Remember two days ago when I said this:
If I had a holiday wish this season, it would be to see the industry support it’s own more often and particularly in the high profile circumstances where non-racing related charities tend to get the most support by our industry. Not only would it help raise awareness for the racing related charities, it would probably be some inherent “positive” marketing by showcasing an industry that’s concerned and supportive of it’s equine and human athletes.
An editorial entitled “Out of the Gate” in today’s New York Times is a prime example of why I said it.
When the Kentucky Derby rolls around each year, few ordinary fans are aware of the grisly waste of horseflesh that underpins the self-proclaimed Sport of Kings. One of the unacknowledged traditions of racing has been wholesale neglect of glorious thoroughbreds once their competitive days are done. Notions of happily ever- aftering in the bluegrass are largely myth.
While the editorial makes some fair points it hung a lot of sweeping generalizations on one (horrifying) case (Paraneck Stables). Is there a problem? Yes. Should the industry being doing more to address it? Hell yes. Are there places in the industry already taking measures to address the issues? Yes, and one is cited in the editorial but not without taking a shot:
The crackdown is welcome but late in coming to a multibillion-dollar industry that can make a humane show of ministering to its celebrity champions while gracelessly relegating thousands more to destruction at the bidding of “kill buyers” who work the sport’s fringe.
To make matters more annoying, a friend recently pointed out to me that a non-racing charity that is frequently supported by racing on it’s biggest days, Susan G. Koman “Race for the Cure”, has some corruption issues of it’s own!
But back to racing:
As the upstate scandal spread across the Internet, equine care charities and ordinary people have been helping the victimized horses to sweet resurrection as ranch retirees and recreational companions.
They are shepherded by pioneer protective groups like the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The foundation has been saving thoroughbreds since 1984, when it began buying horses for rural prisons, to be cared for by minimum-security inmates. “The little guy just wants to run free,” one inmate said of his horse. “And I don’t blame him.”
What I find so galling about the Times editorial is that they fail to give direct mention to places like Another Chance 4 Horses, which actually “broke” the Paragallo story by posting it on their site (from there Paulick picked it up). Yet they cite the (deserving of praise) Columbia-Greene Human Society by name as if they were the only ones involved. As often as the industry fails to support it’s own, the Times minimizes groups within the industry working on the problems, or so it seems to me.
So c’mon owners, tracks and industry organizations, let’s support our own not only big race days but always! Next time you send out a press release check and see if the charities you’re supporting support those within the industry trying to address it’s issues… and perhaps then the New York Times will be forced to editorialize about it!
Update: Upon seeing this tweeted reaction to the NYT editorial and googling, I was pleased to find this passage about some of the excellent things a few tracks are doing to address “aftercare” (as it seems it’s called):
In the area of caring for horses after their careers, Turfway Park has a “surrender stall,” where horsemen can leave horses, “no questions asked.” The track supplies food and hay until the Kentucky Equine Humane Center retrieves the Thoroughbred. Also cited in this area were Woodbine, which commits a percentage of purses to aftercare; the jockeys at Monmouth Park, who commit a percentage of their mount fees; as well as the New York Racing Association tracks and California.
Great stuff, let’s see more of it!
Additional Update: Finely makes a similar point by citing what happened to dog racing in Massachusetts.
It is a cautionary tale for every other animal-related sport that doesn’t do nearly enough to protect its competitors while racing and guarantee them safe, dignified retirements after their careers are over. Sadly, horse racing falls into that category.