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Health And Wellbeing Of Racehorses Biology Essay

Over the years the popularity of horse racing has over shadowed and the racing industry has done its best to conceal it’s harsh truths about how the industry actually effects the horses within it. In this essay I will be looking at the main areas which outline the impact of the industry such as their diet, the effects of training racehorses too young, fatalities on the racecourse, what happens to racehorses at the end of their career, common injury caused by racing, how they are trained, how they are breed and what drugs are used in racing to help reveal the ugly truth the industry has tried to keep from the public eye.

Background information on the industry

The racing industry makes up a huge sector of our economy and provides various incomes for thousand of people, ranging from grooms to owners. According to the Racing Association (RCA, 2009) there are 60 active racecourses in the United Kingdom, the most famous being Ascot. Even though the UK economy relies on this industry to stay a float, as they contribute £0.5 million in corporation tax, £68 million for national insurance, £155 million from gross profit from betting, £42 million in VAT and £59 million PAYE according to the BBC (2009). The racing industry also creates jobs in many areas says a news article on the BBC (2009); 7000 jobs are created in construction, 18,600 in core industry, 2,800 directly related to running the courses, 52,000 in betting and 26,000 in secondary employment. However, there has always been controversy over how this industry impacts on the health and general well being of the racehorses involved. This is of increasing concern due to the growing number of horses being bred specifically for racing each year, as this number, according to the RCA (2008) 5,920 colts and fillies where born and would soon begin training. Six million people come to the racecourse to watch the racing each year. British racecourses stage two ‘codes’ of horseracing, flat and jumping, both of which take place all year round. Currently there are 19 flat courses, including the existing 4 All-Weather racecourses, 24 jumps courses and 18 dual purposes.

According to Thoroughbred Information Board (2004), the traditional horse commonly used in horse racing is the thoroughbred. The Thoroughbred horse was developed in England where it was bred for racing and exported across the world. Thoroughbred horses are so inbred that the pedigree of every horse can be traced back to one of three stallions, Byerley Turk (alive 1680-1696), Darley Arabian (alive 1700-1733) and the Godolphin Arabian (alive 1724-1753), and these are known as the "Foundation sires". Thoroughbred horses have a refined head, long neck, sloping shoulders, deep body, muscular hindquarters and fine long legs which makes it the ideal breed of horse for travelling at speed. However, this idyllic conformation did not come about naturally.

What is the effect of Racehorses starting too young?

According to the RCA (2009) horses which have been bred to race often start training at the tender age of 2; where as more domestic horses will start much later often at the age of 3 or maybe even 4. Also at meagre age of 3 a race horse can become eligible to compete in a crown derby. Some sources argue such as The Guardian (2007), RCA(2008) and the Horse and Hound (2010), that this has a detrimental effect to there health in the long term. However, people close to the racing industry and perhaps are a part of it argue that a race horse goes through a thorough inspection every time they race especially when they are young. Professional Trainer Laura Phelps-Bell (2007) says that ‘racehorses start training too hard, too young’. I have summarised her research and found that this can cause devastating long term effects such as;

Navicular Syndrome, also known as navicular disease. According to the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) the navicular bone is a small bone in the horse’s foot. There is some speculation of how to define this disease; however some have said that it derives from the conformation of a specific horse’s foot.

Bone Spavin is a common cause of lameness in horses and is where the cannon and the hock bone are affected usually by arthritis or degeneration of the cartilage. This condition is often caused by too much strain put on the hock joint with reference to the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001).

Bone Chips, also known as sequestrum. The ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) refers to a Bone Chip as a piece of dead bone which has lost it’s blood supply. The book illustrates that the horse’s immune system then thinks that this is a foreign body and rejects it; this causes the affect part of the body to become over heated and in a huge amount of pain. Eventually the part of dead bone will detach it’s self and move within the skin, around the body which can be very dangerous. According to the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) this often has to be corrected with surgery to remove the bone. Bone chips are very common in horses and are actually broken pieces of bone from the knee or ankle. They can be very troublesome and painful or be of no bother at all. The size of the chip and its location determine whether or not removal is necessary. Arthroscopic surgery is the usual course of action and is followed by rest and rehabilitation. However, the book states that most horses can resume a racing career after chip removal.

Stifle Injuries are common in both racing and evening horses because of the pressure put on their stifle when travelling at high speed or by jumping. The ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) describes the effect this has on the horse as often causing lameness; however this injury mostly has short term effects. On the other hand if this injury is severe and continues to work the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) states it can cause long term effects rendering them immobile. A stifle injury is a fracture in the fibial crest, trochlear ridges of the femur and patella. These injuries can be treated by rest and physiotherapy.

Blown-out Hocks, corresponding to the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) Blown-out Hocks are where the hocks of the horse have collapsed, this is very painful because it results in the horse having unnaturally flat feet because the bone hold the hoof to the navicular bone has collapsed. This causes the horses feet to grow outwards rather than down. This also causes the horse to put a huge amount of pressure on the frog of the horse’s hooves. The frog of the hoof is the most sensitive part located on the underneath, surrounded by the hoof wall.

Hairline fractures, are with reference to the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) a minor fracture in which the bone fragments remain in alignment, appearing on x-ray film as a fine line. Usually evident by mild lameness. The bone is cracked in the outer layer only. The tissue surrounding the crack is minimal. Hairline fractures become dangerous when not recognized and continued work/trauma may cause further damage to the area.

Arthritis, Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects horses by causing lameness. The ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) says that although it can appear in any joint, most common areas are the upper knee joint, front fetlocks, hocks, or coffin joints in the front feet. Arthritis can be caused by injuries, loose joints, an abnormal growth pattern, or it can be hereditary. Regardless of the cause, the disease begins when the synovial fluid that lubricates healthy joints begins to thin. The ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) states that the decrease in lubrication causes the cartilage cushion to break down, and eventually the bones begin to grind painfully against each other.

Severe back problems, which the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) have found that severe back problems can be caused by a lot of exercise taken on by the horse when it is too young. This is because the horse’s spinal cord and muscles of a young horse when it begins to race have not fully developed.

Sprained necks, the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) describe this as the over development of muscle in certain parts of the neck compared to others, this causes the horse to develop the wrong conformation with the neck which effects its position and movement when being ridden. The book ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) explores the problems this causes such as horses becoming unbalanced and stiff because of the lack of suppleness in the neck. This condition is caused by horses being worked too hard, too young. This is common with the racing industry due to the age which they begin the training problem and compete in races.

Bucked shins is explained in the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) as the thin sheath or membrane that covering the cannon bone which is called the periosteum, builds up a calcium deposit (periostitis), a new bone growth then occurs and gives the appearance of the shins being ‘bucked”. Bucked shins are illustrated in the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) as a common injury among young horses that have not fully grown and are being trained heavily. Soreness is the result and rest is the cure. Bucked shins are very common.

Overall, this research shows how racing, specifically racehorse training causes severe long term effects to develop which then become detrimental to the horse later in life and therefore ruining its chances of having, in the words of John Seymour a leading race horse physician “a life after racing”. The list of injuries is never ending; these are a small proportion of the types of injuries which regularly occur when horses are put under too much strain in racing at a ridiculously young age. However, racing can also cause many other types of injuries which are very common in racehorses, as seen on the next page.

Common injury

As well as the age horses begin training there are many other reasons why racehorses in particular suffer form severe and long term injuries caused by racing which are detrimental to their health, according to The Truth about Racing (2006).

Bowed Tendon- A bowed tendon is a serious injury. According to The Truth about Racing less than 50% of horses that suffer a bowed tendon are able to return to racing. The Truth About Racing (2006) says that the injury is usually caused by severe strain, a bowed tendon is an inflammation and enlargement of the flexor tendon which is located at the back of the front cannon bone. Horses that are “back at the knee”, have long or weak pasterns, or are improperly shoed are more likely to experience this injury. The best treatment is long periods of rest. Enzyme injections and surgical procedures are often used to aid in treatment.

Bleeding- Bleeding is a popular issue in many horse magazines such as the Horse and Hound (2010), within the magazine it is described as a common problem with racehorses, bleeding or Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage (EIPH) is commonly found in horses after exercise or in racehorses after or during a race. Some studies indicate that from 70 to 100 percent of horses in training experience EIPH. During a race or training conditions, the blood pressure in the vessels of the horse that lead from the heart to the lungs is very high.

The article in the magazine Horse and Hound (2010) explains that the walls of the vessels can break and force blood into the airways. The physical make-up of the horse in action can also contribute to bleeding as the muscles that are used in running act as a pump against the chest cavity further exasperating the problem. After a horse bleeds during a race or training they are usually declared ineligible for at least 10 days. A second bleeding incident can put them on the shelf for 20.

There is record of bleeding in thoroughbreds as far back as the 18th century. Bleeding Childers, whose name was later changed to Bartlett’s Childers, were a bleeder and also the grand sire of Eclipse, who can be found in the bloodlines of over 75% of modern thoroughbreds according to Horse and Hound magazine (2010). Bleeding is often treated with lasix. Lasix can lower the blood pressure of the horse and is also a diuretic that dehydrates the animal. The reduced blood pressure with less fluid pressure against the chest cavity can alleviate bleeding, but is not a cure.

Condylar Fracture- A fracture of the condyle of the cannon bone. With reference to The Truth about Racing (2006) the condyle is the bulbous bottom or distal end of the cannon bone that fits into the fetlock joint. Condylar fractures can be repaired surgically. The prognosis for survival and a return to racing soundness is dependent on the severity of injury. According to The Truth about Racing (2010) in uncomplicated cases, after surgery to fix an uncomplicated condylar fractures, the horse normally is given stall rest for one month, followed by stall rest and hand-walking for another month. After this 60-day period, follow-up x-rays are taken to determine the rate of healing. If all is going well, there likely is another two to four weeks of paddock exercise before the horse might resume training. In the case of more severe fractures, the recovery period could encompass many months before the horse is ready to return to training.

Sesamoid Fracture- The Truth about Racing (2010) refer to the sesamoids as two small, delicate bones located at the back of the fetlock, held in place only by ligaments. These little bones located just behind the pastern serve as pulleys over which the deep digital flexor tendons pass. A fracture to the sesamoids usually involves an injury to the suspensory apparatus. Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery can be performed to treat the fracture.

Curb- Ran Vet (2002) describes this as a hard enlargement on the rear of the cannon bone immediately below the hock. It begins as an inflammation of the plantar ligament and the inflammation leads to a thickening of the ligament.

Grabbed Quarter- according to the Thoroughbred information boars (2004) while running, the horse "grabbed" one of its front hooves with a rear hoof, tearing skin and tissue. Cost and amount of training time lost depends on the extent of the injury.

Quarter Crack- The Truth about Racing (2006) put this down to stress, or if improperly shod, the hard substance of the hoof can crack and become a source of pain - sometimes including the development of an infection in the exposed soft tissue underneath. This ailment can be corrected with a Fiberglas or epoxy patch, and shoeing. Cost and amount of training time lost, if any, depends on the extent of the injury.

Colic- Colic is a general term used to describe pain in the gastrointestinal tract of a horse, say Today’s Horse (2006). According to Ran Vet (2002) Colic can happen any time to any horse and has many causes. It is the number one killer of horses. Treatments vary depending on the type of colic and its severity. A "simple" colic may cost around £100 for treatment. More severe or prolonged colic can cost several hundred pounds to treat. If the colic is severe enough to require surgery, the cost of treatment can be several thousand dollars.

A Racehorse’s Diet

According to Ran Vet (2002), a leading manufacturer of veterinary medication and supplements an average racehorse is fed these amounts, varying between the amounts of work they do. Chaff is a common digestive used in horse feed to bulk out the minority of its content; it helps the horse to digest harder substances such as oats. Chaff has very little energy content or nutritional value and therefore is used solely for this purpose. On the other hand substances such as oats and corn are high in energy which gives the horse the energy it need to run a race, however, this energy is not sustained as it is high in carbohydrates which diffuse quickly.

Figure1) A typical diet of a racehorse, supplied by Ran Vet (2002).

Figure 2) Colorado state university (2001); normal horse

As you can see a racehorse is given a diet which is much higher in high energy foods such as oats and corn which contribute to it’s already highly strung character. This may be useful for when they are racing however feeding a horse such high energy foods can have a detrimental effect to their health as in trying achieve such high performances, this often leads to racehorses being prone to laminitis because of their high sugar diet whilst racing examines Ran Vet (2002). The Laminitis Trust (2000) explain that Laminitis is one of the most common causes of lameness and disability of horses and ponies in this country. Is a disease associated with ischemia of digital dermal tissues, it is not primarily an inflammatory disease; hence laminitis is a misnomer. The Laminitis Trust (2000) illustrate that the bond between the dermal and epidermal laminae (the inter-laminar bond) is the only means of support of the distal phalanx within the hoof. If sufficient inter-laminar bonds are destroyed the animal becomes foundered i.e.; the pedal bone moves distally within the hoof. The Laminitis Trust (2000) say that Laminitis can also be caused by over working a horse or putting a horse under too much stain too early in life.

Figure 3) shows a healthy Figure 4) A hoof which has

Foot and cannon bone suffered from laminitis. Ran Vet (2002)

Rotation. Ran Vet (2002)

The difference in the hooves are that the hoof which has suffered from laminitis has a damaged stifle bone within the foot which means that it can no longer rotate properly. This often causes to horse large amount of main and for then to lean backwards on their hind legs in order to take the pressure off of the front two feet.

Ran vet (2002) describes Laminitis as an extremely dangerous condition however it is possible for the horse to recover if it is treated properly. Treatment of laminitis by your vet most commonly involves the use of anti-inflammatory (non steroidal anti-inflammatory NSAIDs) which have some pain relieving effect; together with diet adjustment.

Ran Vet (2002) explains that NSAIDs such as Bute or flunixine are commonly used for around 2 weeks in acute laminitis cases and sometimes indefinitely in chronic laminitis cases. They effectively combat inflammation in the laminitic joint. The Laminitis Trust say Laminitis can be treated through;

Extra pain relief- with narcotic analgesics e.g. fentanyl patches in America, but not used much in the UK.

Antibiotics- like virginiamycin. Laminitis treatment aims to reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the gut causing the production and release of toxins.

Drugs to improve circulation- e.g. ACP the sedative (also reduces stress). Although most of such drugs have not been shown to help much in laminitis treatment. Isoxuprine has also been used.

Cold therapy- Can help in initial stages of laminitis treatment but the benefits have not been accurately assessed.

Heat therapy- Aims to improve circulation to laminitic feet but there is no evidence that it works.

Nerve Blocks- to desensitise the laminitic feet may seem sensible but it may mean that your horse will place too much weight on the sensitive feet and do even more damage.

Sport horse training

As you can see above, sport horses are given a high protein diet which makes them more highly strung, this is appropriate for the high level of energy they use when competing. The National Horse Racing Society (2004) dictate that Racehorses are trained mostly 5 times a week out of season for about an hour everyday depending on the exercise they are doing. According to The National Horse Racing Society (2004) there exercise regime normally consists of 30 minutes to one hour in a walker.

Figure 5- a large horse walker with 4

Compartments. NHRS (2004)

The National Horse Racing society (2004) say a horse walker allows a horse to be put into one of the compartments on the walker, which then automatically begins to turn using a motor which encourages the horse within to move at the required pace. The National Horse Racing Society (2004) explain that the walkers are to encourage the horse to go at the appropriate pace because if the horse if walking too slowly then the barrier behind will force the horse to walk at a faster pace. However, the barrier in front to stop the horse from moving too fast in its paces, which is used to teach the horse restraint and to pace themselves which makes it easier for the jokey to control when on the track as the horse is not as anxious to get ahead.

The National Horse Racing Society (2004) describes this as an effective form of exercise technique because it means that several horses can be in the walker at one time, this allows the horses to be more comfortable and confident around each other which should benefit their ability on the race track. It is also safer for the staff and the horses because it means that the staff would not need to deal with highly strung horses as often especially when a horse has been out of work for a while due to injury or foaling. Also the horses are kept in an enclosed space which means they are less likely too cause harm to themselves.

On the other hand, according to the Total Racing Guide (2000), a walker can also be distressing for the horses because of the enclosed environment and can be difficult to get frightened and unruly horses out of the walker especially if there are other horses within it. Also the walker can become quite boring for the horses over a prolonged period of time as it is not intellectually stimulating which they need. A horse walker also helps to build up muscle in the horses hind quarters which helps to create more impulsion and lift when the horse takes off, the built up of muscle also means the horse can have a greater gait and exert less effort to travel more of a distance. Also, because the walker is curved it helps to build up flexion in the horses head and neck which means that it is easier for the horse to adapt to the rhythm of their riders hands it also make to horse easier to control because it causes the head, neck and spine to curve slightly making the horse more supple and easier to turn with the restricted leg movement that jockeys have.

Another form of exercise illustrated by ‘Break in’ by Fancis Dik (1998) is the track exercise which is where the horse has first hand experience of running round a race track. Thoroughbred flat races are run on surfaces of either dirt, synthetic or turf; each horse is normally specifically trained to specialize in one of these, it is uncommon for one horse to be trained in all. According to the RCA (2009), some races can be flat where a horse gallops around a flat track usually are run at a wide variety of distances, most commonly from 5 to 12 furlongs. Flat racing is the most common form of Thoroughbred racing. The track is typically oval in shape and the race is based on speed and stamina says Country File (2009).

RCA (2008) say that within the general category of Thoroughbred flat racing, there exist two separate types of races. These include conditions races and handicap races. Condition races according to the RCA (2008) are the most prestigious and offer the biggest purses. Handicap races assign each horse a different amount of weight to carry based on their ability. Beside the weight they carry, the horse is also influenced by its closeness to the inside barrier, the track surface, its gender, the jockey, and the trainer. A typical Thoroughbred race is run on dirt, synthetic or turf surfaces. Viscoride and Polytrack are synthetic substitutes. Thoroughbred races vary in distance, but are usually somewhere between five and twelve furlongs.

With reference to the ‘Complete A-Z of Horse Racing’ (2001) a furlong is a distance measurement equal to one eighth of a mile or two hundred and twenty yards. However, the length of an endurance race varies greatly. The RCA (2009) some races are very short, only ten miles, while others can be up to one hundred miles. They also say there are a few races that are even longer than one hundred miles and last multiple days. These different lengths of races are divided into five categories: pleasure rides (10–20 miles), non-competitive trail rides (21–27 miles), competitive trail rides (20–45 miles), progressive trail rides (25–60 miles), and endurance rides (40–100 miles in one day, up to 150 miles in multiple days). Because each race is very long, the tracks are almost always just dirt. However, this is not the traditional sort of racing which we are used to.

Breeding

According to the magazine Horse and Hound (2010) racehorse breeding is big business, as illustrated by the retirement of dual Derby winner Galileo and Breeders' Cup Turf hero Fantastic Light. Fantastic Light, part of the Godolphin team which boasts centres in Dubai, England and America, is aged five. Galileo, bred by the Irish-based Cool more operation, is two years younger.

Horses and Hound (2010) address the question, why are these Flat racing superstars sent for relatively early retirement while their National Hunt counterparts are still jumping at the age of 11 and 12? Much of the answer lies in the lucrative breeding fees which leading racehorses can command.

Galileo is reported by Horse and Hound to be worth £22m based on three years of stud duties where he manages to get an average of 150 mares in foal each year. In layman's terms, owners will be asked to cough up about £50,000 a time for their mares to have sex with him. Female horses are said to have been "covered" by stallions that "stand" at stud and "visit" their partners. Coolmore, like many other stud operations, even have a no-foal no-fee offer according to Horse and Hound. Despite Galileo winning the English and Irish Derby’s, plus the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, his stud fee is below expectations.

It is less than half the figure Giant's Causeway stood at in his first season at Coolmore Stud. ‘The fee reflects a general drop in the market’ says Horse and hound, but also the marked difference in values between a stallion that has American appeal and one that does not. Giant's Causeway, who will spend next season at Coolmore's American division in Kentucky, was worth £105,000 this year according to the magazine.

He was a close second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, run on a dirt track in America, while Galileo finished a disappointing sixth in the same race 12 months later reported by the RCA (2009). King of the stallions is Sadler's Wells, who sired Galileo, and attracts a regal fee. He serves about 200 mares every season according to the Thoroughbred Information Board (2004), and with each mating reaping a reported fee of about £200,000 that brings in about £40m a year to Coolmore.

Breeders are reported by Horse and Hound to pay the fees because as well as his sons and daughters being very successful on the racecourse, they sell for big prices before even having a run. A colt by him sold at public auction last year for a European record of 3.4 million guineas, which in common currency is about £3.5m found the RCA (2008).

The arguments rage over whether it is unsporting to retire horses at a relatively early age rather than continuing racing report Horse and Hound. But perhaps some horses are just not made to keep on running. Quixall Crossett is still jumping fences at the age of 16, and has yet to win in 102 attempts.

Drugs used in horse racing

Colorado State University (2001-2008) have done many investigations in drugs used in horse racing. The most common drug used in horse racing is the drug furosemide which has stricken a popular debate about the health and performance which furosemide has on racehorses. This drug is commonly used in racehorses in order to prevent bleeding into the airways and lungs as they run in a race. This drug is commonly used in over 90 percent of racing thoroughbreds and 50 percent of racing standarbreds and is administrated a few hours before a race commences.

According to the Thoroughbred Information Board (2004), due to their unique physiology, all horses running race at speed experience varying degrees of exercise including pulmonary haemorrhage, or bleeding into the airways. This is because of blood pressure changes in the lung that are unique to the horse during exercise, more than half of thoroughbred racehorses have some amount of blood in their trachea after a single race.

Furosemide is reported to be used be Horse and Hound who have found that bleeding in the airways impairs racing performance. However, it cost around £30 million annually to treat horses with furosemide on race days according to The Truth About Racing (2006). On the other hand a study of more than 22,000 racehorses that was previously conducted by Lincoln University (2003) found that horses tested with furosemide raced faster, earned more money and where more likely to finish in top position. This is partly due to transient weight loss; it was found that horses treated with this drug would loose about 2 percent of their body weight prior to racing, which has been shown to make them run faster.

The research by Lincoln University (2003) was carried out through a series of races, with some horses treated with drug and some not. Each horse was examined after each race, it was found that the horses treated with the drug had an increased performance level and a lower level of blood secreting from the airways.

Fatalities on the racecourse

The BBC (2009) have done much research into many damaging reports created over the years exposing the welfare problems associated with Thoroughbred breeding, racing, training and disposal of commercially ‘unproductive’ horses. My research indicates that around 420 horses are raced to death every year. About 38 per cent die on racecourses, while the others are destroyed as a result of training injuries, or are killed because they are no longer commercially viable.

The horse racing industry has always concealed from the public, and even from racing correspondants, the number of horses raced to death every year. Information on the mortality is becoming more, rather than less, difficult to obtain.

The Truth Behind Racing (1999) report that the main reasons for horses being ‘destroyed’ include broken legs, back, neck and pelvis; fatal spinal injuries, exhaustion, heart attack, and burst blood vessels in the lungs. The truth behind racing (1999) say it is not unusual for two horses to die in a single race. Three fatalities at a single meeting is also common. 16 horses died on-course during just 16 days (from March 9 to March 24, 2004) - yet no formal action was taken. Nor were there any official response to10 on-course dead in just 8 days - from March 30 to April 6, 2002 reported Horse Death Watch (2009).

The majority of fatalities occur in jump racing. Horses used to be selectively bred for this sector. They were heavier-boned and more robust than the faster animals racing on the flat. Because of the increasing emphasis on speed in all racing sectors, horses entered into jump races are now more often 'cast-offs' from the flat. Deaths, as a consequence, are more common.

What happens to racehorses after their carrier end?

The Truth Behind Racing (1999) reveals most racehorses retire at the age of 6 or 7; when most domestic horses are coming into their prime, with reference to animal discovery. This leaves the rest of their average 30 year life with very little options. According to the Guardian newspaper most racehorses after they have retired are sent to the slaughter if they are too old, too slow and can’t jump. After being slaughtered most are turned into meat and exported to our European neighbours France. It’s ironic how they brutally murder ex-race horses if they prove to be too slow or unable to do anything else as research by the ex-race horse rehabilitation charity great wood has proven that racing can cause distinct disfigurements in horse’s legs rendering them useless after they retire.

In addition The Guardian (2007) has discovered that most racehorses are sent to slaughter before there 5th birthday, however some never make the grade from birth so meet a quick end with a bullet to the temple, as the guardian carried out a private investigation, where they tracked 1,022 horse bread for racing and only 347 where actually entered. Nobody really knows what happens to these horses for sure, but speculation suggests that most will be slaughtered because as they are specially bred most are unsuitable for normal use. However, some lucky horses get taken in by the numerous charities dedicated to re-habilitating ex-racehorses, making them suitable for domestic use.

According to Country File (2009) it takes on average of three and a half months to rehabilitate a racehorse, however this is a difficult process because racehorses are often set too a fast pace from an early age. This makes it difficult to get them used to a slower pace making them suitable for the average rider. Also some racehorses need extensive physiotherapy to correct spinal disablements and contorted limbs. However, some injuries may be so extensive that slaughter is the only option. In addition, people are often put off by the behavioural problems associated with race horses.

Conclusion

In conclusion, although the racing industry allows horses to line in a life of luxury while they are in their height of fame. The effects of the action of racing stay with the horse for the rest of its life. Horse racing can cause endless injuries and health defect which can be both long and short term. Overall, the racing injury seems to have a negative effect on horses, leaving them with very little options when their racing carrier is over because the majority are far to highly strung, or their bodies are too disfigured to lead a normal life after racing, this leaves them with one main option which is to be put to their death. In the glamorous and political world of horse racing the reality is that it is in fact a cruel sport which is willing to sacrifice horses at its expense.

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