Letting Money Get the Best of Us By AVERY WAITE

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WAITE_AveryIn
2008, thoroughbred racehorse Eight Belles finished second in the Kentucky
Derby
, one of the world’s most prestigious horseraces. However, shortly after
crossing the finish line, she collapsed in pain from two broken ankles and was
euthanized on the track. A similar fate beheld Ruffian in 1975, Barbaro in
2006, and Raspberry Kiss in 2009. While these stories are well known, many
people fail to realize how often these events occur. On average, 24 horses
die each week at American racetracks. Many horses are drugged to block the pain
they feel or to increase performance while they race. Since 2009, the injury
incident rate has increased and trainers at United States tracks have been
caught illegally drugging horses 3,800 times, a vast underestimate of the
problem considering how few horses are actually tested. Why do we overlook the
fact that many racehorses are pumped full of drugs, forced to run long
distances at a young age, and often die of broken bones or heart attacks on the
track? It is time that we help protect horses from people’s desires for
economic profit.

The
desire for money is the root of many problems in horseracing. In order to increase
race attendance,
racetracks have added casino gambling to their operations, resulting in higher
purses. This provides an incentive for trainers to enter horses that are not
ready to race.
Trainers also push horses beyond their limits from a very young age with the
hopes of having the next winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, or the
Belmont Stakes, as these races can generate millions of dollars in profit. People
start training their horses between one to one and a half years old in order to
be contenders in the major races. However, at that age, horses are not
physically mature. Training horses before they have matured can cause common
racing problems like lower-limb ailments and injuries. Early training also
reduces the average horse’s lifespan from mid- twenties to about six years old. In addition, if a horse
is not generating revenue, it could be one of the 10,000 racehorses that are
shipped across United States borders to slaughterhouses every year.

After
Eight Belles died in 2008, Congress received promises from the racing industry to make the
sport safer. While safety measures like bans on anabolic steroids have been
enacted, assessing their impact has been difficult because many tracks do not
keep accurate accident figures. While there are many people who take great care
of their horses, there are others who severely mistreat them. To improve the
current situation, stronger
regulations must be implemented concerning the use of drugs in horseracing. In England, horses
cannot race on drugs, and breakdown rates are half of what they are in the
United States. Therefore,
banning drugs in
races is a good first step towards providing better lives for racehorses. Gambling at racetracks
should also be monitored and reduced. If there were not so much at stake,
trainers would not feel the need to risk horses’ lives by forcing unfit horses
to race. Finally, we should limit the number of races a horse can run every
year. This would decrease the stress placed on these young horses bodies that are
not fully matured. It would also lessen the number of deaths that occur on the
racetracks each year by giving horses longer breaks between races.

What
I have learned to love most about horses since I began riding at age seven, and
what I miss about them now that I am in college, is the bond that we are able
to form with them. They are so powerful and can easily harm people, yet when
treated with care and respect, they are eager to do their best for us. Unfortunately,
many people take advantage of the trust that horses instill in us. It is our
responsibility to ensure that horses have the best quality of life. In order to
prevent horses from suffering a similar fate to that of Eight Belles, we must
stand up for horses and help make the sport of horseracing safer and more
humane.

Avery
Waite grew up in Bronxville, NY, and Rye, NY. She is nineteen years old and a
sophomore at Duke University.

 

eHeziLetting Money Get the Best of Us By AVERY WAITE

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