Horses die by the thousands every year at the hands of the racing industry. Californians began to take notice in 2016, when a record number of thoroughbreds died at Del Mar. It was a rare week that reported no deaths, more often, there were many.
Media attention moved on to Santa Anita in 2019, due to their own catastrophic record. The track was closed for a short time, but reopened after an investigation led to no substantial change and resulted in a return to business as usual.
In 2020, the COVID 19 pandemic closed all "non-essential" businesses, yet horse racing continued in many places, albeit usually without an audience. The virtual "Triple Crown Showdown" was a novel concept, and very realistic right down to the whipping.
It's long past time to question the continued existence of horse racing and the abuse of animals for entertainment and gambling profits. The horses that died in 2016 at Del Mar, and every year since at every track, were living, feeling beings who died needlessly and far too young.
Here we remember their names: 27 horses
A Romantic View
Today horse racing is more an industry than a sport, with the glamour fading, and the crowds thinning with the exception of major events. Yet the belief that a day at the races is harmless, good fun and that the horses are pampered and well taken care of persists. With our blinders firmly in place, we may not want to see the bigger picture.
The number of thoroughbred foals born every year in the United States, a world leader in the (over-) production of horses, fluctuates with the economy, but currently is 20,000 - 25,000. Of the smaller proportion who become racehorses, 1,000 - 2,000 will die training, racing, or due to race-related injuries or illness annually.
There are many reasons for these injuries and deaths — horses running far too young, the overuse of legal drugs to mask pain, the use of illegal drugs to enhance performance, over-racing, temporarily numbing an injured limb so a horse feels no pain and runs injured, bad track surfaces, and decades of inbreeding.
The horse racing industry argues that the number of horses dying is low considering the number of horses racing, but this begs the question, how many is too many? Horses are being injured and killed on tracks all around the country, sometimes more at one track than another in one year, sometimes fewer, but it is never-ending.
In addition to the horses who are killed racing or training, or of other race-related illnesses, there is the much higher number of thoroughbreds that are sent to slaughter for food.
A Horse's Life
Horses are social, herd animals but thoroughbreds are often kept in stalls in “shedrows” for up to 23 hours per day. Though they may see horses passing by they are effectively isolated. When confined for long periods of time with insufficient companionship, in an environment that prevents instinctive herd behavior and grazing, they suffer both mentally and physically.
Follow The Money
Horse racing is a poorly regulated multi-billion dollar global industry were racehorses are bred to be used and discarded because there is always a new crop of foals to take their place.
As long as there is so much money to be made in breeding, racing and slaughtering horses for meat, the brutally will continue.
If more than 10,000 thoroughbreds dying every year is the reality of this sport, then what is a $2 bet really costing?
It is a pivotal moment in the history of horse racing. What once was the most popular sport in America now struggles to maintain an audience. Some say for racing to survive it must reinvent itself from the ground up, while others contend there is no hope of that happening and racing is beyond reform. Ultimately, it is the fans who will decide whether it is racing or compassion that is "cool as ever."