Horses Too Young to Run for the Roses

Filed under:Sad,Sports — posted by Anwyn on May 5, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

I was out doing errands while they ran the Kentucky Derby. Little Bean and Daddyman were watching at home. The Bean once went several months racing us everywhere, calling himself Seattle Slew, me Affirmed, his father Secretariat. The two of them are interested in the horses and their names and what races they win. I was horrified when I called home and was told that the horse of The Bean’s choice, Eight Belles, had had “an accident” on the track and broken both ankles after coming in second. Me, anxiously: “What did they do for her?” Daddyman, conscious of The Bean’s listening ears close by: “Well, they pulled the horsey ambulance around to the track and … took care of it … right there.” The Bean knew nothing of what “took care of it” meant, even when the TV announcers used the word “euthanized.” Fortunately he didn’t think to ask about that long-tailed word’s meaning.

And I spent the rest of the day thinking there must be something wrong with horse racing, even if I personally don’t know exactly what it is, and that maybe people shouldn’t race horses like this.

Turns out it’s true, people shouldn’t race horses like this:

Eight Belles was three-years old and 17 hands high. The average amateur, like me, wouldn’t even start jumping her until she was five because her bones haven’t finished developing. Am I smarter than the megabuck owners and trainers? I’d have to say “yes.” Just look at the outcome.

I got Lucy, my fat Thoroughbred who flunked out of racehorse training when she was two, on the New Year’s weekend when she turned three. I treated her like a baby. She was a baby and didn’t finish growing until she was past five. I didn’t start jumping her until she was five. This is considered common sense.

I don’t have much sympathy for animal rights groups, but I do have a lot of sympathy for animals and concern over their treatment at human hands. I’m relieved to find that it’s not racing as a practice that is abusive, still a bit on the fence about whether racing as a practice is abusive, but relieved to find that what seems to cause these shocking deaths is not racing, but the racing of horses before their time. The destruction of these beautiful animals is terrible. Read Anne’s whole piece if you were shocked by the fate of Derby runner-up Eight Belles, and remember that human skull bones don’t fully fuse until we’re over twenty years old. Over twenty! Allowing the horses’ bones to set hard before they’re put through these paces is the least race owners, trainers, and jockeys can do.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace