All I see are healthy horses. Were they humans you’d be forgiven the assumption they dine on Porterhouse every day. Shiny coats, poncing about the place, look at me attitude, and why not? They’re athletes in the very peak of condition..telling you they’re faster and better,
15,000 of them have jobs, they wouldn’t normally enjoy. Eat A grade rabbit food. The best of them race three times a year and busy themselves having sex with each other before they reach puberty. Jumping types stroll round at walking speed for anything up to 4 miles, speed up for the last 35 yards, jump fences no bigger than the height of my ankle. If its sunny they don’t even need to do that..give them Raybans and make them jump. Pandered and loved.
All designed to entertain and most of all thrill the paying audience, a modest few even get Bryony Frost on their back. Which must be fun.
One thing is for certain. These are by a long chalk the best cared for and healthy animals on the planet. Very often no expense is spared in their well being with often exorbitant vets fees and the like. One has only to view these charges at racetracks to appreciate the excellent state they are turned out in.
Which makes the BHA’s intention to dumb down the Cheltenham Festival, make it less exciting and watchable to new viewers and old an extraordinary risk. Without valid reason.
As Timeform most correctly pointed out recently, whilst it is all tickety boo ensuring the Grand National is dumbed down in terms of difficulty, that the likelihood of serious injury, or worse to a runner has demonstrably succeeded. At the same time the interest from the viewing public in the race itself has shown a notable decline. For example despite the terrestrial power of ITV, the race falls well short of the 15 million viewers the BBC landed. Polling just over half in fact of numbers achieved when Beechers Brook was the test of horse and jockey it should be. People enjoy the spectacle, and that spectacle does involve horses falling in what should be our most gruelling long distance heat. A challenge and spectacle that befits the name. A showcase event for Racing. Whilst we pander to self interest ‘animal rights’ groups, who turn up but once a year in the sport, we have in fact arguably made the whole thing a lot less interesting. The policy fails.
At what level, when we discuss the deaths of equine athletes, will those demanding an improvement, will such individuals be satisfied?
Finally, isn’t it far more salient for British Racing to offer compelling argument that what we do brings very meaning and purpose to the lives of horses and those who care for them? Is it not so very easy to demonstrate how beloved racehorses really are? That horse deaths, for example, are so far outweighed by the number of lives that we actually create and nurture. What politician could, in fact, win such a debate?
Jockeys wave tickling sticks emotively described as ‘whips’ at half tonne highly muscled and beautifully toned animals. Horses little seem to notice the effect of these, with horse skin notably thicker than humans. They’re never marked, as used to be the case. In spite of this, I still hear regular whining about the number of times a jockey uses the whip during a race. Even some thorough going idiots who argue for the banning of the whip. What’s the relevance of 8 blows in a 5 furlong sprint to the 10 allowed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup? None. Yet it is given bizarre prominence.
Now whilst everyone nods sagely and intones ‘we must do something’ to bored politicians looking for their name in afore-mentioned papers. Their last attempt at Governance, Brexit, went so well, it divided a country.. Now they want to tell Racing to deal with our so called animal rights problem, and horse deaths, etcetera, etcetera. Oh yes we must.
Animal rights issues in Racing? What a fiction that is. There is no animal abuse issue in this sport. In fact we provide the environment for a breed of animal to prosper. What’s wrong with that simple argument as opposed to further reductions in the excitement of the sport?
Of course leading the fight on behalf of racing is their serial BHA apologist – Nick Rust. He’s an ex bookie, more famous for asking for extra all weather racing for Coral. Now doing an excellent job adding more meetings every year. The job is to sell our excellent record. Yes we lose a few horses every year, but we create lives for far more than would ordinarily be true. He thinks we must do better. Why? Because the BHA view their National policy as a success and plan more dumbing down of the product. No Nick, we do in fact already have an outstanding record on horse welfare, and that is the drum you should be banging.
Let’s be honest here can we? Humans routinely die in sport. How is it by extension unacceptable that a few horses are lost annually in Racing? Because racehorses don’t get to vote to race or not? In fact the truth is horses are bizarrely viewed by the ignorant as domestic pets.
Racehorses do provide entertainment for millions. Jobs for humans in the thousands. Not just in training ranks, but racetracks, betting and administration of the sport. Wagering on horse racing is fundamental to many folk, and vital to Governments in revenue. Our patron is the Queen. The Boss doesn’t seem the type to let any politician interfere in her favourite pastime, does she?
Want to look at deaths? Why not check on how many polo ponies don’t survive the year? Or loveable hacks who simply die every year out riding with their owners. No mention of. Why not look at how dangerous sport is to humans and ask why horses should be a special case?
Let’s get this right before we allow this BHA chums to dumb down Cheltenham, and then everything else besides, because it doesn’t stop there. Sport carries dangers. Horses aren’t poodles. You can’t sit them in your front room as you watch telly, or walk them in the park. Sure we love them to bits, but stop acting like they’re a domestic pet, or discussing with politicians along those lines.
A racehorse has the right to life and a career. Want to fight for something? Fight for that simple truth.