Death on the Track

Kate Compton, Writer

There is very much speculation when it comes to the horse racing industry. People are starting to wonder why all these horses keep dying. People are starting to question the ethics behind horse racing.

Looking into this elite industry there are many sides and beliefs to what really goes on behind closed doors. Recently 2 more horses have died at Santa Anita racetrack in Southern California bringing their total death toll to 25 horses since December 26th.

The interesting part is there is no clear reason why it is happening. For some people that may not know, within the racing industry there are many trainers. These trailers all control, race, and take care of their own horses within their individual barn at the racetrack. The owners buy the horses and sometimes they get suggestions of what colts to buy at the auctions from their trainers. The owners pick their favorite trainer to send their horses to, race, and feed them certain ways. With this being said it is not one specific person making decisions that regard theses horses at the track it is many trainers. So if one horse dies in one barn and another dies in the next, it could be for two completely different issues and reasons.

The horse racing industry contributes $39 billion in direct economic impact to the United States economy and supports 1.4 million jobs on a full time basis according to the AHC study. It is very clear this industry is very crucial to our economy.

Santa Anita Racetrack has now taken the initiative to shut down their park and analyze why so many death are happening. “ The safety, health and welfare of the horses and jockeys is our top priority,” according to Tim Ritvo chief operating officer of the stronach group. “While we are confident further testing will confirm the soundness of the track, the decision to close is the right thing to do at the time’’

Many people believe that the horses are not being taken care of properly which is inaccurate. These horses colts can be worth anywhere from $50,000 – $300,000 and sometimes more. These horses are properly fed, bathed, and blanked. These horses are not dying due to malnourishment or poor care.

One reason expressed for these deaths is the weather. California has been experiencing abnormal amounts of rain which have the potential to have an impact on the tracks surface. This strange weather that continues to have so much irregularity is also bad for these horses and their respiratory systems leaving them with breathing problems as they speed down the track.

Mike Peterson from the University of Kentucky spoke on behalf of California and the deaths that have occurred saying “ We’re looking at every option we can to begin to understand what’s happening, this is not what we do as a sport.”  Santa Anita is now expanding their tests and bringing track superintendents out to evaluate.

Another large question is about the kind of training the horses are receiving. Are these caretakers that are being paid to train these horses doing something wrong? This is considered a nightmare for everyone in the racing industry.

Necropsy evaluations are being performed on all the horses that have died. This may bring about more answers to why these talented horses are dying. The horse deaths that have recently taken place at Santa Anita are all from 19 different trainers and surprisingly nothing links any of the deaths together.

One issue of the deaths is the outrage the racing industry is receiving from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) which have now called a criminal investigation into the matter. One thing that needs to be realized is these deaths do not define the racing industry. There are thousands and thousand of horses each year that are perfectly fine after season is over and are taken care of. This current situation does not define the whole story.