Horse Race Insider’s Note to Racing: No More Mixed Messages

We note a few quotes and write in response to a Horse Race Insider’s article, “Note to Racing: No More Mixed Messages.”

Quote: “Aside from seeing an occasional news broadcast, the public has little to no interest in the game.”

We Say: Because horse racing has little to no interest in the public. This is an insider’s game. Plus — and this may ultimately be the defining factor particularly in the current climate — the public do not want to watch racehorses being killed.

Quote: “None of the people that have signed on to support the HIA [Horseracing Integrity Act] race their stock without drugs, even though they openly oppose it. They do not want to lose the edge from supposedly non performance-enhancing medications. That in itself negates the claim that drugs regularly administered to racehorses are benign.”

We Say: Yes. Correct.

Quote: “It is easy to look good backing a bill with no chance of becoming law.”

We Say: Spot on.

QUOTE: “TJC’s [The Jockey Club] support of DOA [dead on arrival] HIA bill, and not the Racehorse Doping Ban Act of 2019, aka Udall-Wyden, or the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act 2019, makes it seem as if the stewards of racing are moving forward to improve the reputation and integrity of the sport, but not supporting Udall-Wyden and SAFE clearly shows it is a publicity ploy.

“HIA not only lacks the necessary support, it faces the opposition of the National Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Kentucky’s Senator Mitch McConnell, who acts on the wishes of Churchill Downs, and has no mechanism to fund itself.

“Supporting a bill that has no chance to become law is the perfect ploy to placate the public and the perceived enemy, animal rights groups.

“HIA not only places the same ineffectual industry leaders in a majority position on a board with government backing, it sets up the United States Anti-Doping Authority for a fall.

“Udall-Wyden and SAFE, which would both be beneficial to the sport are absent of TJC support. SAFE in particular because it outlaws horse slaughter in the US and prohibits the export of horses for slaughter in other countries.”

We Say: Exactly.

Here is where we part company with the Horse Race Insider article.

QUOTE: “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) causes death by blows to the head, yet the National Football League and the National Hockey league are not even remotely worried that society or politicians will banish Football or Ice Hockey.

“Thoroughbred horse racing’s leaders need to wake up to the fact that the industry isn’t an endangered species and get back to competing with sports betting, which is likely to have a much greater negative effect in the industry than horse deaths.

“In one year, the narrative has changed from how to grow the sport to how to save it. The issues of growth have not changed, nor has the chance horse racing will be banished.

“The time has come to take the reins and drive the sport into the future, not shrink from the actions of animal rights activists.”

We Say: The quote in the article that breaks the bank is this, “Thoroughbred horseracing’s leaders need to wake up to the fact that the industry isn’t an endangered species and get back to competing with sports betting, which is likely to have a much greater negative effect in the industry than horse deaths.” More than horse deaths? How do you think horse racing got into its current jam then?

As regards the horses, racehorses aren’t recruited. They don’t sign multi million contracts to train and compete. Neither do they volunteer their services. They are purposely bred, created, not for themselves — but to be hideously used and disposed of by a cruel industry whose concern for their welfare has become virtually non existent. 

Please folks whatever you do, do not try to respond with comments about how much owners and trainers “love” their horses. If so, then their love is the kiss of death. Added to that, they wouldn’t be in this business at all if they gave a flying you know what about the racehorse.

As a sidenote, we are not picking on Horse Race Insider here. We are simply using its article as an example of how a majority, if not all, of horse racing thinks.

As you can see, many in horse racing are still making piously bankrupt remarks about reform, and turning around and contradicting themselves just a few days later. It’s bedlam trying to follow it all. Horse Race Insider just happened to gift us with what we needed all in one place, that’s all.

What it appears in actuality is all that American horse racing truly wants is for the bad publicity, outside interference, proposed federal oversight, anti-doping legislation, suggestions of an independent Commissioner — and oh, yes, those annoying day-to-day racetrack death watches and protests — to go far, far away so they can go back to what they do undisturbed and unperturbed. Who can blame them — if you are of that ilk.

However, that means the continued drugging, abuse and killing of racehorses. Why would anyone who enjoys a flutter want to gamble on such a thing? How can the rest of us turn a blind eye?
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Read full article here »

The true celebration will be when we end horse soring

The 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013. HSUS.

Take action to eliminate horse soring and “big lick” animal cruelty. Elizabeth Fite, reporting for the Times Free Press writes:

The biggest competition for the Tennessee walking horse breed begins Wednesday in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

For some, the 11-day Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration — often called the Celebration — embodies the best of the breed and its traditions. For others, it’s tainted by the cruel practice of horse soring — when humans intentionally injure horses’ hooves or legs to make them step higher, creating an artificial gait known as the “big lick.”

Soring became illegal in 1970 and is not allowed at the Celebration. However, the current law doesn’t prohibit stacked shoes, chains or other “action devices,” and those will be used on horses at the Celebration in classes where the high-stepping “big lick” is still coveted.

Horse soring "stacks" on the front hooves of a Tennessee Walking Horse at Big Lick competition. HSUS.
Horse soring “stacks” on the front hooves of a Tennessee Walking Horse at Big Lick competition. HSUS.

Yes, horse soring and the “big lick” is still coveted by a minority of cruel people who continue to perpetuate horrific cruelties against the beautiful and gentle Tennessee Walking Horse. Together, let’s bring it to a final end.

SUPPORT THE PAST ACT OF 2019

There is a bill pending before Congress that will wipe out horse soring once and for all.

The House version of the bill recently passed by an overwhelming 333-96. The Senate version of the Bill — S.1007 — is pending right now awaiting further action.

Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections, part of an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.
Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections, part of an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.

TAKE ACTION

Contact your two U.S. Senators in Washington D.C. and urge them to cosponsor and make an unwavering commitment to the passage of S.1007, the bill against the cruel practice of horse soring for Tennessee Walking Horse competitions.

Go to Senate.gov to contact your U.S. Senators online. Prefer to telephone? The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.  Go here for further information »

The Times Free Press article includes:

Clant Seay and the advocacy group Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty have peacefully protested outside the Celebration for the last four years.

Seay founded the group and regularly documents examples of “big lick” horse abuse on his blog, billygoboy.com, and Facebook page, which has more than 11,000 followers. One of his latest videos is of 2-year-old walking horses wearing weighted shoes and chains and displaying the “big lick” at a show on Aug. 3.

“Calling attention to illegal and abusive activity is every citizen’s responsibility. Animal cruelty is not a tradition just because it has been going on for more than 50 years,” Seay wrote in an email. “To say that this is a ‘tradition’ is just a propaganda technique. Nor is this an ‘industry’ any more than cockfighting or dog fighting is an industry.”

Amen.

TALKING POINTS

See The Horse Fund’s Stakeholders page at POPVOX.com for talking points regarding this legislation »

You can also create an account with an email and password at POPVOX.com to find and communicate directly with your lawmakers, follow bills that interest you and more. Highly recommended!POPVOX LOGL


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The 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013. By HSUS.

Omak Suicide Race — Murder on Horses

It has been called “The Deadliest Horse Race in the World”.

Each year in mid summer, a small town in Eastern Washington State, called Omak, proudly promotes an event named “The World Famous Suicide Race,” considered the marquee event at the four-day Omak Stampede rodeo.

Omak straddles the border of the Colville Reservation, home of almost every racer, horse owner, and trainer.

Town officials claim this event (created as a draw for the town’s annual rodeo) is a celebration of history and tradition. In reality, it’s murder on horses. The race seriously injures and kills horses.

Over a span of four days and nights, riders repeatedly run their horses off Suicide Hill with a 120-foot galloping start. At breakneck speed, the horses then meet the Okanogan River. Entry into the river is narrow, causing bottlenecks and horrendous multiple-horse spills. Horse and rider then face a treacherous and often panicked swim about the length of a football field to reach the other side. The final grueling sprint is a 500-foot uphill climb to the finish line.[1]

Always the second weekend in August, each race awards five points to the first-place finisher, four to the second, and so on; the overall winner clinches the King of the Hill title on Sunday.

FIRST LEG — DOWNHILL DEATH DROP

Anyone who has ever watched a Western movie will have noticed that when a horse is asked by his rider to carry him down a steep decline, even in hot pursuit, how carefully the horse proceeds, measuring every step.

After a galloping start in the Omak Suicide Race, horses are whipped to make them “charge” down “Suicide Hill” an almost complete vertical drop of approximately 225 feet at a 62 degree angle, much like a steep staircase.

Studies carried out regarding equine vision show that because of the position of the horse’s eyes, which are set wide apart on either side of the head, there is blind spot directly in front of the forehead. Researchers believe that this “blind field” is the width of the horse.[2]

This means when a horse is catapulted down a sharp decline such as “Suicide Hill” he cannot judge where to land his feet and will not realize where the ground is until it comes rushing up beneath him. Horses are also known to lose their footing and somersault head over heel down the hill.

Since he cannot see the horses ahead of him he may crash into them. Others trip over or collide with falling horses.

The numerous any injuries that occur in pile ups on Suicide Hill are the leading cause of death in the Omak Suicide Race. These include a broken leg, fractured knee, fractured pelvis, broken shoulder, and heart attacks from overexertion. It is also a mentally terrifying experience for the horse.

The above are not only expected in the Omak Suicide Race, but also heralded as part of the excitement.

Omak Suicide Race horses plunge into rivier. Image / Fark.
Omak Suicide Race horses plunge into rivier. Image / Fark.

SECOND LEG — THE SWIM

At the bottom of the downhill death dash, the horses who have survived the first leg are immediately faced with the rocky Okanogan River and a frenzied swim across it.

Horses who have already sustained injuries, panic or get caught up in the reins, and drown. Some horses land in the rocky waters sideways having lost their balance and direction, and in an attempt to right themselves so they can swim, wrench their necks and backs, sustaining further trauma.

Horses are not natural swimmers and tend to panic temporarily when they cannot immediately feel the ground beneath them.

When horses swim they will employ a trotting motion and “a breathing pattern characterized by brief inspiration and prolonged expiration.” The difficulty in breathing when swimming is probably due to the pressure applied to the chest and abdomen of the horse by the water and the fact that the horse does not have the rhythm of body and abdominal movements that serve to help the breathing process” when he is on land.

“[It] should be noted that swimming also results in relatively high blood pressures compared with galloping and that some horses have experienced nose bleeding after bout(s) of swimming. As such, swimming is not recommended for horses with respiratory disease and it is also contraindicated in horses with back injuries.”[3]

Because there is no support from the ground and there is little or no resistance from the water, the amount of energy required to move forward in the water is significantly greater than that required to move forward on land. It takes approximately four complete swimming strokes to cover the same distance as one galloping stride on land. Based on this approximately 500 yards is about equal to a one mile gallop.

As stated before, notwithstanding the physical dangers, the experience is mentally harrowing for the horse.

Horses whipped across deep waters in the Omak Suicide Race.
Horses whipped across deep waters in the Omak Suicide Race.

THIRD AND FINAL LEG — THE UPHILL SPRINT

Already terrified, exhausted and possibly injured, the horses face the third and final leg of the Omak Suicide Race which is a punishing and backbreaking uphill sprint.

When a horse’s gait quickens to a gallop, his breathing is linked to the rhythm of his hoof beats. During high-intensity exercise, this rhythmic breathing lowers oxygen intake, producing a buildup of lactic acid and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, causing fatigue and cramping, much like when a human athlete gets a “stitch.”

To bring the body back to normal, CO2 moves to the bloodstream and is expelled from the lungs. Lactic acid is neutralized in various organs, including muscles. With continuous overexertion, the recovery process is disturbed. In this situation, acid buildup, called acidosis, further reduces oxygen flow to the muscles, creating long-lasting fatigue — and [permanent] muscle damage.[4]

MENTAL PUNISHMENT

The Omak Suicide Race takes place in four heats over four days.

Like humans, horses are imprinted with every experience they have encountered since birth. They are highly sensitive, instinctual animals, and much like us, think about not only what they have been through but also about what they may be about to endure.

Horses have sharper and broader hearing ranges than humans. Loud noises are painful to a horse’s ears. Their sense of smell is also acute. Horses sense or “smell” the fear in other horses, which further perpetuates their own.

Their sensitivity to sound and smells is why they become hard to handle when they are subjected to surroundings and activities they are unaccustomed to and receiving conflicting messages from their senses. The tumult of such an occasion as the Omak Suicide Race must be an assault on their senses that is debilitating and petrifying.

MARKETING GIMMICK OR TRADITION?

First run in 1935, the Suicide Race was the brainchild of Claire Pentz, publicity chairman for the Stampede, after failing to attract big crowds with boxing, trained zebras and stock car racing.

Stampede organizers currently contend that the Suicide Race has roots in Native American tradition and claim it is a customary rite-of-passage, but as you just read, an Anglo conceived the race as a publicity stunt.

The race wasn’t the only thing “created” by white man; the very invention of a Colville Tribes unit is recent.[5]

The races that used to occur among Native tribes of the area were longer-distance, cross-country races on horses bred to thrive on the hard, rocky, desert terrain of Eastern Washington. This is not comparable to flinging a long-legged thoroughbred or quarter horse down a 62-degree slope in the dark of night.

A native rite-of-passage traditionally refers to a ritual or ceremony indicating the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Historically, Suicide Race rider’s ages range from 18 to well into the 30’s. Many have ridden in the race year after year seeking cash and popularity, not cultural fulfillment.[6]

DEATH COUNT

Animals 24-7 report that at least two horses died in the 2018 Omak Suicide race, bringing the known toll since 1983 to 25, “with many more suspected but undocumented”, and no record existing of injuries and deaths from the first “Suicide Race” in 1935 through 1982.[7]

IT JUST WON’T STOP

PeTA has run letter-writing campaigns. HSUS has documented it but unable to accomplish anything past that. That was dangerous enough.

In 1993, the Northwest’s PAWS, or Progressive Animal Welfare Society, tried a more robust tactic, filing a lawsuit that alleged organizers harm horses for profit, but a Superior Court judge threw out the case. In 1996, a PAWS member sued the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office and the rodeo for roughing him up when he videotaped a horse being euthanized; the suit settled for $64,500.[8]

From 2005 to 2009 The Horse Fund ran a campaign to end the Omak Suicide Race, initially focusing on its sponsors. When they went away, Omak got more. Our investigators were harassed, hotel rooms broken into and trashed. Mrs. Farrell received numerous death threats, all which were reported. Not a single law enforcement agency took it seriously — or took any action.

That was then. This is now. Social media has revolutionized advocacy. There have also been changes (for the better) in the law. We are prepared to take this on once again. And we will win — for the horses.

WHAT ABOUT TRADITION?

No caring society subjects another living being to such blatant cruelty and death in the name of culture or entertainment.

There comes a time when we as a people must move forward, and leave behind those acts and events unacceptable in a civilized society, regardless of how steeped in tradition. In this case the tradition so-called is manufactured tradition and means nothing to anyone at all.

CONCLUSION

Horses forced to take part in the Omak Stampede’s Suicide Race suffer enormous physical pain and suffering by way of broken bones, irreparable tendon damage from falls and collisions, and long-term muscle damage from overexertion. “Suicide horses” die from broken necks, strokes, heart attacks and gruesomely by drowning.

These horses do not participate willingly. It is not their intention to suffer. It is not their intention to die.

The Omak Suicide Race is murder on horses.

VIDEO (Mute / Lower Volume)

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[1] Omak Suicide Race at PAWS, https://www.paws.org/about/paws/history/omak/.
[2] New Insights into Horse Vision, Equine Veterinary Journal (1999) 31(5) 384-390, http://www.equinecentre.com.au/health_misc_vision.shtml.
[3] Horse Training Using Swimming and Heart Rates, http://www.equus-sport.com.
[4] When Champs Get Cramps, by Darek Gondor, http://www.allabouthorses.com.
[5] Seattle Met, https://www.seattlemet.com/articles/2017/7/17/the-kings-of-suicide-hill-inside-the-omak-stampede.
[6] See 1.
[7] Animals 24-7, https://www.animals24-7.org/2018/09/14/omak-suicide-race-2018-more-dead-horses-kill-the-messenger/.
[8] See 5.

Edited 8/10/2019 5:30 EST

Take Action for Racehorses — Oppose H.R. 1754

Dead racehorse. Source: Pinterest.
Dead racehorse. Source: Pinterest.

Dr. Sheila Lyons, DVM, the founder and director of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, writing about H.R. 1754 (The Horse Racing Integrity Act), warns of the following. It mirrors our thinking and also the reason we object to this bill and are lobbying so strongly against it.

“This proposed legislation ultimately leaves the details of drug regulation in the control of members of the horseracing industry despite the reality that following decades of promises to regulate drugs effectively, it has failed to do so.”

This is yet another in a long line of disingenuous acts conducted by members of the horse racing industry to give only the appearance of rectifying its insidious drug culture while all along its goal is to continue business as usual — keeping the fox in charge of the henhouse.

We have already seen what keeping the fox in charge of the henhouse has done to the racehorse. We see it virtually every day. Cheating and doping = racehorses injured, suffering, breaking down and dying. This is horse racing’s “business as usual”.

Take Action

Please. Give American racehorses your voice! OPPOSE H.R. 1754. Here’s how.

1. First find out who represents you in the U.S. House of Representatives at House.gov. Use the red look up box upper righthand corner. You may need your zip+4 code. Leave the page open. You are going to contact them there in a minute.

Already know your Representative? Great! Next step.

2. Find out if your Representative has cosponsored H.R.1754.

3. If your Representative has not cosponsored H.R.1754, contact them and tell them you are strongly opposed to H.R.1754.

Ask that they refuse to cosponsor H.R. 1754 and vote against it should it make it to the House floor for a vote.

If they have already cosponsored H.R.1754, tell them this bill has only just come to your attention, that you are strongly opposed to it, stating the reasons why (including ours for good measure) and request that they with their cosponsorship of the bill (yes, legislators do this) and refuse to vote for it.

In the meantime, horse racing plans to blanket the Hill with lobbyists this coming Fall in support of this bill.

However, there is nothing so powerful as your voice. Please use it to help protect racehorses. Remember, this is not just about the Thoroughbred racehorse, but Quarter Horse and Standardbred racehorses too.

Thank you for taking action for them. It is literally a matter of life and death for thousands.

Resources

We have all of the above and even more on our website at horsefund.org.

There are online plus phone call instructions, tips and an excellent detailed list of talking points regarding H.R. 1754.

You will also find talking points on our Stakeholders Page at POPVOX »

Please share far and wide.

Help us keep “boots on the ground” in Washington DC lobbying in opposition to this bill. It is critical we keep a strong presence on The Hill in defense of our horses. There is so very much at stake. A donation, any amount, with be enormously helpful. Thank you!