What Actually Goes On In Horse Racing.

smad
Smad Place jumping for fun out in front (not our Picture)

By Samantha

 

The public’s view of horse racing is naive about what actually goes on. I researched a lot into how people perceive horse racing and found animal welfare charities expressing points that were exaggerated and factually incorrect. As a way of finding out what young equestrians thought, I asked my Instagram followers what their opinion was of horse racing and some of the things I found out that people believed were uneducated and unaware. As the next generation going into the world of equitation, everyone at Rein It In thinks that young people should be told the finer details into what happens in racing rather than the broader brush strokes.

WHY DO HORSES GET PUT DOWN IN HORSE RACING?

Horse racing is like any equine sport; people and horses get hurt, whether we like it or not, it’s just how it is. Race horses’ bones are light weight so can break easier than a cob or shire. These breeds have thicker cannon bones and larger hooves so there is less pressure distributed between each of their four legs because their hooves are larger. There are a few ways a horses’ legs can break- either them snapping or shattering are the most common way. Usually, the bone bends before it snaps so if it is put back together again the horse could end up with a bent leg. As a result of this, they wouldn’t be able to walk properly and function like a regular horse.

The decision to put a horse down isn’t an easy one and there are lots of long term things to consider. One of the most predominant reasons why horses get put down after breaking their leg is that they would have to be on box rest for a long time. It would consist of the horse being kept in their stable for weeks so the break can heal and also, this can lead to laminitis which is painful for a horse. Box rest can make the horse bored and turn sour and nasty, race horses especially because they are used to running and exercising every day. Most likely, the horse wouldn’t be able to do things they did before and they would have to have lots of costly medication.

WHY IS THE GRAND NATIONAL SO INFAMOUS?

The Grand National is the most dangerous steeplechase in Britain. It combines a tough stamina test with huge fences and deadly drops. Because of this, it takes a brilliant horse to win it but some aren’t good enough. Around 80 horses have died in the race’s 187 year history.

  • WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO MAKE IT SAFER?

 

For the runners and riders, the entry requirements have become stiffer. On the course, the landing sides of some of the fences, including Becher’s Brook, have been levelled out and the start has been moved away from the stands to create a calmer atmosphere for the runners. If an accident does occur, the veterinary staff will be perfectly equipped for helping the horse in the relatively new Veterinary Surgery put on the course in 2008.

DO THE JOCKEYS CARE ABOUT THE HORSES?

I can’t definitely have the answer to this question because I don’t know how every jockey feels about the horses but I know that most of them love the horses because it is evident. One of the most moving things I’ve ever seen on a racecourse is when Sir Valentino couldn’t get up after his fall in the Tingle Creek and Adrian Heskin stayed with him, giving up his last ride of the day to be by his side. Jockeys pull up their horses if they know that the horse isn’t running well and they hug their horses even if they don’t win.

sir valentino
Sir Valentino at home before schooling under Adrian Heskin. The pair had 25% strike rate and won the Haldon Gold Cup together in 2016.

 

IS THERE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TIMES JOCKEYS CAN USE THE WHIP?

Yes, there is. In National Hunt Racing, jockeys are allowed to whip their mounts eight times overall and after the last fence, they are allowed to whip them five times. The whips don’t hurt the horse a lot because their ends are made of a foam padding and make a noise. Mainly during races, jockeys show their horses the whip and don’t actually hit them. A tap on the shoulder for a horse keeps them aware and on task as well as being used to change their legs, lengthen the striding and go faster just like in show jumping or cross country. Most importantly, the whip can help a jockey to keep his horse going straight and not drifting and causing an accident.

The stewards can enforce a ban if the jockey goes over the allotted amount of smacks. In the finish, if the horse isn’t racing against another for a finishing position, the jockey could get ban due to unnecessary use of the whip. Also, if the horse is far away from the rest of the field and the jockey whips him, that can also result in a ban. This occurred recently when Sam Spinner won the Betfair Stayers Hurdle at Haydock Park by seventeen lengths.

ARE HORSES FORCED TO RACE?

This is a question that can provoke lots more questions and there isn’t really a definite answer. From most horses’ expressions, you can tell when they are loving every minute and are trying their hardest for their jockeys. Take Smad Place (main Picture)  for example, the front running grey always looks like he is enjoying what he is doing. Some horses don’t like to run and that’s understandable- some people like certain types of things and others don’t. Most of the horses who don’t like racing are sold on as riding horses and rehomed by various retired raced horse charities. I’m not going to avoid the fact that some exracers do end up getting put down but that would only be because they were a danger to people and themselves.

WHY DO PEOPLE MAKE IT OUT LIKE NATIONAL HUNT RACING IS THE ONLY HORSE RELATED SPORT THAT HAS THE POSIBILITY TO BE CALLED ‘ABUSIVE’?

Something that really gets on my nerves is people saying how bad racing is but they don’t seem to recognise that other horse related sports aren’t exactly brilliant towards their horses. In Dressage, some rider use rollkur which stretches the horse’s back and neck muscles into unnatural positions just to get a better outline. By doing this, it cause the horse serious back problems which shortens their career. At the Olympics, the minimum height of a showjumping fence is 1.6m (5ft 3). The rider can wear spurs and their whips are a lot harder than a jockey’s. They are ridden around courses with tight turns and stabbed in the belly with the spurs which can leave long lasting scars and sensitive areas. Cross country is the eventing leg that resembles horseracing the most. It combines unforgiving, solid fences with a long stamina test. Horses have to jump ditches sometimes the width of trucks. The minimum jump height is 1.2m (3ft 11). On a National Hunt course, the chase fences are at a minimum height of 1.37cm (4 ½ ft). The top part of a chase fence is made of birch twigs and can be pushed aside if a horse was to crash through the top unlike most cross country fences which are solid.

 

In conclusion, there is risks in everything to do with horses. They could hurt themselves when being ridden, in the stable or in the field not just on the race track.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: