The killing fields of Churchill Downs and horse racing

Historic twin spires of Churchill Downs where racehorses are routinely killed. Photo by Abbie Myers.

Tim Sullivan, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal states:

Of the 25 racetracks that share their casualty counts with the public, only one was more deadly last year than Churchill Downs.

And despite its recent rash of gloomy headlines, it wasn’t Santa Anita.

Only Illinois’ Hawthorne Race Course lost horses at a faster pace than Churchill Downs did in 2018, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database.

Over the past three years, only the boutique meet conducted at California’s Sonoma County Fair exceeded Churchill’s race-related mortality rate.

Unlike its Kentucky colleagues at Keeneland and Turfway Park, Churchill Downs does not publicly disclose its racing fatalities, but a spokesman for the track confirmed figures obtained through a public records request of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Those records show the home of the Kentucky Derby has lost 43 thoroughbreds to racing injuries since 2016, a 2.42 per 1,000-start average that was 50 percent higher than the national average during the same three-year span.

Last year, with 16 fatalities in 5,856 starts, Churchill’s death rate was higher still: 2.73 per 1,000.

Source: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/horses/horse-racing/2019/03/27/churchill-downs-horse-fatalities/3284846002/

Safety of Racehorses Comes in Dead Last

Ruben Hernandez, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal on this year’s Run for the Roses observes:

To argue that other horses were put danger is an issue that should be taken up with the management of Churchill Downs because 20 horses don’t enter themselves into the race. Based on this logic, one would have to conclude that a field of this size is put in danger once the gates open.

Source: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2019/05/10/reader-supports-maximum-security-kentucky-derby-win/1163058001/


Our View

There is no “fix”. Certainly not one that can be done quickly with any type of regulation. The horse has “bolted” so to speak. It will take years of clean breeding to return racehorses to the durability and robustness required. In saying that, it very well may be too late for American bred horses.

US racehorses are suffering catastrophic breakdowns and deaths because of decades long chemical abuse. They are administered a virtual unending list of drugs from the time they are foaled until they reach a racecourse — if they ever arrive there. This over zealous drugging has a debilitating impact which is being passed on from offspring to offspring. Weakness and unsoundness are being bred in.

We are right on the money, but don’t take our word for it. Consider these words:

“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.”

– Arthur Hancock
Breeder of Three Kentucky Derby Winners

Big Brown wins the Kentucky Derby in 2008. Image: Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs.
Big Brown wins the Kentucky Derby in 2008. Image: Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs.

2008 US Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown, seen winning the Kentucky Derby above, received regularly monthly treatments of Winstrol, an anabolic steroid banned in 10 states—yet in none of the states where the Triple Crown horse races are contested.

Jane Allin writes:

The current state of horse racing in North America is best described as a volatile cocktail fueled by economic greed together with increasingly fragile horses and pervasive drug administration that has transformed this once distinguished “Sport of Kings” into a controversial, much maligned commercial industry rife with abuse and disregard for its athletes.

It all just needs to stop.

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Related Reading

Time Magazine
http://time.com/5582343/horse-deaths-kentucky-derby/ »

The Horse Fund
https://horsefund.org/the-chemical-horse-part-1.php »

Kentucky lawyer leases land to protect horses, plans sanctuary in coal country

A horse from the groups that run free in coal country in Eastern Kentucky. Accredited to JERVIS PICS.

JACKSON, Ky. (Source Article) —  Curtis Bostic is an attorney, a politician and — for a few weeks in 2016 — an accused horse thief.

On a cold December day in the rugged hilltops of Breathitt County, Bostic was trying to rescue some horses he said had been abandoned and were malnourished. But he was arrested by a sheriff’s deputy, who said the horses belonged to two men who follow the local custom of setting them free in the winter to wander the wilderness of the county’s abandoned coal fields.

The charges were later dismissed after the sheriff’s department said it didn’t have probable cause to make the arrest. But during the night Bostic spent in jail, he came up with an idea: A few weeks later, he leased the land where he had been arrested. He sent a letter to the two men who had pressed charges against him. Now, they were the trespassers, and Bostic ordered them to come get their horses before he put them up for adoption.

“I can’t change the full county. But I can say you are not going to come to my property and drop your horse off in the cold winter,” Bostic said.

Bostic wants to turn 4,000 acres of former coal mines into a horse sanctuary. It’s the latest idea on how to tackle the growing horse population in the mountains of Kentucky, a state known more for pampered thoroughbreds on pristine farms than bony horses roaming free.

Bostic’s descriptions of thousands of horses suffering at the hands of cruel owners have offended the locals who say he doesn’t understand their culture.

Clifton Hudson, 30, owns five horses that he sets free to wander land he doesn’t own near his home in Breathitt County. He said he provides 600 pounds of salt each month for the horses. He stopped hauling hay bales to the land because the horses were not eating them, a sign he says means they have plenty of grass to graze. The locals often bring their children to the mountains on the weekends to pet and feed the horses.

“It’s just really it’s more of a pastime than anything else with the people of the county,” Hudson said. “So far the only person really had an issue with it has been Mr. Bostic.”

Wild horses have been a familiar sight in the Kentucky mountains for decades. But following the Great Recession and the thousands of jobs lost because of the disappearing coal industry, more horses have been set loose. Read the full story »

Source: WCPO Cincinnati. Report originally filed by the Associated Press. Written by Adam Beam . Featured image by Jervis Pics.

Governor joins lawmakers in betraying Kentucky’s horses by tagging them as livestock

FRANKFORT, KY — On March 27, 2017, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed SB 139 into law.

Previous to SB 139 becoming law, Kentucky horses were categorized as domestic animals and had the protections that go with it. Not that animal protection is a high priority in Kentucky. Kentucky is in the bottom five of the country in animal protection; some put it last.

SB 139 tags Kentucky horses as livestock, a clear demotion in status and entitlement to desperately needed protections. It is clear to see what a sad day March 27, 2017 was for the horses of Kentucky.

In every legislative step taken for SB 139 to become law in Kentucky not a single negative vote was cast against it despite hearing from constituents strongly opposed to it. Of course, lawmakers in Kentucky may tell you differently. If they do they are lying.

Kentucky lawmakers may also tell you this is simply a necessary step towards awarding tax breaks down the line to horse owners in Kentucky. Again, untrue. This could have been done without reducing horses to livestock.

These same Kentucky lawmakers may also tell you that this has nothing to do with horse slaughter yet SB 139 conveniently opens the door to it.

We think it is a fair statement to say that the horse industry in Kentucky cares only about the money they make off these horses’ backs and precious little about the horses themselves. We see no evidence to the contrary. Where were they in all of this? Backing SB 139? Or will they now conveniently say that Kentucky lawmakers ignored them too?

The timing is interesting with the Kentucky Derby weeks away when the eyes of the world will be on Kentucky. How will they all be viewing this?

Now according to Kentucky the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” is run by a bunch of livestock.

RELATED READING

•  Supporters of Kentucky SB 139 respond to their critics in Blood-Horse article, March 18, 2017 »

So happy together — Supporters of Kentucky State bill SB 139 reducing horses to livestock status, March 7, 2017 »

Kentucky legislature setting the stage for the slaughter of horses with SB 139, March 5, 2017 »

 

 

 

Supporters of Kentucky SB 139 respond to their critics in Blood-Horse article

FRANKFORT, KY — Kentuckians please take action.

In an article posted online by the Blood-Horse [1] it states:

A Kentucky bill that would uniformly designate horses as livestock has been approved by both houses of the legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. Matt Bevin.

Once the legislation (SB 139) becomes law, it would provide the groundwork for state lawmakers to move forward on related tax reforms that have the potential to save horse industry participants millions of dollars.

We reiterate. They need not change the horse’s status in Kentucky from a domestic animal to a livestock animal in order to accomplish this. They could have done the reverse.

Instead of demoting the status of the horse Kentucky lawmakers could have elevated it recognizing the contributions of the horse industry to the Commonwealth by giving the participants the tax breaks they seek.

This also from the same article:

Currently the sales taxes on horse feed and supplies generates about $18 million annually. All other livestock are exempt from sales tax on those same necessities.

Whose pockets are these millions coming out of? And this in a State that is routinely listed as one of the ten poorest in the US.

The Blood-Horse continues:

Sen. Robin Webb, an accomplished horsewoman from Carter County, sponsored the bill, which she said provides badly needed consistency across all statutes.

Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.
Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.

This statement is particularly rich. Webb is accomplished alright, accomplished in not only committing horse abuse but also publicly sanctioning it.

Webb was cited for horse soring violations, a particularly heinous type of abuse meted out to Tennessee Walking Horses [2]. She was called the “Big Lick Queen” in a Lexington-Herald Leader article [3]. Webb “even defended the horrifying tape that showed Jackie McConnell, who is now a felon, beating and torturing horses.” [4].

No, we do not want someone like Sen. Webb setting the standard for horse cruelty in Kentucky or anywhere else.  Kentucky lawmakers are surely aware of Webb’s background.

Here’s another look into how the notorious Webb thinks from the cited article:

“ . . . some animal rights groups have tried to position the legislation as a backdoor to permit horse slaughter.

“That is not what this bill is about,” she said. “There are other livestock animals that are not raised for food, like alpacas or llamas. Whatever else is being said is just rhetoric to sensationalize and raise money.”

Classifying an animal as livestock does not mean they will be slaughtered for food but they can be slaughtered for food. That opens the door.

Here is another interesting question. Why are kill buyers with feedlots in Kentucky who supply slaughter plants with horses happy about SB 139? But that’s only hearsay and can’t be relied on.

Kentucky Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne of Oldham County was noted as saying in the article:

Osborne also stressed the bill in no way opens a door for horse slaughter nor weakens any horse protection laws. He said the same day SB 139 was approved unanimously, the legislature also passed HB 200, which would make it easier for local officials to intervene and remove horses in abuse and neglect cases.

HB 200 was written to, “Amend KRS 525.130, relating to cruelty to animals in the second degree, to allow a court to order an offender to pay restitution for the upkeep of a horse involved in the offense and terminate the offender’s interest in the horse involved in the offense.” [5]

Getting a court order is very difficult as we have seen in past horse abuse cases across the country concerning all breeds but particularly in Tennessee and Kentucky. We will be testing this at once should it become law and see if it actually helps.

Then there’s these individuals from Kentucky Equine Education Project:

KEEP chairman Corey Johnsen. “Many KEEP members have been instrumental in getting this legislation to this point, but we owe particular recognition to Frank Penn for being a tireless leader and advocate on this issue from the start.”

“Having horses and equines included as livestock in Kentucky law has been a key policy priority for KEEP since its founding over 12 years ago,” said Penn, a KEEP board member and chairman of the organization’s Equine Sales Tax Equity Task Force. “I applaud the Kentucky legislature for their unanimous support of SB 139 and recognizing horses’ rightful place along side other agriculture commodities in Kentucky.”

The horses’ rightful place along side other agriculture commodities in Kentucky. You get the drift, right?

If Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signs SB 139 into law, we are ready to take immediate action to test these ideas.

We will see what their motivation truly is. Perhaps they will prove us wrong. Nothing would make us happier.

In the meantime, if you are a Kentucky resident please take action. Do not delay! See below.

[1] https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/220493/livestock-designation-for-horses-vital-for-kentucky
[2] http://www.kentucky.com/news/business/article44397153.html
[3]http://www.chattanoogan.com/2013/1/23/242756/Roy-Exum-Senator-Just-Like-Lance.aspx
[4] See also 3.
[5] https://legiscan.com/KY/bill/HB200/2017

KENTUCKIANS CONTACT GOVERNOR MATT BEVIN
Tell Him You OPPOSE SB 139 Becoming Law — VETO SB 139

Online Email Form

http://governor.ky.gov/Pages/contact.aspx

Twitter @GovMattBevin

Phone/Fax
Main Line: (502) 564-2611
Fax: (502) 564-2517​
TDD: (502) 564-9551

TRACK SB 139
https://legiscan.com/KY/bill/SB139/2017

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