Horse racing struggles to maintain relevance throughout the year. Some people don’t even realise it runs outside of Spring. If you enjoy a flutter and a drink or two at the races, these hidden facts will make you reconsider.
1. Thousands of failed racehorses are slaughtered each year
Nothing says “we love our horses” like sending thousands of them to slaughter every year, right? While you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Melbourne Cup winner at your local knackery or slaughterhouse, there are 13,000 racehorses exiting the racing industry every year… And the majority of them aren’t the winners you see on the TV or in the newspaper during Spring Carnival.
In Australia there are dozens of knackeries that process failed and former racehorses for pet food, as well as two abattoirs that kill horses for human consumption in South Australia and Queensland. Some of their ‘horse steaks’ are served in a select few Melbourne restaurants, but the majority are exported to European countries like Belgium and France.
2. Racehorses die on the track … regularly
Unless you live ~under a rock~ you will have heard about the four Melbourne Cup deaths in recent years. The industry would have you believe these are ‘freak accidents’ and ‘rarely occur’, right? Wrong.
One racehorse dies every 2.6 days in Australia. And 137 racehorses have died since last year’s Melbourne Cup. They most commonly suffer catastrophic limb injuries, cardiac arrests and massive bleeds causing them to collapse and die. We compile them all in our deathwatch report, which you can read here.
3. Studies have shown whips hurt
Whipping = one of the most public displays of animal cruelty.
While the RSPCA would be quick to charge you for whipping your dog, cat or rabbit – whipping in horse racing is exempt from this rule, even normalised and celebrated, despite the fact studies have shown whips hurt racehorses.
4. Jumps racing is 20 times more dangerous than flat racing
Jumping. While. Racing. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.
While there are no jumps races at official Spring Carnival events anymore, they do run throughout the season. Jumps racing is 20 times more dangerous than flat racing and kills multiple horses every single year when they fall on their heads and necks, or break their limbs.
Paying for a ticket to the races supports this.
5. Less ‘valuable’ foals are discarded
‘Nanny’ mares are kept in foal in order to have a milk supply, and when a prized broodmare dies giving birth to a thoroughbred foal, the nanny mare will step in to raise the thoroughbred ‘foster’ foal, and their own biological foal is discarded.
They are the bobby calves of the racing industry. And it’s a practice barely spoken about, but you can read the story of one lucky survivor here.
6. Some participants use drugs
With so much money at stake in horse racing, it’s no wonder that some owners and trainers resort to using drugs on their racehorses.
The cobalt saga involving numerous high profile trainers is just one example of using stimulants to push horses beyond their physical capabilities.
7. Horses are raced before their bodies are mature enough
A famous trainer once said “Two year olds, as we know, can be here today and gone tomorrow.”
It’s the perfect way to sum up 2-year-old racing. What good can come of racing young horses well before they are skeletally mature? And who would want to support that?
Instead of going to the races, on Melbourne Cup Day take part in something to help racehorses. Find out how here.