Below are excerpts from an article in Final Turn on BloodHorse.com by Christine Orman PhD, “Sound Advice” on retiring racehorses from the track so they have a chance at a second career, and life.
Dr Orman begins:
Simply too many horses come off the racetrack for the last time because of some injury they sustained during racing. Those of us who work in the racehorse adoption field see this all too frequently. A horse comes to us with an irreversible injury that even after rehabilitation leaves its riding capacity forever limited to “trail riding” (if that) and reduces its chances of finding an adoptive home to practically nil.
This year at least 80% of the horses needing ReRun’s adoption services had such injuries. A case in point is “Misty,” a 7-year-old Thoroughbred mare with 37 starts and career earnings of more than $185,000 behind her. We were told she had a suspensory injury, but what she had was an ankle of bone-on-bone. No cartilage or fluid remained in the joint. This typically happens when a horse has been repeatedly injected with cortisone, which allows her to run with no pain. In ReRun’s experience, this kind of treatment is the most common cause of irreversible injuries, and it is what turns potential show horses into pasture pals, like Misty.
I recognize the financial consequences of not racing a horse this one last time. I know for many owners a winning race can pay a lot of bills, especially in a poor economy. That’s pressure. I get that. But please remember a horse’s life is in your hands. You can determine his post-career fate from Day One of his racing career. It really can come down to you making a life-or-death decision if you repeatedly choose to put a Band-Aid over a serious injury; choosing injections into a joint rather than treating the problem properly from the get-go.
To continue racing a horse who [that] has shown signs of injury not only is irresponsible but is essentially giving him or her a death sentence after retirement. The horse will not be able to find a home. So, where will your beautiful 4-year-old baby of a horse end up? You know where, and it isn’t pretty.
Dr Orman asks this of racehorse owners:
In honor of Zenyatta’s sound retirement and the turn of the year, I’d like to ask racehorse owners across the country to consider making the following New Year’s resolution: You will try your very best to retire your horses from racing before their injuries reach the point of no return and prevent them from ever getting a second chance at a new life. Let’s begin the new decade with a generation of owners who are educated in, and dedicated to, the well-being and health of their horses both during and after their racing careers.
Dr. Christine Orman is the Resource Development Director for ReRun, a non-profit Thoroughbred adoption program. (www.rerun.org)
Image Source: Racing at Turfway Park, Kentucky. Photographer Unknown.