Being an Equestrian does not make me ‘anti horse racing’

As an Equestrian and an animal lover, horse racing is a hugely controversial topic in my world. And I have to be honest, it has taken me a few weeks to write this blog. It may surprise you that I am not anti horse racing. In fact, not only do I have my ex-racehorse Nigel, I also have a share in 2 Thoroughbred racehorses. What I am though, is anti horse abuse in ANY discipline, and a strong advocate for training and re-homing retired racehorses.

Do I agree with every part of the horse racing industry? Hell no. There are too many 2 year old horses raced before their bodies are mature enough. The owners, and even trainers ignore this. Is there abuse in the world of horse racing? You betcha. And the abuse is not bound by the horse racing industry either, there just happens to be far more media attention in horse racing than in other competitive events. There is neglect, unsafe living conditions, animal hoarding, training abuse, drugging, the list goes on. And this is in the dressage world, the show jumping world and even the non-competitive horse world.

But as an owner of 3 Thoroughbreds, one an ex-racehorse and two currently racing, what I can say is there are also good owners and trainers out there. A LOT of them. And excuse the cliche, but these people love their animals and would do anything for them. They are ethical and experienced, and they know that horses and horse training is all about being in a partnership!

Working with horses it’s important to remember, you don’t make him learn. You set it up to allow him to learn. You have to give him that with dignity. Once you start giving, you won’t believe how much you get back – Ray Hunt

When I was 10 years old, I witnessed horse abuse for the first time. It’s funny what I remember from that day. I don’t remember what I ate or drank. I don’t remember what I was wearing. And I don’t remember where we were going or what we did after. But I do remember stopping the car because we saw a pregnant mare at the point of starvation. There was no food and no water, and as we got closer we realised the mare was no longer pregnant because she had given birth to a stillborn foal. I remember that mare and foal like it was yesterday. I don’t know if this was just a tragic story of a struggling horse owner, who didn’t have the means to care for their horse, but what I do know is this was horse neglect.

I guess the question I tend to ask myself is “how can we eradicate horse abuse and neglect in it’s entirety?” and not just in the racing world. What’s important to me is that the right people continue to work with horses in all disciplines, and the wrong are held to account. How many people are out there guilty of animal abuse and murder, yet are still free to own animals and roam the streets? Perhaps it’s our fractional animal rights laws that should be questioned, rather than the controversy of the horse racing industry.

Cover photo; Lady Cromac 2017

Below photo; Naughty Baby (Nigel) 2014

This blog is the personal opinion and experience of the author. You should always seek the advice of a professional horse riding instructor or trainer for your own specific situation or circumstance.

14 thoughts on “Being an Equestrian does not make me ‘anti horse racing’

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  1. Well written post. You are absolutely right about abuse in other disciplines and there are some ( Tennessee Walkers for example) that have had considerably more attention in the media, both social and mainstream, than the horse racing industry and yet regulatory bodies have not had significant impact on the abuse. So it would be good to see much greater respect for animal rights and stronger implementation of animal rights laws. I am going to share this to FB Horse Addict Leueen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good on you for writing this.

    I am a horse lover and I adore the OTTB. I have seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly of the horse racing world. I think in all walks of life there are good and bad people, there are people that abuse their horses and others that don’t.

    In the elite sport of dressage I have seen it first hand.
    Oh my horse won’t halt square so i’ll kick it in the guts with spurs (yeah that will help!!)
    oh my horse won’t get on the float i’ll whip it until it does
    – I have said something on both of these occassions, I will not sit idly by and watch an animal be abused. Sure I got a pretty bad reception and I was yelled at, but hey they know that at least people notice and they will think twice next time. Here’s hoping !

    As it is said “the only true power is knowledge” and anybody with a hint of horse savvy knows that fear does not drive these animals to perform. Horses do not like fear.

    Get their heart and their mind and they will run through fire for you. !!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Finally found it!!
    As someone whose other half is a retired race horse trainer that rode his own horses, great post!! Lots of common sense. We have to quit demonizing whole sects of the horse industry and call out abuse where it’s at as individuals. Otherwise, there’s going to be a lot of horses without homes & a lot of horse owners facing abuse charges.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So, I agree. I think there is actually less overt abuse of horses in racing because these animals are a source of money and they need to keep them in tip top shape, healthy and ready to run so that they have a good investment. What bothers me most about racing is the same as what bothers me in any sport where animals make money for humans. Once they’re done with making money, then what?
    Any time an animal is used for the purpose of making money, the animal’s best interest is no longer the focus. I realize this is a blanket statement but I see it time and time again. I love the OTTB program and fully support it. Thank God it exists, or what would happen to all the ex racehorses?
    And I wouldn’t call horse racing an abusive sport. At all. I think your blog sheds light on good and bad. Areas we still need to work on. And how we can always make things better for the animals in our lives. No matter what role they play.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our NSW government (in Australia) recently invested $5m into a property that will be run to re-home ex-racehorses. I haven’t read too much about it yet, but at least this is one step in the right direction! We also have a few other Government initiatives like NSW TB Rehabilitation Trust which is a program for prisoners to work with ex-racehorses for re-homing. All positive I think, especially if it’s helping these awesome horses into new homes!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve witnessed abuse in every discipline I’ve ever been involved with. It’s not breed specific, it’s not discipline specific, some people will just abuse horses no matter what kind of riding they do. It’s not even always conscious, sometimes it’s just ignorance or “this is the way it’s always been done”.

    As far as racing goes, while I know that abuse happens, none of the OTTBs I have worked with were abused by their trainers on the track. In fact, the only OTTB I have that I would consider a “rescue” was rescued from his post track life. Most trainers I have met want the best for the horses in their care and play an active role in their retirement. In the Eastern USA, we are lucky to have many incentives from the tracks and racing associations to provide for re-training and placement of retired race horses. There’s also been an increased demand for OTTBs as sport horses and their value is steadily going up. Racing is finally starting to lose its stigma with equestrians here, which is great for the OTTBs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome! I feel it’s going the other way in Australia.. there are more and more people against the racing industry. We even had a temporary ban on greyhound racing and it came into discussion about banning horse racing too. I think greater awareness and knowledge is the key! We need to start weeding out the bad people and not the sport or discipline!


  6. Yes, yes, yes, thank you for writing this post! I am in the gaited “business” and I believe in enhancing the natural gaits with positive reinforcement and training. But then we have the extremes who will sore and chain their horses, something I resent. There is abuse in all disciplines, it’s the people we have to look at, not the sport itself!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing this. A bold move indeed. I have to say I agree, it’s all about the handler, not the sport itself. There’s a ton of abuse in all disciplines. Horse racing doesn’t deserve the reputation for abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

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