They weigh more than 500 kilograms, are supported by ankles the size of a human’s and are whipped and forced to run around tracks that are often made of hard-packed dirt at speeds of more than 50 kilometres per hour while carrying people on their backs. Horses used for racing are victims of an industry that is rife with drug abuse, injuries and race fixing, and many of their careers end at the abattoir.
Horses begin training – or are already racing – when their skeletal systems are still growing and are unprepared to handle the pressures of competitive running on a hard track at high speeds. Strained tendons or hairline fractures can be tough for veterinarians to diagnose, and the damage may go from minor to irreversible within one race or workout. Horses do not handle surgery well, and many animals who can no longer race are euthanised or sold at auction to save the owners further veterinary fees and other expenses.
Few racehorses are retired to pastures, because owners don’t want to pay for a horse who doesn’t bring in any money. Many end up at abattoirs that supply the pet-food industry or countries such as Japan and France, which sell horse meat for human consumption. Horses who are sent to these facilities often endure days of transport in cramped trailers. There is currently no code of practice regarding the transport of horses, and the Australian Racing Board has refused to contribute funds to assist with the creation of a proposed standard for horse welfare. Horses are subject to the same slaughter method as cows, but because horses are generally not accustomed to being herded, they tend to thrash about in an attempt to avoid being shot by the captive-bolt gun that is supposed to render them unconscious before their throats are cut.
Help phase out this exploitative “sport” by refusing to patronise existing tracks, lobbying against the construction of new tracks and educating your friends and family about the tragic lives that racehorses lead.