Robyn Louw on the Animal Welfare Debate

Robyn Louw on the Animal Welfare Debate

Yesterday, this picture and attached commentary was posted on social media by Emily Jones in Australia. While I understand the sentiments, I feel it’s important that racing be allowed to respond.

Hi Emily,

I read your post all the way out in South Africa. I thought it made some interesting points and I hope you don’t mind if I comment.

Since the invention of the combustion engine, horses’ main function is as a form of recreation / entertainment. In short, if they do not have a job, then we would not have them. So, if there was no Thoroughbred racing, there would be no need for the Thoroughbred horse.

At this point it’s probably good to acknowledge that racehorses generally cost a good deal of money – firstly to buy and secondly to keep. So generally the folks that go to sales and put their hands up at auction are making an investment in a commodity that they are pretty serious about – although you might want to look at some stats for how many racehorses ever recoup their purchase price. Generally speaking, people who are prepared to pay a decent sum of money for something and are hoping to make a return by racing it, will want to look after it so that it has every chance of success.

It is a fact that there are ethical issues with using animals for sport and racing acknowledges this and tries to set and enforce certain levels of competency and fairness by structuring it as a professional sport. Therefore people working with racehorses are required to have some sort of professional license in order to do so. Racehorses are bred by registered breeders, trained by licensed trainers, treated by licensed vets and ridden by licensed jockeys and they train and compete on professionally constructed and maintained surfaces.

Racing may not be a perfect system, but it does not hand out training licenses for free and there is usually an entrance barrier or some sort of apprenticeship or competency test required before one is allowed to train horses professionally (these vary depending on the racing jurisdiction). I might point out, that this is not the case in the non racing industry, where literally any Tom, Dick or Harry can go out and buy a horse with absolutely no knowledge, experience or supervision whatsoever. But I digress. Racehorse trainers are licensed professionals. It’s not a perfect system, but most trainers out there have served an apprenticeship, been tested and considered competent enough to do the job. As in any industry, there will be good, intuitive, talented people and there will be some that are less so. It is up to the owner of each racehorse to choose wisely.

Another point that you might like to consider is that one might regard a trainer’s yard like a classroom in a very expensive private school. Each highly bred, expensive individual comes with a set of equally highly bred, expensive owners, who generally have hopes and expectations for their new acquisition and will accordingly make those the problem of their trainer. If we go with your analogy that racing people are greedy and just want to make money off their horses, then logic dictates that having paid a small fortune to purchase a horse, they will want to give it absolutely every chance of being able to race well so that it can win stakes money. As a horse cannot give of its best if it’s not sound and healthy, it is in ‘greedy’ owners’ interests to make sure that their horses receive the absolute best care and maintain a high standard of health and well being, so that they are able to deliver good racing performance and increase their chances of earning money.

I’m not saying that bad things don’t happen – and as with any sport or even level of society, the undesirable elements are always one step ahead of the law – but the authorities do take a lively interest in rooting out cheating and animal cruelty, if for no other reason than the fact that every racehorse also carries with it a live human being. If a horse goes down, a human goes down too. If you’re lucky, only two of them get injured. If you’re not, they can take down an entire field of horses – and jockeys – with them. Those are not odds that most people are prepared to take. So generally speaking, racing folk do work quite hard to make sure that horses are in good, sound health, rather than not.

Apart from the human safety factor, a lot of racing people actually quite like working with horses – it’s generally how they decided to get involved in the profession in the first place. And considering how tough, thankless and occasionally salary-less the whole business can be, if you don’t like horses enough to stick around anyway, people generally don’t last all that long.

It’s also worth saying that unlike non racing disciplines, a lot of training and racing is conducted in the public eye and licensed raceclub officials are tasked with inspecting horses on a regular basis. Horses are tested out of competition (ie in the normal course of training) and a random selection is made from the runners of every race and specimens taken and tested. Winning horses are always tested. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, cheats are bad for business. Secondly, cheats are bad for the stud book. The point of racing, which is something I should probably have pointed out at the start, is actually not the big stakes cheques that everyone gets so hung up about. The racetrack is actually the testing ground for the Thoroughbred breeding programme. In the same way as breeding a dressage horse or a show-jumper, you need to test a horse in order to see whether it is any good. The vagaries of genetics will bear out that breeding a champion to a champion does not necessarily produce another champion. If you look at a race stake as a prize for breeding a good horse, it probably puts things a little more into perspective. That is why well bred, well performed stud animals are generally exposed very sparingly and retired to stud fairly early. Yes, there are horses that have long racing careers, but this is generally the exception rather than the rule as training is expensive and it takes a special horse to a) be sound and b) financially viable to justify being kept in training for very long.

While your statistics in terms of bleeding / epistaxis / EIPH are correct, it’s worth putting into context. A lot of performance horses suffer from this condition. In fact, anything that breathes air that occasionally comes under pressure to go faster than an extended walk will experience the same thing. Essentially this is because the walls of the very tiny capillaries in the lungs are so thin – in order to allow for the all important gaseous exchange which is how we exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen – that if they are put under strain, they occasionally break. If you have ever run a bit harder than you planned and got that odd, metallic taste in your mouth – that’s the same thing. An individual’s capacity for coping with exercise stress can be increased with correct training – I prefer the term conditioning and in the hands of a good trainer, horses are brought along slowly and methodically in order to be able to handle increasing levels of exercise stress. Racing acknowledges that ‘bleeding’ is a problem and horses that bleed during training are required to be reported. Horses that bleed during racing are also noted by course vets and usually receive a mandatory suspension. The US rules allow for race day medications such as Lasix to try and treat the condition.

Stomach ulcers can occur in horses for a number of reasons and are present in lots of disciplines outside of racing as well. Again, horses with ulcers generally do not look, train or perform all that well and generally speaking, the racing industry will try and find and treat any problems to ensure that horses are able to give their best on the track.

Horses die and collapse on the racetrack. That is a fact. Horses also die and collapse in paddocks, covering mares, hunting, jumping, going cross country, playing polo and doing all manner of things, but as stats for those sorts of activities are not logged with any official body, it’s hard to make fair comparisons. That doesn’t make it OK, obviously, but there are very few people who can afford horses just for the sake of having them stand around in a paddock all day (and even then they usually manage to do themselves some sort of mischief), so the bottom line is that most horses are expected to justify their existence by doing some sort of work. As we know, any kind of work involves risk. That is just a simple fact of life and it is as applicable to racing as it is anywhere else. The only difference is that racehorses may in fact have somewhat more of a fighting chance of avoiding injury as they are generally trained by professionals, whereas “amateurs” do all sorts of silly and thoughtless things to horses and often cause injuries through inexperience or sheer ignorance.

Racehorses do spend a lot of time in a stable – that is also a fact. However, a stable is not an isolated, sterile environment. In fact, anyone who has ever had a horse will know that the second you turn your back on them, they are likely to get sick or hurt themselves, so racehorses generally have quite a lot of supervision. One might even go so far as to call it attention. Horses are social creatures, so stables generally come in blocks and there are usually other horses to look at, sniff through a grill, etc. Also, any yard that can get through its entire daily routine in 2 hours deserves a medal. There is feeding, strapping, exercising, washing, drying, bandaging, mucking out, etc to take care of, plus all the additional daily chores such as farrier work, vet visits, visits from owners, dentists, physios, etc. In fact, it’s surprising how busy some race yards are. There are always other horses around and there are generally people around as well, so race horses are not left staring at a concrete wall all day by any means.

Also, given that your study says that horses work / are worked with for 2 hours a day, but are overworked and then drugged to compensate does not make sense. Horses are designed to travel distances of up to 30km per day. If anything, we possibly underwork them for what nature designed. They are athletes and any athlete under exercise stress will sustain injuries, so yes, they do get medicated. Treatments have to be recorded and administered by registered vets within prescribed limits. Different racing jurisdictions have different rules as to what medications are and are not allowed and horses that test positive for prohibited substances get disqualified and their stakes money revoked. It’s not a fail-safe, obviously, but is one of several methods the industry employs to discourage this sort of thing. I might point out that there are far fewer rules governing the levels of medications administered to horses outside of racing.

Regarding feed with an unnaturally high energy content – again correct. But this is to balance the fact that like any athlete, training takes a great deal of energy out of them through aerobic exercise and needs to be replaced. There are obviously many different types of feed and different ways of feeding them, but that is up to the discretion of each trainer and everyone likes to do things their own way. Again there are plenty of horses outside of racing that are also fed incorrectly, but that is rarely monitored, recorded or reported / complained about.

In terms of your whip comment, yes, horses are whipped. Again, the racing industry has taken steps to manage this better and it is mandatory in most racing jurisdictions for jockeys to ride with ‘Pro Cush’ whips, which are fairly heavily padded and have a much less severe core than whips of days gone by (try one sometime – they are are a great deal kinder than your standard jumping or dressage whip). It’s also worth checking how many ‘lashes’ actually land as there are rules for how often horses may be smacked during a race and jockeys are monitored and checked and get fined if they get too ‘whip happy’. You may also want to read up some stats on whipping horses which show that horses that are whipped heavily actually run more slowly that horses that are hit less often. To be a bore, it’s worth comparing this with non racing related activities where there are very seldom such restrictions in place.

Regarding the attrition rate of horses both before, during and after racing is also a fact. The numbers vary a little between the various racing jurisdictions, but it IS a problem and one that the racing industry acknowledges publicly and is working to find better solutions for. Yes, some horses are slaughtered and some do end up as animal food, but perhaps not as many as you would think. Because of the medications that racehorses are routinely administered, their meat may in fact not be suitable for consumption.

Slaughter is not a comfortable thought for any animal, but at least it provides a final end to the horse’s life. If a horse is sold out of the racing industry, there is little way of tracking the rest of its life and the horse is probably just as at risk as any other horse of finding itself in difficulties. It has a 50/50 chance of things going wrong every time it changes hands and I’d be so bold as to say that those odds stack up against it the older it gets. The fact that many racehorse owners choose to end a horse’s life at the end of its career may be more a comment on the environment outside of racing than it is of the racing industry itself.

Lastly, if we didn’t have racing and didn’t have Melbourne Cup day – and other big flagship races like it – we would miss out on so much that is good. We would not need Thoroughbreds for a start and I think that would be quite sad. We’d lose out on a lot of jobs and we’d also lose out on a lot of research and technology. Difficult as it may be to consider, the fact that racing does have an injury aspect as well as a business aspect to it, means that there are funds for things like research that other equestrian sectors cannot finance in quite the same way. You might like to read the Seattle Slew story where a team of medics pioneered the use of a ‘Bagby Basket’ to treat his neck, an operation that has now become fairly routine and has helped a lot of other horses. Lastly, having races like the Melbourne Cup gives us wonderful stories such as Prince of Penzance, Michelle Payne and her brother. And I think it would be sad to miss out on those.

No, racing is not a perfect system – what is? – but it does have a regulatory system in place that evolves and adapts as it goes along. It is also open to the public and the press, which means that it is open to public scrutiny at practically every level so that anyone who so chooses can comment on it. It is important that people do so, so that we can keep having these conversations and that racing can keep striving to do better. So thank you and keep up the good work 🙂

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33 Responses to Robyn Louw on the Animal Welfare Debate

  1. Annette Oliver says:

    As a racehorse trainer who is an ex-pony clubber and dressage competitor it is obviously love of the horse, followed by love of the sport of kings that has dictated the way our horses are treated. Our horses are trained on a property, go out in day yards if they are stabled at night, are given flatwork and herd the cows to give them variety in their work and are lavished with attention to their every need. We use herbal based treatments for maintenance of their health and can avoid many medications as happy horses with room to move don’t need them. Of over 150 horses our ex-horses have found homes as equestrian mounts – some for good returns for the owners who were more concerned that they had a good second career – including for showing, dressage, eventing, polo, riding club or they have gone to stud. The three who did not were unfortunately not able to be used for any pursuit and I would not pass off dangerous and/or chronically unsound horses as otherwise. I am sick to death of dangerously ignorant people tarnishing the conduct of an entire industry and spreading their agenda as fact. PS our happy, non-drugged horses have a high end strike rate of which we are proud.

  2. James Mathers says:

    It’s hard to disagree with the arguments presented in the letter. My major and only concern relates to possible neglect of thoroughbreds who have been retired who are deemed unsuitable for equestrian or recreational purposes. Surely there are many of those. What happens to these horses, where do they go and how are they maintained? I regard this as the key issue.
    James Mathers

    • Graham Grose says:

      These Horse,s are taking care of they can spend there days running around in a Lush Paddock at there Owners Property , or can be given to Riding schools or Riding for the Disabled. Used as Clerk of the Course Horse,s or Given a New Life at the Mounted Police Unit, So life after racing is not so bad, The Animal Activist,s don,t tell you the Nice side of life after Racing, Nobody whats a Horse to go to the Knacker y. Hope that puts your Mind at ease . and i am a Horse Trainer. who loves his Horse,s

  3. Eric Hawley says:

    Great retort, how many times have we driven past a paddick to see a horse abandoned to the weather no rug etc usually on its own with no company, having been around stables horses generally are given first class treatment by first class trainers, and the owners want the horses treated kindly there is very little cruelty for racehorses in stables.

    Woe betide a jockey or track rider who belts a horse the trainer will give them what,s for.

    Racehorses are just that, some not, as keen as others to race, and the “special ones” love it,

    Look at the pictures of Abel Friend coming back to scale after a win this horse knows the thrill it gives, and would not be anywhere else.

  4. Karen Hunt says:


  5. Rae says:

    “So if there was no Thoroghbred racing, then there would be no need for the Thoroughbred horse.”

    What a sad way to comment. You lost me there. TBs are my favorite breed. They are capable of everything beyond racing. Shame, shame.

  6. laura says:

    All this really does is justify why horse racing is good for humans. I find it mad that people are satisfied by the justification that it’s ok because horse racing benefits us.

    Horses being supervised, cared for by qualified vets and purchased by well trained people means jack shit to a horse, this doesn’t make a horse happy and you never think it should, if anything this just puts more pressure on the animal to perform. Imagine a human being forced to do the stuff we force animals to do, I suppose it seems a bit like slavery. Just because they communicate differently doesn’t make them any different. That’s all it really is, a communication barrier.

    • M.A. Bell says:

      laura – Is it your position that horses should not be used at all, for anything? After all, any form of training, even Natural Horsemanship (pick your flavour – Parelli, Monty Roberts, etc.) asks that the horses work with humans, and do what they are asked, which is in and of itself asking them to perform in a way that they would not normally if left to themselves.
      I have been working with and around horses for over 50 years – my work experience ranges from being a show groom for Jumpers, to Western trail expeditions, to managing a riding stable, several years spent working on the backside of various racetracks in Canada and the US, all the while owning horses myself and riding for pleasure.
      Hunters, Jumpers, Dressage, Reining, Cutting, Barrel racing – in fact any horse performing at a competitive level is looked after and cared for to ensure soundness and good health. This includes training to perform the job they were bred and bought for. Many well-loved “backyard” horses and ponies are far worse off, due to inexperience or lack of time and /or money to care for them properly. And laura, if you think that the owners of the competitive horses care less for them than the person who has a backyard horse, you are sadly mistaken.
      I live in Montreal, and several years ago when our racetrack closed, there was a terrible glut of horses on the market – you could pick up a sound purebred 3-year-old for about $200. Many, MANY of them wound up in less than favourable conditions – and many more were sold for slaughter. I know one local breeder who wept as he had his last remaining horses humanely euthanized, because he could not find homes for them and would not send them to experience the conditions of the slaughterhouse.
      If you are so concerned about the “problem” as you perceive it, what would your solution be?

    • Jacquilewin says:

      Are you a master at reading horse emotions. There are actually alot of horses who like to go fast and do ot for llwasure as much as work. Like for instance my sisters horse isnt happy going slow atound the ring if she slows him down to much he gets bored and jumps out looking for more fun things to do and the judges eliminate her in competion but if she lets him go at faster pace hes happy and enjoys his job.

  7. Stephen Waddingham says:

    Thanks for a really balanced approach…. refreshing

  8. GRT says:

    What an excellent article – thorough, well informed, well written and patient.

  9. Vicky says:

    A wonderfully articulate piece.

  10. Anne De Lile says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. I found it extremely informative and thought provoking. I cannot imagine Australia without horses even though racing is another world to me. They go well with the more modern national character of the drover and “The man from Snowy River”.

  11. Linda says:

    I saw this posted, they used this picture but it was about a different horse, it made me really angry, I don’t support horse racing, but I won’t support people posting false things just to make a point, this picture had nothing to do with the last Melbourne Cup, but was used about the horse that hurt it leg, shame on who ever did this, all you have done is made yourself look like a fool and lost support, if you want horse racing to stop, or to change then do it with actual facts, not this mean spirited rubbish

  12. Jaz says:

    This is true in some context…however…the licences are only handed out to people who most times are only accepted to feather the nest of the racing industry….if you think for one min that horse wants to live in a 3×3 stall be fed high energy feed and pinched and prodded every day of its life u r an idiot…horse are outdoor animals they r wild animals with a soul and feelings just the same as a bison….the discusting so called care these horses are subjected to in the name of their health is bogus and needs to be exposed!!.i have seen it first hand and i am sick to my core that i watched it saying nothing for soooo long….i have rescued several.race horse from racing and find them mentally broken sour and unhappy!!!! Their soul is broken they are mear shells….this is not a sport with an animals welfare at the highest importance……ffs wake up and smell the roses. And to say any tom dick or harry can buy a horse…well if i was a horse i know which one i would choose….and it wouldnt be a jail cell of the race horse…..sorry… eyes are open to all sides here…and i am fully aware that some stables are the exception however the majority still makes me sick!!!

  13. mzwtf says:

    Great article. Thank you.

  14. Bruce Ledger says:

    Brilliant statement of the reasons why racing is beneficial, and promotes good care of horses in general. Yes there are abuses, occasionally, and yes there are risks, accidents and injuries. But we don’t want to ban rugby, motor racing, cycling and other sports where the same occurs.
    Don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water.

  15. Alan Broder says:

    Dear Robyn
    Your writing style has impressed me… I enjoyed reading the article and as a passionate racehorse owner we , that is my wife and I , thank you for your thoughts.
    Our horses off the track get homes suited to them, we keep them until appropriate new owners are found…. There is always money involved otherwise they may not value their new horse as much.
    Thank you
    Alan and Ellie

  16. Evelyn Williamson says:

    What an amazing response – so very accurate. well written Robyn.

  17. ken says:

    I understand that one of the longest and largest in volume living thing is plant. This plant would have been eradicated if not for it’s usefulness. There is some debate whether it is WHEAT or RICE. Think about this for a while and consider what would have happened and what will happen if something is of no value to the majority of people anymore.

  18. Scarlett says:

    fuck off and die.
    The more humans I meet the more I like animals.
    Cost this cost that jobs blah blah… I so sincerely hope you all Lois your jobs and starve to death while suffering from a broken leg… And then are whipped and forced to run for the rest of your miserable lives.
    Get a real job.

    • Ashley says:

      Have you ever actually met a race horse. Most of them love their job and are spoiled rotten. A few weeks ago my horse was going for a big stakes race and I spent a small fortune on a massage/ seaweed wrap that he thoroughly enjoyed. He went out pulled his shoe finished last. Came home was fed a big dinner with carrots and was turned out until he “asked” to come in the following day. Was treated for any pain he may have experienced for pulling shoe and then sent off to a lovely grassy field for a brake and will come in next year to be trained down as a four year old. when he races he tries his little heart out and he loves to win. I have been around horses all my life and every type of industry. These horses are treated better than most humans and a lot of the time you will find cost more to keep than they earn GROW UP and get an education on the job you so sorely ridicule. You can’t condemn before you understand fully.

    • Andy says:

      You first!

  19. David Nieuwenhuizen says:

    Superb Robyn, you have great insight of racing, thank you for your tangible reflection of the sport.🏇

  20. Roderick Carmichael says:

    This long form propaganda piece is typical of justification made by other harmful industries, primarily promoting its capacity to entertain, employ or create wealth for certain people. (Think casinos, hunting, polluting companies etc.) . “If they did not have a job we would not have them”, and comparing the metallic taste one may experince from exertion to a catastrophic pulmalary hemorrhage are just a couple of the astonishingly ludicrous points made.
    Just like grey hound racing, animal welfare is compromised by the involvement of money.

    Corruption and cruelty, just add cash.

    • alacknork says:

      I am a professional horse racing photographer and have been doing it for more than 12 years. When I started out, I was in awe of everything on the race track. The horses seem to really love the sprints no matter the course. Over time, I saw too many horses breaking their limbs over small holes on the track, having heart attacked from being pushed too hard and way more often is internal bleeding which happens so often. Foaming blood at the mouth seems to be the norm and trainers and jockeys barely give a hoot.

      Why do they barely give a hoot? Reason is simple, those horses are not their ticket to the big prizes. They are the losers and may never win a race ever. If the same thing happened to Black Caviar, you can be sure the infinite amount of attention it will get from everyone around. The money she generates from her victories earned her the amount of care she receives. Let’s just be factual and honest here, if there was NO money involved i.e. no betting of any sort and merely racing for the joy of seeing these animals in action, 99% of those in the industry will just quit. It’s a money-driven passion.

      Yes, I believe a few of those in the industry do love horses but in the very first place, this entire “sport” was born out of the need to generate winnings and cold hard cash for the owners, trainers and jockeys. I do feel ashamed to be part of it and will be retiring in the not so distant future. It is one human-created activity (and not by choice of the horses!) that I hope will cease to exist.

  21. Rose says:

    Three comments
    1) I remain very uncomfortable with the racing of 2 year olds. Their bones and joints are soft, their brains immature. They are set up for early breakdowns training and racing at this age. Thoroughbreds are not early maturers to this extent. They look mature because they are bulked up as yearlings but underneath they are babies and still are as 2 year olds
    2) The ABCs Catalyst science show did a study of the impact of whip hits on racehorses and found the new padded whips inflicted severe pain and welts and were largely ineffective in making horses gallop faster when they were in full flight.
    3) The racing of horses in high temperatures over 35degrees is cruel. I assume races must go on because of the pressure of betting agencies?
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment

  22. Amateur rider of lovely X-racehorses says:

    I have a feeling that some of the vehement opponents of racing believe themselves to be better people than those who participate in racing. Contemptuous of those who are poorer or less successful, and hating and bitter towards those who are wealthier or more successful.

    It might be true that animal welfare is compromised because money is involved, as Roderick Carmichael pointed out. But the bottom line works both ways, as Robyn Louw explained so well. “Poverty is owning a horse”!

    I’m grateful to the racing industry for breeding gorgeous horses that get retired and end up with people like me: kind-hearted, amateur riders who do it for the sheer love of horse flesh.

  23. Jane Cornell says:

    Robyn thank you for taking much time to clarify some very fair points. You sound like a fair and ethical enough person and I get the impression that you care about the walfare of a racehorse from a racing workers perspective.
    It is my personal believe ( from both sides of the fence) that there needs to be some changes in the industry that helps our thourabred friends to have a better quality of life and certainly a longer one. I do agree with you that the horse needs a job. This big industry has both good and bad.
    There are certainly some trainers who care for the horses in their care both before and after their racing career and see these horses re-educated into happy homes and other equestrian persuits, however saddly I found this to be the minority. There are other trainers who are quick to go through them like battery chickens but are just people who are trying desperately to put food in their families table. I believe there is around 18000 horses bred a year for racing.
    We need compromise! I haven’t got all the answers and many may laugh, but here is a few ideas:
    1.Big restrictions on the numbers bred for racing so there isn’t so much shocking waste of horses. Less races with a bigger purse. Less horses but each horse would cost more to incorporate extra care such as paddock time in the afternoons for example that presently would not come into the budget. Nobody wants to discuss or estimate the numbers of young slow or crazy horses that can’t take the pressure and injured horses who’s lives are ended far too early because it’s far too disturbing. Perhaps bigger inquiries into the cause of sudden deaths to help seek more preventative measures. How do we make changes and still keep the great and exciting part of racing our thourabred athletes?
    2. A superannuation fund held by the racing authorities that owners must contribute to, to fund a retirement program/ re-education. This may even result in more breeding that incorporates a better temperament so that the horse has a better chance to find a purpose after racing if the new home then runds the retirement. retirement plans could be made compulsory to horse owners. What a game changer. I’m sure it would upset the apple cart at first but then so did ending slavery.
    Whether you are from the racing industry or just an animal lover or racing enthusiast, most people have a love of the horse. So what are we doing to help them in there farework practice? They do their best for us then we shoot them because they are too slow. Very shameful.

    • Robyn Louw says:

      Hi Jane (and everyone else who has been kind enough to take the time to comment),

      Firstly, I agree whole-heartedly that changes are necessary. The thing about Emily’s original post is not that she was entirely wrong, but she was not entirely correct either.

      Hopefully I did mention it enough times to make it clear that I do NOT think the racing industry is perfect by any means and I don’t think there can be any argument that there are problems. However, as I hopefully also managed to point out, there are also good people doing good things, so to say that it is ONLY cruel / abusive / about the money etc is not correct either. I know people will argue that good things don’t cancel out the bad, but surely it counts for something that racing does at least try. Criticise by all means – it’s what helps us improve – but also praise where it’s deserved.

      While I do understand sentiments like Scarlett’s (and they are of course entirely welcome to their opinion and their anger), bashing people may feel satisfying in the short-term, but it’s not a long-term solution and writing off an entire community doesn’t help anyone get anywhere, least of all the horses. We need dialogue and understanding to move things forward. All I was hoping to show was that yes, racing does have its problems, but racing is by no means blind to them and it is open to constructive criticism and to change. Yes, perhaps that change is slow, but it is there.

      I see a lot of anti-racing sentiment and it saddens me a little that racing seems to become inured to it and very seldom do we stand up and say ‘Hey, that’s not quite right. There are good people and good stories too.’ I guess I just wanted to make sure that someone said it, because while I’m certainly not proud of all of racing, I’m damn proud of some of it. I understand that it might be difficult for some people to understand, but instead of taking the easy option of chucking it all in the bin and walking away over racing’s perceived shortcomings, I’ll take the criticism on the chin but I’m going to stick around anyway, because I KNOW there are good bits and I think if we can help, grow and support good people doing good things, then we can make things better. And I think that’s worth sticking around for.

      Anyway, many thanks for reading and commenting.


  24. Samdell says:

    As much as I think this is a well informed and factual well written article, it means nothing to the anti racing brigade as you can see from some of the comments. If they disagree with something, the activist method is to argue with venom and never listen to the other side’s point of view even if it is right. Their arguments are embellished with vitriol, abuse and a complete unwillingness to actually debate the issues.

  25. Jen says:

    To see horses standing around in a paddock is very inhumane and sad. Being cooped up in a stall for 22 hours of the day is just pure animal abuse. Shame on all horse owners. They are not ours to use in any way to satisfy the slimy ego of man

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