“The race was marred by the death of runner-up Eight Belles, who collapsed after the wire after fracturing both front ankles. The brave and massive gray filly, trained by Larry Jones and owned by Fox Hill Farms, was euthanized almost immediately on track.” – From the synopsis on this year’s 134th Kentucky Derby.
This ‘brave’ filly was asked to put thousands of pounds of pressure per stride on her delicate, half-formed leg bones. Years of ‘selective breeding’ have created a Thoroughbred horse who is faster – but who is so delicate that track injuries are steadily increasing. When 800+ plus horses die on tracks every year, it makes you wonder, what number will be great enough that we’ll move horse racing into the category of abuse currently occupied by dog and bird fighting? Add to that 800 the thousands of horses who are seriously injured and killed later, or who do not perform and either end up as meat or breeding machines. Once again, it’s not okay for me to break a horse’s legs at home, even if someone paid me a million dollars. But in a competition? Sure, that’s fine. Yes, the odds of it happening aren’t huge, but the odds are significantly greater than if Belles was home, hanging out, doing what horses are meant to do. Which isn’t to run 35mph for a mile and a half with a 105lb human on their backs. Or to jump a 5 foot fence with a 120lb human on their backs.
I see a great beauty in a horse speeding down the track. Despite everything I know, my heart soars when I’m watching them fly down the backstretch. But I see equal beauty in a horse playing by himself in a field. I can see no beauty in a three year old with her whole life ahead of her snapping both her ankles. I see nothing but a grizzly spectacle reminiscent of the the gladiators of Rome.
Please, stop saying that Eight Belles didn’t deserve this and start saying that no one, no horse, no animal, deserves this, and thus no human should put them in a position where it can happen. This isn’t a tragic accident. It’s “a risk we’re willing to take”, gambling with another life. I can’t help but remember three years ago when Barbaro shattered his leg in the Preakness Stakes. Thousands of people were crushed and saddened, but did anything change? Can things change? Yes, absolutely. It’s up to us to make sure they do.
I think the end of this article sums it up nicely; although she did what very few fillies has ever done, raced the Derby, killed herself for human pleasure, is dead…
“Still, Eight Belles was a sentimental pick by 157,770 fans, second-largest crowd in Derby history. She repaid their support by returning $10.60 and $6.40 for a $2 win ticket.”