The Realities of the Kentucky Derby – The Cost of Winning

horse portrait
horse portrait

The Kentucky Derby just happened. Did you watch? Did you go? Who won? What was the horses’ name? The riders’ name? What’s next for them? Just like anything else, there are avid lovers of this event, but the next day, its old news and everyone is on to the next thing. The reality is though, it’s never ending for these animals who are pushed through vigorous trainings, daily, years on end. When the event is “over” for us, it’s just starting again for those animals their training.

If you support something, don’t you think you should be knowledgeable on all the aspects? Even the realities behind it? The work that goes into it and so forth? Yes, you should. If you’re going to choose to support or follow something and/or being a bystander striving to fit in at your offices’ next “water cooler” conversation, then you should be aware of the topic from all angles.

With that said, did you know that millions either tune into or attend the Kentucky Derby, each year? This event we view it as being luxurious. The money being thrown around, the bets, the drinks, the fancy dressed people with their large, fun hats. What we don’t see is the abuse these horses go through beforehand, during, and after the fact.

The horses endured nonstop training, exhaustion, injuries, and poor living conditions – all leading up to this race. There have been indicators where horses have had previous injuries from trainings or races. From broken bones, muscle inflammation, poor medical and health treatments and so forth. Horses have been drugged up, to push them to race, even when they are in pain, currently have an injury or cannot push through another race. Their owners have enough gone as far as drugging their horses to boost their performances. All in hopes that the horse, I mean, the rider, wins for their appropriate sponsor. What happens to the horses who don’t win? They either get fizzled out of the “business” by being re-homed, obtaining new “jobs” and/or are put to death.

According to the ASPCA, more than 160,000 horses – including race horses, were sent to slaughter in 2013. With around 60,000 of horses competing on the race tracks, a high number of them get “retired” each year. The high-profile winners are usually sought out for, once retired, for reproduction. Their goal is to breed these high-profile winners to a next generation winner. The horses have already had a gruesome life and just to be reprocessed into a working stud or sent to the slaughterhouse is a great way to say “thanks” after all of that work they were unwilling put through, right?

Just because the United States has prohibited horse slaughter, does not mean it is not occurring. I even hear my own mother telling me about local horse auctions and how she’s afraid to send some of her older horses there, because they’ll probably just be purchased for slaughter. Markets in Canada, Europe, and Asia value horse meat and will pay an arm and a leg (pun intended) for this meat. Did you know that horse meat can be toxic to humans? Why? Because of all the drugs that are injected into them. The drugs are administered at high dosage levels and primarily in situations like horse racing to push for the best performance, no matter what.

According to Nancy Perry, Senior VP of ASPCA governmental relations, “It is well-documented that many racehorses end up at slaughter auctions within a week of their last race, despite the fact that many tracks across the country have policies opposing this practice.” Luckily, most Americans are against horse slaughter. A 2012 ASPCA poll showed 80 percent of American voters are against horse slaughter.

What can we do to help these horses? Just like anything, there is not enough education surrounding these topics, the work that goes into it, and appreciation for the work “voluntarily” or non-voluntarily put through the work. We, as humans, work and then get to retire, eventually. What about these animals being through sports, unwillingly, like this? Where is the gratitude? Where is the retirement? You can push yourself and others to become more knowledgeable about “sports” like this, choose whether or not to support horse racing, horse cruelty, and fight against horse slaughterhouses. There are a number of horse rescue groups that need you or someone elses’ support. Do what you think is right. Help be the voice for animals who don’t have a voice. Become knowledgeably, speak to others surrounding these issues, and choose to not to support or fight against these practices.

Want to have a discussion about this topic? Comment below!

To learn more about horse racing, its effects, and what you can do to stop it, please click on the links below.

Large Numbers of Race Horses Die at Track Each Year
Horse Racing Exposed: Drugs & Death Video
Sign the Petition Against Horse Slaughterhouses
What the Kentucky Derby is like for Horses
Process of Training a Horse for the Kentucky Derby
Helping Racehorses
Getting Congress to end Drugging Horses


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