Since the death of the filly Eight Belles in this year’s Kentucky Derby, there’s been a brass-band clamor for reform in the horse racing industry. One of the priority concerns is humane care for the racehorses no longer valued at the track. A recently broadcast HBO special, validating The HSUS’s own observations, highlighted that far too many horses are knowingly sent off to slaughterhouses, now operating in Canada and Mexico and causing so much misery and pain.
We have long advocated for a more responsible outcome for these horses—the rehabilitation or placement of sound, healthy horses into a loving home or some other safe setting. Many selfless individuals work strenuously (and with little or no financial incentive) in communities throughout the nation to that end—often at their own expense and often doing so with little credit or acknowledgment of their sacrifice.
One of the horses available for adoption
through Finger Lakes.
For those racehorses that are no longer sound—too broken and battered to be rehabilitated and given a second chance—we must first ask: why is this allowed to happen? What conditions are causing these breakdowns, and how can they be stopped—once and for all? Until these questions are addressed, horse racing will have a moral and public relations problem on its hands. And until the racing gristmill stops churning out these victims, the most humane end for them is a peaceful death through affordable, humane euthanasia—a far cry from the horrors of slaughter.
There are a couple of recent developments that I think set an example of which all of horse racing must take note—and then should follow. According to Thoroughbred Times, Suffolk Downs, a track in Boston owned by Richard Fields, has set a new policy which penalizes trainers found to have sold a horse for slaughter—by permanently revoking their stabling privileges on the track. It’s a bold step which, if vigorously upheld, will provide an incentive to those that want to train at Suffolk to make sure their charges are placed in good homes, not sold by the pound to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile in upstate New York, Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack near Rochester is home to the nation’s first on-track horse adoption facility, the Purple Haze Center run by Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program. The Program and Center—funded in part by state funds, private donors, the racetrack and its associated Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association—works to place former Finger Lakes racehorses with equine rescues or approved private individuals. The goal: to eliminate the potential for the horses to suffer an inhumane demise.
The people involved are setting a new standard in the world of horse racing, and it’s one not only to be celebrated, but emulated throughout the industry.