Monday, May 05, 2008

Eight Belles redux

I'm back to painting the house again. To distract me from the immediate, often boring task at hand, I brought out a radio. It helps.

First let me say, as a previous owner of three greyhounds (simultaneously!), two of whom were retired off a race track in Arizona, I think I can declare my understanding and empathy with animals bred for the amusement and financial enrichment of their owners. It sucks!

I don't know what they do with retired race horses, particularly those who aren't very good, who don't earn their owners money by winning races, but I know what they did with greyhounds before caring people stepped in. Slow dogs were "retired" and, most often, destroyed. Now, if lucky - thanks to people who care enough to spare them, they are adopted out to loving homes. But it wasn't always that way. And I'm not satisfied with that as a solution. Dog racing needs to be stopped.

But back to my painting. While up under the eaves, someone called into the talk show I happened to be listening to addressing this past weekend's Kentucky Derby which saw the demise of Eight Belles before the eyes of thousands present after she broke down just after crossing the finish line in second place. Talking like a Chuco, the caller wanted to know...

"Yo, what's the deal with the horse they destroyed?"

"Michael Vick is in jail for dog fighting, dude!"

"And some of my bros from the 'hood are behind bars for cock fighting man," he said. "What's with that? We eat those birds on Sunday for dinner."

Point well taken. Seems a little like a class thing, doesn't it"? Because the owners and trainers of those magnificent thoroughbred horses continue to operate despite the cruelty exhibited with the break down of Eight Belles, a prized "possession" stressed beyond her natural capabilities who had to be destroyed.

Apparently it's more common then we know as I learned after hearing this evening's excellent PBS Lehrer Report debate on horse racing. See, Eight Belles wasn't the only casualty from this weekend down in Kentucky. As we learned, another, a four year old, broke down on Friday. His chances of survival? Fifty-fifty!

Larry Jones, Eight Belles trainer said after losing his horse, "These THINGS are our family, you know. We put everything into 'em we have, and they given us everything they have. They put their life on the damn line here, ah, and she was glad to do it." (Emphasis mine.)

The debate that ensued was unsettling. That's because sports writer for the Washington Post, Andrew Beyer, who argued racing is not animal cruel, delineated just about every reason racing should be drastically changed, if not totally eliminated.

But sadly, Beyer could not bring himself to admit the breeding of horses for greater speed on spindlier and spindlier legs, increasing the likelihood for breakdowns like the tragic two this weekend at Churchill Downs, is animal cruelty.

As Eight Belle's trainer reminded us after she was destroyed, "She was glad to do it!" [sic]

*****

6 comments:

horsedooty said...

Dada,
WTR to what happens to retired race horses that are not very good, most are sold and a lot of them end up being trained as "hunter-jumpers". The make do at that very well. A lot of them end up with little girls riding them especially on the East Coast.

yo soy Horsedooty!

dada said...

Thanks H.D. for this. (At least I feel better knowing my editor, Sam, may not have ingested any of those beautiful animals.)

I suspect thoroughbred racers are treated better than racing dogs, who most often come of the tracks with rotten teeth, old injuries and arthritic.

Having spent the first three or four years of their lives confined to small cages, if they make it to a "forever" home, it's my observation they have to learn to become what they were born to be - a dog!

And while I'm glad horses don't end up in a can of dog food before their time, I'm still extremely disturbed at this industry that breeds these "THINGS" to be faster on wheels often too weak to accommodate their speed. (Something pointed out by the excellent PBS story.)

horsedooty said...

Dada,
My brother in law owns several race horses. Has had several good horses. They are an investment to him as he is not involved in the training or the upkeep other than to write a check monthly to support the horse and its upkeep. His horses live in Louisiana since they have better training facilities there.

Unfortunately, Sam the editor might have had one or more of the failed horses for breakfast or dinner in his life. There are a couple of plants here in FtW that specialize in processing horse meat for just that purpose. There are several movements that are trying to get those dog food plants closed. I would suggest that you feed Sam dry food anyway. My vet at least thinks it is better for the dogs. Down side is they poop more frequently eating dry food.

yo soy Horsedooty!

horsedooty said...

Dada,

I found an editorial in today's Fort Worth Star Telegram (remember them? :)) This story talked a little about a rescue farm for retired racehorses. It is near Austin, TX There is an organization called LOPES that was set up by owners and trainers and breeders of race horses for the preservation of older horses. The story indicated that this is a fairly new program but about 135 horses so far have found new homes as riding horses and family pets since they have been operational. There are others that are living there permanently. Encouraging, is my take on it. I come from a horse owning family and we always treated these guys like pets that had to do work. Plus, they are expensive and we did not want the investment wasted either.

yo soy Horsedooty!

Fran said...

Eight Belle's trainer deserves a horse kick to the head.

Making a horse perform to "Olympic standards"- ie working it to death is cruel.
Clearly, the sport IS all about the money.

Anonymous said...

Just for info,

the horses that do not perform to expectations at Santa Teresa or Ruidoso, will go to our neighboors in Juarez,and will be slaughtered in a inhumane and barbaric way. I'm not sure if they are eaten by dog or human or just turned into soap. But they won't be ridden by a little girl anytime anywhere!

El Aleman