|The good side of the racing industry coin, sadly not the only side|
This New York Times article hits on nearly every bad part of horse racing: drugs, pushing horses that shouldn't run, running them until they break, and injuring them beyond repair, where they often take a human down with them.
Natalie at Retired Racehorse does a beautiful, if heart-wrenching job of summarizing the article here. Such a good job of describing the video, in fact, that I think I will have to skip it. Visions of Calabar dance in my head when I watch breakdowns and Steve once banned me from reading rescue blogs after watching me sob at each new example of the cruelty inherent in my own species.
But it's not really about cruelty, or not just about cruelty. It's about an industry that needs strong, fair, realistic and honest oversight and guidelines. Consequences for stepping outside the guidelines should be fair, swift and mandatory based on the offense--not how much money your stable makes. There needs to be a balance of people in the industry, as well as some from outside it. Those on the outside will offer perspective and serve as a reminder that the world is indeed watching, but the industry can only change, will only change, with pressure from the inside. There are enough good people to help with that.
It's more possible now than it has ever been. Social media, OTTB rescue groups, retraining organizations like the Retired Racehorse Training Project showing off what these talented horses can do once they come off the track--even the demise of the HBO series, Luck--are helping shine light on the darkness in the industry. As with any festering wound, light and air are the best medicine and I expect people like Arthur B. Hancock III (quoted in the NYT article), the Moss' and Team Zenyatta, and Jess Jackson's (owners of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra) estate to get in there and fight with the rest of us.
And what, you might ask, would be their motivation for that? How about turning their image around so people LIKE to go to the races? Not just to bet, not just for the casinos, but to watch these magnificent athletes run. To feel the thunder through the soles of their feet as the horses come down the stretch. Power, grace, pure energy--that prick of ears forward as a horse takes the lead and realizes he's in front. It's magic. Those of us who truly love the sport and love the horses know that and we will fight for it.
And maybe that will begin to heal the sport, bring honesty and integrity--and from there, new spectators--to the Sport of Kings.