Over the weekend, two horses died during the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. One horse, named Homeboykris, collapsed just after coming from behind to win the first race of the day. Officials think it was a heart attack. The other horse, named Pramedya, was euthanized on the track after breaking what is basically the horse version of a shin, an injury that is usually impossible for a horse to recover from.
Following Saturday’s deaths, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) demanded the release of the horses’ medical records. “Studies — and our own investigations — have shown that most breakdowns and deaths occur because horses have pre-existing injuries that are masked by the excessive use of legal medications. We want to know if that is what happened in the cases of Pramedya and Homeboykris,” said PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo. “In today’s racing drug culture, at least three horses are dying every day on U.S. tracks. The foolish use of muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other medications must end now.”
For those who don’t take PETA’s word for it, a 2012 New York Times report confirmed that an estimated 24 horses die each week on U.S. racetracks. That’s over three horses per day.
Aside from the notion that deaths occur in racehorses because they have pre-existing injuries that are masked, there is also the idea that these animals are pushed beyond their physical breaking points for the sake of human entertainment. While the industry itself is particularly accountable, the spectators who bet on horse racing are partially to blame. In the multi-billion dollar horse racing industry, if people didn’t bet on horses, horses wouldn’t race and racing wouldn’t exist.
Although the death of Homeboykris and Pramedya, like Barbaro’s before theirs, made headlines, countless lesser-known horses suffer similar fates; their broken legs and battered bodies are simply hidden from public view. Horses can live to be 30 years old, but too many are bred for careers that last only four or five — or worse, they may have their lives ended as soon as the decision is made that they have no hope of becoming champions.
If you truly care about the welfare of racehorses, the best thing that you can do for them is never to attend or place a bet on horse races.
Another thing you can do to ensure the safety of racehorses is to contact your U.S. Representative and ask him or her to support the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2015, which would increase the oversight of drug use in horse racing and raise penalties for drug overuse.