The Scourge of Horse Racing

Horse racing is a thrilling, fascinating sport that has held the attention of millions of people for generations. It is also a deeply disturbing industry where horses routinely die from catastrophic heart attacks, broken legs and other injuries inflicted upon them during the exorbitant physical stress of racing and training. This is a scourge that must be brought under control.

In the early days of organized racing, events were match contests between two or at most three horses. But public demand eventually produced races with larger fields of runners, and eligibility rules were developed based on age, sex, birthplace and previous performance.

The sport of horse racing has a proud, illustrious history dating back to ancient times. Archaeological evidence suggests that chariot and bareback (riderless) horse races were common in cultures around the world, including Ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere. Horses have also figured prominently in mythology and legend, most famously the contest between Odin’s steeds and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology.

Currently, horse racing has more than 200 licensed racetracks in the United States. The majority of these are in the Northeastern United States and Canada, with several located on the West Coast. Many of the major thoroughbred racetracks are in the cities and suburbs, though some are also in rural areas.

For the most part, horse racing is not a dishonest or corrupt sport. But it is a for-profit enterprise, and like any business there are some people who take advantage of others. There are crooks who illegally drug and otherwise abuse their horses, dupes who labor under the illusion that the sport is essentially honest, and honorable people in the middle, who know the industry is more crooked than it ought to be but don’t do all they can to stop it.

But it is also important for those who love the sport of horse racing to understand that the current system is unsustainable. Horses are routinely injured and killed in racing, both during competition and while in training, and the number of such deaths is growing. Those who love this sport should work to help reform it, not abandon it, and they should join with those who believe that every animal has a right to a safe, happy life.

If we want to keep the magic of horse racing, we must recognize that its future lies in a culture, society and justice system that increasingly recognizes animals as having fundamental rights. The rights that Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, Creative Plan and Laoban were denied should not be stolen from the young horses to come. Let us not forget the lessons of their tragic deaths. The time to act is now.