Is Horse Racing A Bed Of Roses ….. Or Black Eyed Susans?

May 05, 2009 |

Privately, I’ve been agonizing over the legitimacy and humanity of horse racing, for the past couple years. I haven’t mentioned these feelings, because it seems difficult to convey such an opinion without sounding like a PETA-wacko or tree hugging crusader – which I’m not.

I’m not a guy who finds some self-serving value in public demonstrations of any sort ….. so you won’t find me carrying a sign or billboard outside the gates of Pimlico. However, I do think it’s reasonable to ask if the sport of horse racing is humane, as it relates to both horses and industry personnel.

I can’t think of another “big time” sport that employs living, breathing creatures who don’t have the option of making a conscious decision to compete or not compete. What goes through a horse’s mind or heart on a given day? You might brand this “silly” and that’s fine. But, what does the horse want?

And, if you’re bound to ask me if I eat meat – the answer is a resounding YES. I also believe God provides animals for us to eat. I don’t believe he provides horses for us to race. That’s as close as I’m gonna dance to the spiritual side of ANIMALS and their existence on this earth.

For me, the sobering side of this sport is the sight of Eight Belles lying, crippled on the track at Churchill Downs. Did she wanna race? Would she rather just be a horse on a farm? Heck, do they have the intelligence to know the difference?

Alex Rodriguez CHOSE to inject a syringe into his body. Joe Theismann CHOSE to take the field against Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants, on a chilly Monday night. And, God knows Dale Earnhardt CHOSE to strap himself in that car on February 18, 2001.

But, do horses choose ……

The definitive answer is obviously “NO.” But, is there an implied answer? Does the horse have a way of letting the trainer or jockey know whether they want to race? I don’t have these answers. But, I’m open-minded to input.

While I don’t doubt Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont bound thoroughbreds receive the very best care possible, I do wonder if the same spirited regard and care is afforded to lesser talented racehorses around this country. Is there any industry-wide standard for hygiene, health and fitness conditions?

While I don’t have a smoking gun or smallest morsel of evidence, I am inclined to ask if there are measures for reporting and following-up on cases of neglect and abuse? For me, these animals are really “investments” and tools of profit. They’re not really loved, are they?

They’re not compensated for good performances. Once again, I’m not trying to convey an asinine argument – you can’t pay a horse !!!! But, I’d bet they suffer some unpleasant repercussions for consistent poor performances. Abuse? I’m not suggesting that. But, I’m pretty sure the better care and facilities go to the optimal performers.

And, lets be honest, this sport’s seediness extends beyond the lives of horses. I’ve driven down Whiskey Bottom Road, in Laurel, on countless patrols. Yeah, this is the “rear side” view of Laurel Race Course. The living quarters and general squalid surroundings are more indicative of a Central American slum, than a professional sports facility.

On a routine basis, we monitor the Ravens and Orioles for their treatment of employees. How about the horse racing industry, right here in Maryland? How are these employees treated and compensated? Is there a side the public never sees? Indeed …..

More to come in the following days ……