Drugged and Whipped

Racehorses have been bred to be increasingly fine-boned, with large powerful bodies and very slim ankles. They are built to run, but have an instinct for self-preservation and would not willingly run injured. Though CHRB (California Horse Racing Board) rule 1843.5 (c) states “any drugs, medications, or any other substances shall not be administered by any means to a horse within 48 hours of the post time of the race in which the horse is entered,” it seems that drug violations are common. 


In 2016, at Del Mar and nearby Southern California tracks, there were violations and fines for the use or overuse of: amphetamines, methamphetamines, phenylbutazone, flunixin, dexamethasone, Regu-mate, Hydroxyethyl Promazine Sulfoxide, Methylprednisolone, and acepromazine. Every year there are newer, more exotic, and more difficult to detect drugs used on horses including "frog juice" which is made from a South American frog secretion and is 40 times more powerful than morphine.


Only in America can Lasix, a drug originally developed to reduce the likelihood of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding), be administered on the day of the race and it is common to see most horses listed as “running on Lasix." It is highly unlikely that so many horses (about 90%) are in need of this “bleeder” medication yet it is administered nevertheless. 


Lasix is also a diuretic which causes horses to drop water-weight quickly within the first few hours after it is administered. Horses will lose as much water as they would typically drink in a day. This newfound lightness, between 10-20 pounds less, gives them a speed advantage. After they are given the drug, they are typically not given any water until after the race; so they run in the heat, without having any water for hours.

Horses are given “encouragement” in the form of a whip. In California, the excessive use of a whip is defined as hitting a horse more than 3 times in succession without giving it a chance to respond. The fine for hitting a tired horse repeatedly ranges from $100 - $500. 

For more information on drugs and Lasix : horsefund.org


"If the public knew how many medications these horses were administered after entry time, I don't think they would tolerate it."


~ Dr. Rick Arthur (New York Times, 4/30/12)

Lost Horses

In 2007 it became illegal to kill horses in the United States for human consumption abroad. Though this legislation seemed to reflect the American distaste for large-scale equine death, the end result has been that this horrific business has moved across the border to EU-regulated slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. It was no more humane in America. Before the last domestic plants in the United States closed, the USDA documented repeated cruelty violations, many of which still play out daily, just across the borders.

Horses sold to kill-buyers at auction or from feedlots are loaded onto large, over-crowded trucks, where they can legally spend up to 28 hours without food, water, or rest. Up to 90 percent of the horses are young and in good condition before the journey. They are frequently transported in trucks meant for cattle, and because they are much taller, the horses are often injured hitting their heads, or slipping around on the steel-grated floors in metal shoes. Horses of all sizes and ages are packed together and terrified.They are often trampled and even killed in transit. Those who survive the trip meet an undeniably cruel and inhumane death.

Horses in America are not raised with the intention that they will become food. They often receive medications banned by the FDA so their meat is not fit for human consumption. Regardless, the demand for horse-meat in some European countries and Japan has created a lucrative business and overbreeding guarantees there will be a product to sell. 

Horses are raised to be companion, working, or sport-animals but legally they are livestock, and when they are sent to slaughtered they are offered no real protection or guarantee of humane treatment; this is brutal reality for all livestock. Because a horse’s anatomy is not like that of a cow, and due to their own cautious, skittish nature, they often endure repeated stun-gun blows and at times are not rendered unconscious before they are killed. 


In January 2017, a bill H.R. 113 SAFE Act, designed to protect horses from slaughter was introduced to the U.S House of Representatives by Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL). More recently in August 2017, Senator Robert Menendez (D – NJ) introduced a Senate version of the SAFE Act (S.1706). If passed, this bill would continue to prohibit horse slaughter in the U.S. and also prevent the transport of horses across the borders for slaughter.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Horse Nature

Horses are social animals who form strong bonds with their young, other horses, and even other animals, including humans. The herd has a clear hierarchy, led by a dominant individual, usually an older mare. Mares carry their foals for 11 months, wean them after about 5 months; when given the opportunity they maintain a close bond throughout their lives. 


As prey animals, with a strong fight or flight instinct, they are keenly aware of their surroundings. With large eyes on the sides of their head and ears that rotate, horses are built to detect danger. Both curious and cautious by nature, their first instinct when threatened is to run. Soon after they’re born, foals must be able to stand and run with the herd.


Horses are herbivores with a relatively small stomach and very long intestines, so they are built to graze for the majority of the day. Because they cannot vomit, digestion problems can lead to colic which can result in death. They are sensitive to loud noises and visual stimulation and can startle easily; they prefer quiet, peaceful surrounding which certainly is nothing like the noisy, active world of the track.


Due to their unnatural lifestyle of confinement and isolation, often with little or no pasture time, racehorses are more prone to colic and ulcers than other horses. Though any horse can develop colic, which is potentially deadly, a study conducted by Dr. Nathaniel White, professor of surgery at Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Virginia, shows that there are three factors that present a “higher than normal” risk for developing colic and they are: horses that are confined to a stall more than 12 hrs/day, horses in training for racing or eventing, and those fed grain before hay at meals.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock