Racing To Death

What comes to mind when you think of the Kentucky Derby? Crazy hats, designer outfits, and mint juleps? Behind all the glitz and glamour, however, there is a dark side to the horse racing industry. The flashy facade hides the mistreatment and suffering of these magnificent animals. For the horses, the derby means a life of injury, drug abuse, breakdowns, and slaughter.

After being bred to run at high speeds on very small ankles, so as to make them lighter, they begin their training when their skeletal systems are still growing. They are then forced to run on hard tracks at very high speeds. It is no surprise that breakdowns and broken bones are common, and in many cases, lethal. Being forced to race at high speeds can also cause the horse to hemorrhage from their lungs. And if the horse isn’t running fast enough? They are whipped and may also be shocked by illegal devices.

Drug use and abuse is rampant in the horse racing industry. Various drugs are used to enhance the performance of the horse. For example, thyroid medication may be used to speed up the horse’s metabolism. The use of Lasix, a diuretic, stops bleeding in the lungs to push the horse to train harder and longer. It also dehydrates the horse, making them lighter, and therefore faster. In addition, other drugs are given to the horses to act as stimulants or pain killers. The drugs can also mask injuries and illnesses, but in this industry, the horse’s well-being is not what is important. Some of the horses develop tolerances to drugs and are given larger doses as a result, leading to addiction and withdrawal.

Horse racing is a multi-billion dollar industry in which the horses suffer the pain of being treated as commodities. Ownership turnover is very common. The animals are then discarded by the industry once they are no longer deemed profitable. They may live out the rest of their lives in neglect, or end up packed into a cattle truck and taken to Mexico for slaughter.

I think it is time to question this form of “entertainment,” and take a closer look at what is going on behind the glamorized facade the industry wants us to see. By attending horse races or even watching them on TV, we are encouraging the suffering of these animals. The Kentucky Derby horses are not “athletes”— they are victims of a cruel and calculating industry.

Racing To Death by Denise Zahares