A Speech About Horse Racing

By Samantha

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a speech about horse racing for my mock Spoken Language GCSE exam at school. The team here at Rein It In Racing think that there are huge misconceptions about the realities of racing and we want to combat the negative impressions racing has. I performed this last week and it got a good reception so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Since 1839, at the beginning of April, the Grand National Steeplechase has been held at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool. The Grand National has a mixed reputation and I am going to be talking to you about this today.

The horse everyone was talking about leading up to this renewal was Tiger Roll. He won the race last year by a nose for his Irish trainer Gordon Elliot and jockey Davy Russell. He is owned by Michael and Eddie O’Leary, who own the Ryanair Air travel company. The loveable, pint-sized horse had won his two races leading up to this race and, for some people, there was no way he could be beaten. He proved those people right and won his second consecutive Grand National in a visually more impressive style than last year.

As a devoted racing fan, this was incredible. It was the first time in my lifetime that a horse has won this brilliant race two years in a row. It takes so much guts and determination to win one running of the race, let alone two. It takes so much mental strength to jump the jumps and stay the four miles two furlongs trip. Some horses just don’t have that and that is why they don’t finish the race. They get pulled up and run again later on in the season. Take a horse called Step Back for example. He got tired in the Grand National but then ran three weeks later and was third in a very competitive race on the next time he ran.

The Grand National is one of the greatest races of them all but there have been some fatalities in the race’s history and, sadly, a horse lost his life this year. As a result of this, it has an infamous reputation. Until this year, there had been no fatalities what so ever since 2012 but, in equine sports, and with horses in general, you can never completely stop the possibilities of injuries which can sometimes be fatal. Whether we like it or not, that’s just how it is. It is proven that it is 62% more likely for a horse to be fatally injured in the field compared to a just over 30% chance when ridden.

In the event of a broken leg, whether that be at home or at the track, connections have a really tough decision in deciding what to do. No one wants to end a horses life but it is important to think about the long term factors. The options would either be to put them to sleep there and then or they would have to under go an extensive recovery program. They would have to be on ‘box rest’ which means that they’d have to stand on their three healthy legs with out moving for weeks. This could lead to laminitis which affects their feet and can be extremely painful.

One of the points I think is crucial to remember is that racehorses are bred to run and to race or to at least do something. After a serious injury, all that stops. Like Thanos clicking his fingers in Avengers:Infinity War. They go from working in a morning and going out in the field to nothing at all.

So what is being done to prevent it? The start has been moved away from the stands to make it a more calmer environment for the horses. They’ve levelled out the landing areas of the fences to make them safer and less steep. In 2008, a new veterinary surgery was installed onto the course. Since 2000, £35 million has been invested into the sport for veterinary research and it is obviously working. The fatality rate has decreased by one third in the past twenty years to 0.2% of runners. And when you consider that well over 93,000 horses run each year, that is a small amount. It is still too many though and you could argue that just one fatality is too much and I agree 100%. Whether we like it or not, horses die on the track and that is the heart breaking reality of the situation.

Another thing that people don’t tend to like about racing is whips. Certain groups of people believe that it hurts the horses, but, in actual fact, the whips are only made of foam padding. I have only ever seen one case where a whip has left a mark on a horse. There are rules that the jockeys have abide by to do with the welfare of the horse or they risk a fine and a ban. In national hunt racing, where they jump jumps, jockeys are allowed to whip their horses eight times overall and five of those after the last. A tap on the shoulder could be to help keep them on task as well as being used to change legs, lengthen their strides and go faster. Animal rights activists call for the whip to be abolished but it is a key tool in promoting and ensuring the safety of the jockeys. There was a race once where a horse jumped the last and ducked to the left straight towards a crowd of people. If the jockey didn’t have the whip to aid him, they would’ve catapulted straight into those people.

Another opinion about racing is that horses who aren’t good enough get killed. I am not going to deny this. It has happened and probably still continues but there are so many things in place to stop this and give a racehorse the best possible life after their careers, whether successful or not. There are charities like the Rehoming Of Racehorses, which is probably the most famous, The Thoroughbred Retraining Centre, HERO’S and Greatwood. Greatwood use former racehorses to help educate disadvantaged young people and children with learning difficulties. Similarly, I visited the British Racing School in February and the horses they use to train the racing staff of the future are all ex racehorses, some who were extremely successful and others who maybe didn’t even run. Racehorses can be perfect riding school, competition or pleasure horses when their days on the track end if handled correctly. There are so many possibilities if the trainer/owner seeks them out, which the majority of them do.

Sometimes, a horse simply doesn’t have the right temperament to go on to be a showjumper or family pet. Like people, you get horses who are vile. On these occasions, horses are put to sleep because that is the kindest thing to do. This is where the idea of ‘killing’ the horses comes from. But trust me, there has to be a valid reason. I’m not going to ignore the fact that it has been reported that horses were sent to abattoirs just this year. That is heartbreaking. Things are being done by the aforementioned charities to combat this though.

Now, some of the information I have told you isn’t nice but please don’t get the wrong impression. For me, Racing is the best thing ever; I adore it. It brings happiness to so many people. Yes, horses do die but sadly that happens in all equine sports. The only way to stop that is to stop any activity with horses but that just wouldn’t work.

I am a passionate believer that the public need more education about what racing is actually like so I hope you all learnt something from my speech.

Thank you so much for reading!

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