Perhaps because Big Brown is poised to be a possible Triple Crown champion (the Belmont Stakes is his final test) the Associated Press circulated a very disturbing news article about the fate of Thoroughbred race horses in Puerto Rico. The one major track in that U.S. territory is Hipodromo Camarero, where as many as 400 race horses a year are quietly euthanized by lethal injection at the veterinary clinic tucked behind the track.
These are not badly crippled, mortally wounded Thoroughbreds. In most instances, they have one fatal flaw: they're losers. Once a Thoroughbred falls off its form and begins costing more to keep than it's winning at the track, owners cut their losses and pay a small fee to have their unwanted horse neatly disposed of.
Though the story is widely distributed on the Internet, you can try this direct link to the AP story as carried by an online San Diego newspaper:
Disposable Race Horses
I must admit, in my lifetime there were a couple of horses that I could not wait to see head down the road in someone else's trailer. But to simply euthanize an otherwise sound, lovely Thoroughbred because it hadn't turned out to be another Big Brown is just plain wrong.
Here's an idea: If you don't have any interest in finding an after-market home for your unwanted race horse, how about you don't get involved in the business?
I realize that there are not many options for off-the-track Thoroughbreds in Puerto Rico. According to the article, recreational riders in Puerto Rico prefer a less hot, more manageable breed of horse like the Paso Fino. That's understandable. Not everyone is meant to ride or re-train an ex-race horse. But to summarily kill it just to make it easier to cut one's losses and move on to the next race horse (or future dead ex-race horse) is just deplorable. Some owners, according to the article, have a luckless horse euthanized "for revenge." In other words, they're angry at the horse for not winning money, and in response they pay the $20 or so to the track vet and have the horse put down.
That'll teach those Thoroughbreds to run faster.
The alternative, however, could be worse. In the article the reporter mentions that some emaciated ex-race horses have been found barely subsisting along the rural roadsides, living semi-feral lives of a hellish existence. Rather than euthanize them at the clinic, their owners simply turned them loose.
Now, before you think the AP article was bereft of any good news, I will point out that some owners and trainers-- even the executioner (I mean vet)-- do make some attempt to find homes for the nicer, sound Thoroughbreds. But that's not good enough.
As a horse lover, it was an upsetting article to read. I'll try to make myself feel better by stepping outside and feeding a handful of carrots to Wally.
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