As an Equestrian and an animal lover, horse racing is a hugely controversial topic in my world. And I have to be honest, it has taken me a few weeks to write this blog. It may surprise you that I am not anti horse racing. In fact, not only do I have my ex-racehorse Nigel, I also have a share in 2 Thoroughbred racehorses. What I am though, is anti horse abuse in ANY discipline, and a strong advocate for training and re-homing retired racehorses.
Do I agree with every part of the horse racing industry? Hell no. There are too many 2 year old horses raced before their bodies are mature enough. The owners, and even trainers ignore this. Is there abuse in the world of horse racing? You betcha. And the abuse is not bound by the horse racing industry either, there just happens to be far more media attention in horse racing than in other competitive events. There is neglect, unsafe living conditions, animal hoarding, training abuse, drugging, the list goes on. And this is in the dressage world, the show jumping world and even the non-competitive horse world.
But as an owner of 3 Thoroughbreds, one an ex-racehorse and two currently racing, what I can say is there are also good owners and trainers out there. A LOT of them. And excuse the cliche, but these people love their animals and would do anything for them. They are ethical and experienced, and they know that horses and horse training is all about being in a partnership!
Working with horses it’s important to remember, you don’t make him learn. You set it up to allow him to learn. You have to give him that with dignity. Once you start giving, you won’t believe how much you get back – Ray Hunt
When I was 10 years old, I witnessed horse abuse for the first time. It’s funny what I remember from that day. I don’t remember what I ate or drank. I don’t remember what I was wearing. And I don’t remember where we were going or what we did after. But I do remember stopping the car because we saw a pregnant mare at the point of starvation. There was no food and no water, and as we got closer we realised the mare was no longer pregnant because she had given birth to a stillborn foal. I remember that mare and foal like it was yesterday. I don’t know if this was just a tragic story of a struggling horse owner, who didn’t have the means to care for their horse, but what I do know is this was horse neglect.
I guess the question I tend to ask myself is “how can we eradicate horse abuse and neglect in it’s entirety?” and not just in the racing world. What’s important to me is that the right people continue to work with horses in all disciplines, and the wrong are held to account. How many people are out there guilty of animal abuse and murder, yet are still free to own animals and roam the streets? Perhaps it’s our fractional animal rights laws that should be questioned, rather than the controversy of the horse racing industry.
Cover photo; Lady Cromac 2017
Below photo; Naughty Baby (Nigel) 2014
This blog is the personal opinion and experience of the author. You should always seek the advice of a professional horse riding instructor or trainer for your own specific situation or circumstance.