I was reading something the other day that pointed out 8 million horses were killed in World War I. While it was a tremendous tragedy (as were the human deaths), it stands as a great example of the importance and versatility of the horse.
They are brave in war, giving their lives in a conflict they couldn’t possibly understand. They plowed fields so crops could be planted and people could eat. They run like the wind, not just for us, but because that is what gives them joy in life. In return, we have the responsibility of caring for them, keeping them healthy and happy. No one should ever be allowed to own a horse without making a vow to treat them as you would treat your children. and when they break that vow they should suffer an appropriate penalty.
The deaths of horses in the winter/spring meet at Santa Anita has become a story that some want to use to shut the doors on North American tracks. I have no problem agreeing that too many horses were put down in a short period of time. I don’t know for sure why it happened at the SA meet, but a few of the usual suspects were floated – drugs, previous injury, a lack of effective leadership from the track owners and managers – you know the ones. The track was even devoid of horses for a couple of weeks while the experts went over it with a fine toothed comb.
I was so lucky that the first track I ever saw from the inside was Saratoga. I felt totally at home. When the horses left for the first race I had managed to wiggle my way onto the fence, and when they come down the stretch it was like an impending tornado, hoofs pounding and dirt clods flying. It was a ballet on four legs, and when I could get away, Saratoga was where I wanted to be. I love watching horses run.
I refuse to concede that horseracing should shutter its gates. I know some of the best times in my life have been watching horses run as they were born to do. It’s social, it fulfills dreams and just as easily crushes them. I will never give up going to the track, but despite my sincere belief that at the premier tracks in America, almost every trainer does his best to treat his horses well and follow the rules of racing, it is impossible to pacify the the kooks who believe humans shouldn’t own animals, much less race them. When racing truly lets me down, or doesn’t take care of business the right way, perhaps then I’ll walk away. But for now, I still believe that 95% of the people in the racing business are ready to do what is necessary to prove that the anti-racing groups have no credibility.
Meanwhile we need to get assurance that the stewards, racing commissioners, owners and trainers that they are trying their absolute best to get over the bar horseplayers and the animal rights people have set for for them. And they need to do it now.