I found myself contemplating the Derby today. It is no secret that I am a horse lover and the Author of a book on proper horse conditioning. It includes a section on techniques for massage and hydrotherapy. I got so tired of watching people take their horses out and running them with cold muscles. It would often lead to behavioral problems or even serious injury. Often, the rider who didn’t warm the horse properly would call the horse “stupid.” Man, that would bother me. I wrote the book to give these riders an idea of how to prevent a cold horse from refusing or becoming injured.
I’ve worked with a lot of horses in my life. I’ve seen the ones that are improperly handled grow to be angry and dangerous. I’ve also seen the ones that are owned by women who spoil them to death. Each horse has its own journey, just like the rest of us.
Every year when thoroughbred racing season comes around, I see the animal advocates hovering around proclaiming “animal abuse.” I also watch the wealthy owners in their big hats wanting to win millions of dollars at the expense the animal. Abuse? Not so much. Some of these people give as much to these animals as they take. Some of them.
I have seen trainers and handlers back side at the track acting like idiots, and I’ve seen others spoiling the horses to a better life than I have. It’s an individual journey. I know some horses that live to compete. When they hear the sounds of the track, they can’t wait to run. Horses run in the wild, it's natural.
Okay, I have to consider the confinement, the conditions (hard ground, lots of travel, overuse, starting too young, fatalities,) and I have to re-consider some of the practices like starting them too young, but many runners that are properly trained are strong and live to have long careers followed by a stud career with lots of grass and grain.
So, to those that are out there picketing this weekend, I am happy that you are a voice in what you perceive as abuse. For me, I think that if someone is abusing an animal, it should be taken case by case, and that person should be prosecuted. Yes, lots of racehorses are drugged and abused, I agree with that. On the other hand, some of these horses are trained athletes that love what they do. They would do it for free. They would do it for a single apple. They LOVE to race.
I had to retire my 27 year old Quarter Horse Buddy a few years back. He was fit and conditioned for his entire life. Believe me, that horse LOVED to run. We both loved to run. Then, we would both get a massage. Animal abuse? I just can’t commit to that.
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