Friday, July 22, 2011

Industry Insights: Let's be Frank (about drugs) - Thoroughbred Times

Industry Insights: Let's be Frank - Thoroughbred Times

I just read the above linked article written by John P. Sparkman, a quote from it:

“The struggling global economy, decline in public interest in horses in general, the attenuated attention span of the Internet age, public perceptions of widespread drug abuse, all these and other factors have combined to earthquake Thoroughbred racing, collapsing the house that generations of racing men built. We cannot control most of the factors that have negatively affected our industry. We can control our medication rules”.

My question to ALL interested parties:

Do industry participants really care enough about their horses to actually go drug-free?

The gross reality of thoroughbred racing is that horses are commoditized; to most they are not viewed as living, feeling, sentient beings. They are instruments to make money; when one horse breaks down, another waits to fill its stall. A horse no longer able to race becomes, at best, someone else’s responsibility.

The genesis of the problems that now plague racing began years ago in breeding sheds across the country. As with genetically engineered factory farming, we are now realizing the error of manufacturing animals for obsolescence. Thoroughbreds that were once bred for stamina, strength, and durability have fallen prey to human's shortsighted need for speed. When breeding began focusing on creating “sale” horses, those that could run early as two-year-olds and turn in a 20-second quarter at a breeze show, equine pharmaceutical companies jumped at the chance to market products to trainers struggling to keep up an unnatural pace.

Veterinarians, as the distributors of drugs, have everything to gain from advocating their use--the vet bills for pre-race, post-race, and everything in between, average approximately $2,000 a month, even for a sound horse. If a horse falls apart under the stress of racing, either on drugs or against horses who are using them, even more money goes to the veterinarian.

So how does one get new owners and fans into a sport that is perceived as drug-riddled, cruel, funded by gambling, embroiled in political hold-ups, only for the super-rich, and generally doesn’t allow for hands-on interaction with the horse?

The drugging and substance abuse America’s thoroughbreds are subjected to has landed the industry in a quagmire. I am ashamed of the actions of the HBPA. What’s benevolent and protective about permissive, unsafe medication rules? Is the HBPA proud of enabling horses to race that otherwise would not be on the track? Why are people breeding or racing any horses that need drugs to perform? If a horse bleeds it shouldn't be running; breed them stronger, condition them better. Steve Zorn has a super informative blog, here is the link to Lasix as it relates to bleeding:

I am a lifelong horse owner and breeder; I have brought many new owners into NY racing. I truly love horses and have spent every day of my life with them.

I grew up winning with horses across multiple disciplines as a result of excellent horsemanship, superior care, and conscientious training. Horses have given too much to me personally to ever consider practices that would detract from the quality and length of their lives--they would NEVER do the same to us.

Racing needs to consider its principles first, and let public relations follow.

What's your opinion? I'd value your insights and love to hear from you. Together, lets find ways to make life better for horses. Susan