Cross-posted from The Blood-Horse
by TOM LaMARRA
Declines in the number of foals and registered horses have created challenges for the equine industry at large, though the situation has raised another major question: Where have all the owners gone?
This year’s American Horse Council National Issues Forum was titled, “Where Have All the Horses Gone?”
During the June 24 forum in Washington, D.C., the question was answered on several levels, but the data also led to more questions.
Breed registries have largely the same story to tell, and it’s one about fewer horses either through declines in the number of mares bred or the fact horses aren’t registered.
In any event, racing and other disciplines are feeling the impact that comes from fewer people participating in horse ownership.
For instance, the Thoroughbred foal crop was more than 51,000, an all-time high, in 1986, but The Jockey Club projects it will fall to about 22,000 in 2014. In turn, the number of individual race starters is projected to drop from 59,300 last year to 44,500 in 2017.
The people who run horse racing in the U.S. continue to come across as blinkered as usual to the legion of wrongs.
But let’s look at this from a purely business sense. If people don’t want your product, make a better product.
Who wants to buy a horse who hasn’t the stamina for training and likely to break down before he or she even makes it into a race. Drugs and other “therapies” only get these horses so far as we have seen. And it is getting worse. Now the two-year olds aimed at the Kentucky Derby and beyond don’t make it to their three-year old seasons.
As Arthur Hancock, the breeder of three Kentucky Derby winners points out: “Chemical horses produce chemical babies. Performance-enhancing drugs must be banned if we are going to survive as an industry and if thoroughbreds are going to survive as a robust breed.”
Many individuals complain that the cost of owning and racing a horse is way over the top.
How about the veterinary bills and expenses for the huge amounts of drugs these horses are reportedly given? Eliminating that pervasive problem would surely begin to restore the health, stamina and longevity of the racehorse and help this flagging industry.
Horse racing still thinks marketing it saying, hey, everything’s okay, horse racing’s still great, is the way to go. Really? You have been saying this for years yet there is no change. Your industry is dying on the vine. Take a look.
- Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Jim Gagliano said. “It’s abundantly clear what we need to do.”
Gagliano outlined seven things The Jockey Club believes the industry must do: thoughtfully reduce the number of racing days; promote the best races and events; improve use of new marketing tools such as social media; focus on a younger demographic to introduce people to horse racing; increase the value of Thoroughbreds in part by proving their value outside of racing; developing new owners; and reducing risks such as medication abuse or horse neglect that damage the Thoroughbred brand.
How can you promote the value of Thoroughbreds outside of racing when you ruin so many of them? What about the ones who cannot go on to second careers because of what they suffered in their racing careers?
There is a slight glimmer of hope although it is worded in a way that is not particularly encouraging, and that is the last of these mentioned by Gagliano – reducing risks such as medication abuse or horse neglect that damage the Thoroughbred brand.
If they were more concerned about the humane and respectful treatment of racehorses, they wouldn’t have to be so concerned about their brand.
A good start would be to stop ignoring the abuses exposed such as the Peta Asmussen report, facing them and dealing with them. Do they really think that nobody has noticed the horseracing industry has swept this under the carpet?
And here is another aspect of horse racing they continue to ignore: slaughter. One individual commenting on this article by the name of TerryM stated, “Considering how many horses are sent to slaughter every year, surely the drop in numbers is good“.
Guess what the American Horse Council’s stand on horse slaughter is.
• Cohen: The ugly truth about horse racing, May 26, 2014
• Asmussen, the torture of racehorses and agonizing death of Nehro, Mar. 22, 2014
• The end of the line for Monzante: A horse betrayed, Aug. 12, 2013
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