“Last year more than 100,000 people attended the Melbourne Cup, with more than 3 million watching the race on TV in Australia alone. This would have to make whipping in horse-racing the most public form of violence [italics added] to animals in Australia today, but most people don’t seem to notice it.” (Dr. Paul McGreevy, The Conversation, 10/28/14)

As advocates, it can be easy to get lost in any number of Horseracing’s sordid aspects: 2-year-olds, drugging/doping, corrupt “connections,” negligent vets, claiming races, etc. But for me, focus should be trained on three above all:

First, Horseracing kills horses. Lots of them, every day. And this says nothing of the multiple thousands of recently “retired” who are bled-out and butchered each year.

Second, (daily) life for the typical racehorse is unfathomably mean: Locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day, racehorses, according to experts, suffer similarly to human beings kept in solitary confinement.

And third, the horserace itself exists, can only exist, through force – the primary instrument of which is a whip. A whip. On this, Racing’s age-old lie (painless “guide”) has conditioned otherwise decent people to ignore their very senses, eschew a common sense. Well, this is intolerable. So at the risk of insulting the intelligence of many of you, let me state (shout) what should be the clear, the plain, the obvious: Whipping a domesticated (enslaved) animal – any domesticated animal, for whatever concocted reason – is cruelty defined. Absolutely, unequivocally, beyond all doubt.

Sadly, though, some still ask for “scientific proof.” Enter Paul McGreevy – veterinarian, ethologist, and professor at the University of Sydney. Follows are some highlights from a McGreevy-penned article that originally appeared in The Conversation.

“Given there is no evidence to show that whipping horses doesn’t hurt, I decided to find out whether having my leg struck with a racing whip, as hard as jockeys whip horses, would cause me pain and distress.

“Well, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, and the thermographic images I took clearly show heat at the site of impact. In the image below you can see white areas of inflammation in my upper leg 30 minutes after it was struck – only once.

“My view is that – because there is no evidence to the contrary – we must assume that, just as I felt pain and distress from the impact of the padded whip, similar whipping in a horse would also cause pain and distress.

“Representatives from the racing industry will doubtless say horses have thick skin and are therefore immune to pain from whip impacts but there is actually no evidence of such pain resistance in horses. Indeed, horses can feel a fly on their skin such that it triggers a characteristic shake called the ‘panniculus reflex’.

“As sports journalist Patrick Smith recently wrote: ‘If whips didn’t cause pain there would be no use to them'”.


In the 10th race at Parx July 27, jockey Hector Caballero raised his right arm high and proceeded to give his mount, Belongs to Babe, a loud crack (with his whip) on the neck – after the finish. (I reported on it at the time but unfortunately the short video documenting the abuse was subsequently deleted from Twitter.) We now learn that the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission held a hearing on July 30 and rendered the following verdict: a 10-day suspension (which he is currently serving). 10 days – for public, blatant animal abuse. And that, folks, is horseracing.

In the 7th last night at Penn National, Saint Michael “was eased up lame in the stretch then was vanned off.” According to a source, however, while being “eased up lame,” the 4-year-old colt was still being whipped – right till the wire. (I have reviewed the replay, but unfortunately the camera cuts away from Saint Michael before the finish.) Why, you may ask? Well, in this particular race (a cheap “claiming,” by the way: all horses were “For Sale” at $4,000 prior to), cash was paid 1st-5th. Saint Michael came in 6th, about 3 lengths behind the $300-winning 5th-place finisher. The jockey whipping a lame – and now quite possibly dead – horse in the hope of bringing 300 bucks to him and the other “connections”: Jose Rojas.

The 10th at Parx Monday, after the wire. Listen to the blow 4-year-old Belongs to Babe absorbed:

The abuser atop: Hector Caballero. By the way, because of a disqualification, Belongs to Babe actually “won” this race, earning $24,000 for her people, including Caballero.

Horseracing, a “sport” like any other, right?

From the most recent minutes released by the California Horse Racing Board.

At the Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton, July 3: “While horses were in the Starting Gate for the first race Czechoutpappyscorona flipped; [she was] scratched for being down and trapped in the gate stall.” Same day, race 4: “Nice Blaze [fell]…multiple scrapes and a hematoma developing on her right hip.”

At the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meet, July 3:

“Apprentice Jockey Victor Flores was in our office to answer to a complaint. The CHRB filed the complaint when Safety Steward Paul Atkinson photographed a welt on the horse The Last Ruler…after the sixth race on 2/23 at Santa Anita. Mr. Flores apologized. The following ruling was issued: Flores is fined $300 for violation of rule #1688(3) (Use of Riding Crop – causing welts or breaks in the skin).”

$300 – for open, transparent animal abuse.

Same track, July 4: “Trainer Gary Mandella was in our office to participate in a formal hearing…. Mr. Mandella’s horse tested positive for the drug Phenylbutazone on 2/15 in the eighth race at Santa Anita. Mr. Mandella stated he could have accidently [sic] double-treated the mare. After hearing all the facts and entering all the exhibits, the hearing came to an end. The following ruling was issued: Mandella is fined $500 for violation of rules #1843(a),(b), and (d) (Medication, Drugs and Other Substances).”

“Accidentally,” huh? The race in question was a $200,000 Stakes. The horse, Zusha, finished 3rd, “earning” $24,000 for Mandella, et al. She remains under his control.

Same track, July 5: “Jockey Assael Espinoza was in to review yesterday’s fifth race…. Mr. Espinoza’s horse ducked out sharply from left-handed urging at the eighth pole. The BOS and Mr. Espinoza placed the blame on the horse and Mr. Espinoza was not issued a penalty.”

He whips (“left-handed urging”) his horse (Magnificent Q T) causing her (of course) to “duck out sharply” and the horse is to blame? Vile. Magnificent, by the way, finished 2nd, “earning” $3,400 for her people, including Espinoza.

And finally, just two days after the aforementioned Flores “welt on the horse” hearing, that same jockey was back to answer for another whipping violation – “excessive use of the riding crop” – from the previous day on 3-year-old Mr. Vitamin. The Stewards: “Mr. Flores agreed he should have stopped using the riding crop and stated he was sorry and had no excuse.” Again, a mere $300 fine, nothing more. Causes a welt and lives to ride (abuse) another day. You can’t make this stuff up.