted

Nebraska: request filled – but without training deaths

New Jersey: request filled

New Mexico: request filled – but with serious gaps

New York: information direct from Commission database

North Dakota: request filled

Ohio: request filled – but with gaps

Oklahoma: request filled

Oregon: request filled

Pennsylvania: request filled

Texas: request filled – but with large gap

Virginia: request filled

Washington: request filled

West Virginia: request filled

Wyoming: request filled

Idaho: with significantly contracted racing (covid), no deaths reported
Massachusetts: no deaths reported (MA has just a single harness track)
Montana: no racing in 2020 (covid)
Nevada: no deaths reported (very limited racing)

Tonight at 7:00, Education Voters of PA will be hosting a webinar: “Lifting the curtain on cruelty and death in Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.” I will be speaking and answering questions afterward. Education Voters is committed to ending the $240 million in corporate welfare being funneled to Pennsylvania’s horseracing industry every year (over $3 billion since 2004). The group wants, instead, for that slots money to go where it was intended in the first place: education. As I’ve previously written: Preserving a declining industry, as measured by demand (handle, attendance), that abuses and kills sentient beings as a matter of course, at the expense of schoolchildren (or any student) is not only untenable but morally indefensible.

Please consider tuning in: https://krc-pbpc-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIvc-irqD4iGdap-kOA_EdPF_9WdM_sIFAv.

Follows is my state-by-state recap for 2019.

Arkansas: request filled – but without stall deaths
Iowa: request filled – but without stall deaths
Colorado: request filled
New York: information direct from Commission database
Minnesota: request filled – but with names redacted
Massachusetts: request filled
Illinois: request filled – but with gaps (stall deaths)
Nebraska: request filled – but surely incomplete
Arizona: request filled
Oregon: request filled
Michigan: request filled
Florida: request filled
New Jersey: request filled
Washington: request filled
Indiana: request filled
Wyoming: request filled
Ohio: request filled – but with serious gaps (stall/training deaths)
West Virginia: request filled
Texas: request filled – but with obvious gaps (training)
Delaware: request filled
Idaho: request filled
Maryland: request filled
Virginia: request denied (but filled through other channels)
Pennsylvania: request filled
New Mexico: request filled – but with major irregularities
Oklahoma: request filled
Louisiana: request filled – but without training or stall deaths
California: request filled
Kentucky: request filled – but without stall deaths

Maine: claims they don’t keep records

Nevada: no deaths reported (Nevada runs less than 10 days of racing per year)
Montana: no deaths reported (Montana runs less than 10 days of racing per year)
North Dakota: no deaths reported (North Dakota ran only 14 days of racing last year)

(The following is one of my early posts.)

Up until very recently, knowledge and appreciation of the equine mind has been noticeably lacking. Sure, we’ve learned rudimentary things about horses through the years, but only enough to breed and maintain pliability. Now, though, scientific curiosity is leading some to dig deeper. Biologist Dr. Evelyn Hanggi, co-founder of the Equine Research Foundation, is among the nation’s leading experts on equine intelligence. From her 2005 paper, “The Thinking Horse: Cognition and Perception Reviewed”:

“A review of the scientific literature, as well as practical experience, shows that horses excel at simpler forms of learning such as classical and operant conditioning…. Furthermore, horses have shown ease in stimulus generalization and discrimination learning. Most recently and unexpected by many, horses have solved advanced cognitive challenges involving categorization learning and some degree of concept formation.” In short, she says, “Horses, both feral and domesticated, are faced with varied conditions that require an assortment of learning and perceptual capabilities.”

The small-brained horse, Dr. Hanggi points out, is an unkind myth: A horse’s brain is not the size of a walnut (400-700 grams compared to 15); in fact, this “complex organ” has many folds and “more folds, more brainpower.” It is equally untrue that their “flight instinct” (“spook-and-bolt”) is a sign of low intelligence. Dr. Hanggi (Horse Illustrated, 2001): “Horses spook not because they are stupid but because they are smart enough to have survived a few million years.”

Although horses do seem to have a propensity to hurt themselves on doors and fences – seen as “dumb” animal behavior by some – it’s because they are supposed to live on wide-open ranges, not “in small, dark enclosures with sharp edges.” This cruel confinement – for most racehorses, over 23 hours a day – causes mental anguish, as evidenced by “cribbing, weaving, head bobbing, pacing, and self-mutilation.”

220px-pferdeauge3

Horses can sort geometric shapes into specific classes and have demonstrated an ability to conceptualize. By virtue of an “exceptional memory,” they can “generalize about things they have never seen before.” Oh, and they can count. In short, Dr. Hanggi says, “…horses possess some learning abilities akin to those of the more accepted animal intellectuals, i.e., dolphins, sea lions and chimpanzees – the result being a far cry from simple conditioning.”

But when questioning the morality of horseracing, the relative intelligence of the horse is largely inconsequential. What matters, what should force introspection, is his ability to suffer. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham: “What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”