Yes, I have to admit that Zenyatta caught my attention and I thought she was a beautiful mare who was very special. But I also have to admit that I think horse racing is a cruel "sport" - event or whatever you want to call it. As so sadly is the case, that whenever animals are involved, man's exploitive behavior rears its ugly head. I watched in horror last night the tape on Inside Edition which showed a pathetic Freedom Flight -a skin and bones horse who had been bred from champion race stock -Seattle Slew and Secretariat and was now found in this deplorable condition. Where were his former owners? After this thoroughbred's leg snapped right out of the gate at Miami's Gulfstream, the "famous" Clairborne farm people sold him for $50 to one of the worst farms in America. They really abandoned him to a horrible fate. It would have been kinder to have humanely put him down.
Florida Couto who works for the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals particpated in a raid on the slaughter farm where he was abandoned - one of 100 illegal slaughterhouses in the area. Many of these places of horror are concentrated in an unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County. Along this western fringe of Miami are found signs in English and in Spanish advertising animals for sale. Walking the property, you will see the dead carcasses of the horses, guts in the trash bins, the slaughter tables, and the knives to dispatch these innocent victims who didn't deserve to be killed so inhumanely to feed man's lust for meat.
However, Freedom Flight's story does have a happy ending. When rescued, he was limping around on his broken leg. There were sores on his body and you could see his bones protruding from his dirty coat. I couldn't help but wonder if there are more Clairborne Farms out there who get rid of their unwanted race horses in such an uncaring, cruel way. Thankfully, Freedom Flight is one former race horse who was rescued from this farm from hell. I hope there will be many more to share his good luck. He is now owned by Richard "Kudo" Couto. Eighteen months after his rescue, he now looks again like the stunning horse he once was.
I was also saddened to read on the internet what happened to Ivonne Rodriguez's quarter horse, Geronimo. Last year somebody killed and ate him. She said that her horse had been tied to a palm tree and was slaughtered. I can't even begin to imagine her pain. She was able to enlist a legislator's help and thankfully, if somebody tries to do the same thing to someone elses horse, if caught, he will likely spend at least a year in jail and pay a $3,500 fine. The Florida House of Representatives wants to pass a bill making it a felony to traffic in illegal horse meat. It is called the Ivonne Rodriguez Horse Protection Act.
Reading this account of these poor horses in South Florida, I could not help thinking re all this animal cruelty- will it ever stop? For 30 years I have have been reading about all sorts of animal cruelty: stuffing calves in smallish crates, shoving live male chicks through animal shredders, testing helmets on monkeys by repeatedly effecting blows to their heads to make a safer helmet for the players, and now I had to add yet another cruel behavior of man to satisfy his belief that animals are his to do with as he pleases.
Last year Heather Moore posted on Care 2 an eye-opening account of what horse racing really means for many of the horses. She quotes the owner of the filly who suffered a heart attack and died mid-race at Pimilco. He remarked of this tragedy: "I guess that's part of the game." A game? I wouldn't want to be one of his horses. This was no game for the horse who ran with all she had and died in the process for a callous and unfeeling owner.
Moore writes about more horses' lives lost in this "sport of Kings." During a Kentucky Derby week, Rasberry Kiss collided with another horse and her injuries required her to be euthanized. Stormalogy, the projected American Turf Winner, fractured his leg and he was also put down. Two beautiful horses gone and for what? For the thrill of the race? For the lucky gamblers' and owners' winnings? Not reasons satisfactory to people of compassion.
Frisan Fire had part of his hoof ripped off after the race began, but yet was raced for the entire course anyway. His jockey was Gabriel Saez - the same one who the previous year pushed Eight Belles beyond endurance with a heavy hand with the whip. He got her across the finish line where she collapsed and later had to be put down.
Even though I read recently that England is contemplating a law which would severely restrict the use of the whip in horse racing, I would be happier still if horse racing would completely come to an end. There is just too much suffering for the horses as certainly this post reveals. However, wishing won't make it happen. In the meantime, they should also make illegal the routine use of giving injured and ailing horses drugs in order to keep them racing for as long as posible. These can mask pain or make a horse run faster. Some of the horses eventually succumb to the pain and often collapse right on the racetrack.
I think many of us can also recall the terrible scandal of some cruel owners who had their horses killed in their stalls so that they could collect insurance money on them. And of course, gambling at the races can be a traumatic occurance in the lives of people who foolishly spend too much money in this way and come out on the losing end - perhaps causing undue hardship to themselves as well as to their families.
Moore ends her post with a poignant comment by Elinor Israel:
"This is animal exploitation at its worst. One would think that the human race has evolved enough to recognize that to be entertained by suffering animals is unnecessary. It seems to me that humans are just getting dumber and meaner. I have heard people say how much horses love to race and what good care they receive. When I can actually hear a horse agree with this then-maybe I will change my mind. Even if a horse could speak, I cannot imagine him/her saying how wonderful life is to be shot full of drugs only to break a leg and be put to death all for the sake of entertaining humans. This is just another example of why I appreciate animals more than I do most people."
I think that Israel would be even more appalled to learn about the worn out race horses in South Florida such as Freedom Flight. Will we ever learn to really care about our fellow living creatures?