Congressional study looks at drug abuse, injuries in horse racing

It is difficult to know where to start when looking at the problems facing horse racing. However, it is clear that denial is right at the very core of the problem.

The solution of setting up a central regulatory body with some real power and inclination to reform and restore some integrity to the sport of horse racing does not require much imagination. Enter Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, and Rep. Edward Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, who are in favor of this very idea, hallelujah. The Senators are pouring over industry reports following a Congressional hearing two years ago into racehorse doping “to learn whether the industry has toughened its anti-doping rules.”

The King of Denial has to be Alex Waldrop. Here’s what he told Jeff Barker of the Baltimore Sun:

“More progress has been made by the horse industry during the past two years than during the past two decades,” Alex Waldrop, president of the thoroughbred group [NTRA], said in a written response to a Baltimore Sun query. “A central governing body would not have been any more effective. Today, we have better scientific research, more comprehensive reporting requirements, much-improved regulatory uniformity and broader cooperation among states and racing participants than ever before.”

Among other questions asked for these reports are how many horses suffered injuries or death in races.

The Jockey Club replied that there were 2.04 deaths per 1,000 starts from November 2008 through October 2009 in thoroughbred flat races at 73 American or Canadian tracks. The club provided no injury figures, saying it was working with veterinarians and epidemiologists to develop a database.

What this statement leaves out is that reporting track fatalities was voluntary and not every racecourse participated. Therefore there are deaths occurring, racing and during work, not accounted for in its report to Congress.

If the Jockey Club is interested, you can find some of them at Equus Editorial, a Thoroughbred Racehorse Memorial. It is eye-opening and horrifying. For example, look at the number of Thoroughbreds who have died while training on the track at Golden Gate (see GG in the Track column). What can be done about the safety and welfare of the horses forced to work at this death trap? Who can we appeal to when a track like Golden Gate brushes off organizations such as ours when they request they investigate injuries and deaths such as these?

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10 thoughts on “Congressional study looks at drug abuse, injuries in horse racing”

  1. Yes ! God bless you Lisa and Shane, I know all the stories dont have your happy ending, it is a area that does need work for sure………. But I believe there is hope for racing !!! And we will find it……………………………


  2. My man Shane the Thoroughbred (by the way, today is his birthday – 20 years young and still kickin’ booty all over the pasture) was raced as a two-year-old, only at ‘local’ tracks. In his sixth and final race, he came up lame, the cartilage around his knees torn. The track ‘vet’ offered to shoot cortisone in his knees so he could finish the events of the day. Fortunately for him and I, the lady who owned him at the time said no.
    This ‘vet’ wasn’t even circumspect about it. Just put it out there like he was offering a B12 shot.
    This was my introduction to the wonderful world of Thorougbreds. A ‘friend’ told me TBs are ‘a dime a dozen’, and there are so many clever ways to kill one. Or a dozen, if that year’s crop of foals isn’t racetrack or dressage quality.
    If any organization should be closely regulated in humane standards and restricted breeding, these guys should be at the top.


  3. Nothing I have tried to correct has ever been easy , i expect oppositions on all Horse issues, but that will never stop me, nor has it ever stopped you , so we are ready for all of it……….. We will find freedom for all Horses, from slaughter and terror no matter how much work and effort it takes…………………………Of that i am sure…………………………….With all the people helping ….


  4. Just wanted to make sure we dont spread ourselves to thin……… I would love to tackle that one headon , and be on the enforcement committee……… At least in Racing there are people who truly love and respect the Horse !!! We wont find Brickwall Officals like in Horse Slaughter , that also take forever while Horses are being terrorized, and slaughter…………… My coal is to Protect all our Horses from all aspects of harm……


    1. The racing industry except for the breeding sector for obvious reasons used to be anti horse slaughter, and took a public stand against it. Little by little the breeders put enough pressure on the others so that they are all pro horse slaughter. A few bold racetracks came forward and took a no horse slaughter policy. Horse racing in America is an extremely cruel and abusive sport for horses. I have worked as a racing photographer in the UK, Europe and US so have an idea. I say idea, because I am sure there is a huge amount that I never saw.

      There are of of course a percentage who come out of the sport relatively unscathed, but the ones who do not, it is absolutely unconscionable the torture they are put through. Then after a life of that, they are killed in a slaughterhouse. The racing industry is just as entrenched in their ways as all the others. The problem is there is no central figure or governing body to go to, so the horses are virtually left unprotected. The brick wall is there alright.


  5. Hummmmm, funny that this should come up now, If you would like to know how many horses break down on the race track , i will refer you to this site , which is excellent, it is race horse memorial wall here you can find out every horses name, date, injury, death and how it occurred,what track it happened at, wow this site in the near future will be such a great tool………… But for now our entire focus should remain entirely on stopping the BLM, and ending forever Horse Slaughter………We can not for even a minute sway away from stopping both of these Horrors…… All our energys are needed here and here alone for now… Racing can wait !!!


    1. Arlene, I appreciate your sentiments, but the horses need us on all fronts. Many of the issues are interlinked and have horse slaughter in common. There is no one else doing what we do, which is to tackle as many issues as money and staff allow.


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