I watched this happen Saturday, and it was awful:
Barbaro’s racing career is over, but a valiant and costly effort was made Sunday to repair the right hind leg of the horse that sustained a catastrophic ankle break before an audience of millions early in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
On Sunday night at the University of Pennsylvania’s George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, Barbaro emerged from an operation that lasted more than four hours and a post-operation recovery that took another three.
While the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Dean Richardson, was pleased enough with how things went to remark that Barbaro “practically jogged” to his stall, his prognosis was more grave. “To be brutally honest, there’s still enough chance for things going bad that it’s still a coin toss even though everything went well,” Dr. Richardson said.
Immediately after the injury, my brother, an avid sports fan and a vegetarian, called me, and he was irate- “If this horse has to be destroyed, then I do not see how we can not consider this sport cruel to animals.”
I tend to agree- and only a very smart jockey saved any hope for Barbaro. Given the world today, horse racing is a pretty low priority on the things to change, but I have a hard time arguing that if animals are trained to run to the detriment of their own health, I can’t help but think there is something barbaric about that.
professor, tsk tsk.
Thx. Fixed. FWIW, I am getting worse and worse with mistakes like that. I have no idea why I would begin to develop those bad habits now, but I think it may have something to do with reading so many student papers with poor spelling and grammar.
Hey, at least they aren’t just lying around in their stalls, watching TV…
They’re not trained to the detriment of their own health; it’s possible their anatomy has been shaped by breeding to the detriment of their health.
Even if you take the most cynical attitude possible – a trainer who doesn’t give a damn about the horse – the pragmatic fact is that living, healthy horses make more money than dead and/or sick ones. And trainers who are that cynical don’t rise above a very low level of horse racing. The top tiers are occupied by people who know and love horses, and consider the horses entrusted to them as part child, part gifted athlete. This isn’t justmy own sentimentality talking: I’ve known a lot of horse people for a long time(hell, I used to be a horse owner).
Thoroughbreds really are the ballet dancers of the horse world, though, anatomically. They’re much slimmer and more muscular than any other breed; and their legs are terribly, terribly delicate. They’re bred to maximum strength in minimum mass: something’s got to give somwhere, and that something is, most often, a leg.
It should be noted that 20, even 10, years ago, the issue wouldn’t have been in doubt: Barbarao would have been euthanized right there at the track. It says a lot about how far large animal vetrinary care has come, and a lot about the people making decisions for Barbaro, that he even went into surgery with any hope of success.
F’in hideous. The slow-motion was absolutely stomach-churning. When his leg moved outward as much as back and forth, it was clear that something had wicked snapped in his hind leg. And to think he had to take several more “steps” on it before he could completely stop…
I used to think it was cruel, too, until I met a horse trainer who explained exactly how much these horses love to race, train, run, and compete. While you tend to notice the one or two that must be killed, you’re not seeing the thousands of horses that are living life to its fullest (for a horse!) racing all over the world. Surely beats sitting all day in a stall, IMO.
Actually blame evolution. As you mentioned, horses run on their tip toes like a ballet dancer.
My wife is a vet, during vet school the joke was:
“God made horse and said ‘That is a really bad design, what was I thinking?’. Then he made cows”.
I never watch horse racing—not because of some grand objection, it simply doesn’t interest me.
I think I’ve only watched two races. The race on Saturday and a race (The Preakness?) several years back. In both cases, it was because I found myself in a situation where the race was on, and I happened to be in front of the tv. In both races, a horse suffered a terrible injury.
The previous race had an absolutely gruesome injury to a horse’s front leg. Ugh…I can still picture it, and I was keenly aware of it at the time the race started Saturday.
On Saturday, I was attending a family party, and a bunch of people had the race on. my three-year-old daughter was very interested in the horses, so we were watching.
When Barbaro broke through the gate early, I had second thoughts about watching. As soon as the race began and he pulled up lame, I scooped my daughter up and carried her away from the tv. Fearing a repeat of the previous race with it’s Theismanesque slo-mo replays of snapping limbs, I wanted to be nowhere near the tv.
I could hear them talking about the injury and the job the jockey did, and that he was tranquilized and placed in the equine ambulance. All I was hoping was that Barbaro’s life would be spared because he would be worth a lot as a stud, and they would fix his leg to breed him.
Then I realized that was just perpetuating this whole thing… I guess I’m torn. I don’t know enough about horse racing to deem it cruel, but I sure haven’t had a positive exerience/exposure to it.
You’re right that horse racing is a bit barbaric. I still enjoy watching it, though. Same for boxing. Though I guess we don’t actually breed people to become good boxers.
Your fears were legit, albeit without the “I can see bone” effect from Thiesman. It never should have been replayed that many times in slow motion. As obvious as it was that the bone had damn near cleaved in two, it was as gruesome as all hell in slow motion. I was disappointed in NBC.
Interview the winning jockey. Winning owner. Some shlub that hit the exacta. Quit showing me this vomit-inducing train wreck of a horse’s hind leg bone.
Speaking as a vegetarian…
… who doesn’t wear leather…
… and who considers himself an animal-rights kinda guy…
… I utterly fail to see the complaint about this. Horses break their legs and sometimes die when they compete in sports. So do animals in other walks of life. So do human athletes, from the guy who ran the first marathon to Ray Chapman and on forward. Fretting over this horse but not other animals who get hurt and die (and hey, speaking as an animal, it happens to all of us) is a position unsupportable by any moral principle I’m aware of. Indeed it seems to me analogous to the concern felt for dolphins trapped in tuna nets by those seemingly unconcerned with the fates of the actual tuna—i.e., it’s inspired by cuteness, not ethics.
This is true of every sport. Here the atheletes are horses but in every single sport as we eke the last few bits of performance out of highly tuned bodies, things break. Many many careers end in injury, from the worlds strongest man competitions to the NBA injuries are teh cost of doing business when pushing past the limits to win. And horses too respond differently to training, some will push those limits and some won’t.
Nope. Blame the breeders. What do they do with horses that break down? If they survive, they breed them. As a result, a strong argument can be made that Thoroughbreds are much more fragile than they were even three or four decades ago. Breeders and buyers value early speed rather than durability and soundness.
What a shame.
The same argument is made by those who raise fighting dogs.
Actually, it probably says more about the stud fees that can be made off of a Kentucky Derby winner. If this were some claimer running at a two bit track, that horse would be dead right now no matter who owned it. Not to say that these people don’t care dearly for that horse, but first and foremost, it’s a business decision.
Vlad, I’m talking also about the medical advances; esp. the monorail/sling. 10,20 years ago, that level of care simply wasn’t available. Wouldn’t have mattered how valuable the horse was as a breeder if the technology and treatment procedures to save him simply didn’t exist.
Ruffian being a good example.
That’s fine, and if you had limited your comment to the medical technology, I wouldn’t have disagreed with you (and I don’t, really). I just don’t think the episode says as much about the horse’s owner as you originally implied. I think it says more about the horse’s earning power.
Maybe I’m just not a big animal-rights guy but I have to think there are any number of human activities that are far, far more cruel to animals than horse racing.
Then there’s the sport where we pay guys from the ghetto millions of dollars to beat the shit out of each other, with the first person to lose consciousness from having their brain bounce off the inside of their skull ending up as the loser.
I was completely unaware of this event … but I must say, thoroughbreds are treated like royalty compared to racing greyhounds. Now *that’s* a barbaric sport.
I hope the horse pulls through.
One of the many reasons why boxing will continue to die its slow, boring death.
I don’t know why people still watch boxing when mixed-martial arts is available. It’s like playing football without a forward pass.
This the ultimate rebuttal to those of you who said Michael Brown had an easy job before coming to FEMA.
I know you’re speaking tongue-in-cheek, Doug, but did anyone actually say that he had an easy job? I thought they were saying he had a completely irrelevant to FEMA job.
Perhaps if the government could make a profit by sending Louisiana residents out to stud the response to Katrina would have gone more smoothly.
We’ll all be begging for Brownie to come back when the Arabian Horse Flu finally strikes…
How true. That’s why adoption is so cool. Greyhounds are a perfect breed; little barking, little shedding, friendly, and can chase the neighbor’s kid a mile down the street without breaking a sweat. I plan to get 2 when I get my house.
Well, that’s it of course. Race horses have rather weak lower legs. And as this blurb from MSNBC points out …
That seems like a bit of a disingenuous comparison. No one is training these horses to inflict damage on each other. The horses aren’t being made to bite, kick and generally wreak havoc on another living animal.
The fact is, some horses DO tend to be highly competitive animals. They don’t even really need to be trained to develop that aspect of their personality. My wife owned a thoroughbred for a while when we were still dating – not a racer, just a riding horse – and she would constantly tell me about how competitive her horse was with others on trail. Sometimes it was all she could do to hold her horse back if he felt that another horse was passing him up.
Please mind, I’m not trying to give you the needle or anything, Sojourner. It’s obvious you have strong feelings about this and that’s cool. I’m just pointing out from personal experience that some horses do, in fact, have a competitive streak in them. And to compare race horses to fighting dogs is just not fair.
Wow! John Cole a PETA member! Who’d have guessed.
Well, if you think horse racing is incredibly inhumane, you’d better steer clear of rodeos.
My only point was that these animals have been bred to do what humans want of them – even if it involves their own self-destruction. In that regard, the comparison to fighting dogs is apt.
I’d say I agree, geenrally. Race horses are highly bred and aren’t much good for anything but racing and making new race horses. They’re fast, but fragile.
As to whether it’s inhumane or not, I can’t speculate since “humane” is pretty subjective. But it strikes me as an unnecessary abuse of animals to breed and race them for sport, knowing that the fastest ones are also fragile and prone to injuries in the sport. If it’s unnecessary, then I don’t see that the “humane” issue is key. What’s key is what the practice says about us. I’d give up horse racing to avoid seeing what we saw Saturday.
“…if animals are trained to run to the detriment of their own health, I can’t help but think there is something barbaric about that.”
When I read this statement, all I could think about was Ronnie Lott having his pinkie finger amputated so he could keep playing football.
Sorry for the fucked up double blockquote.
I think you’re forgetting that a horse/human, or in many cases, any animal/human relationships are mutualistic. Both animals derive benefits from the interaction; humans get companionship and money, horses get food, security, and companionship as well. For example, I learned recently that horses actually enjoy being ridden. And so to give up racing is denying 1000’s of horses this benefit to save a handful that die every year. If this logic was extended to humans, there’d be no NASCAR, bungee jumping, skydiving, etc.
The Other Steve
What an utterly ignorant post.
I watched the cameras that were turned upon the owner of the horse. When they saw the horse fall, the man immediately started running towards the track, and the wife started crying.
I GUARANTEE you that their first concern was not that they lost millions of dollars.
Actually, let them grow to maturity and see how many still want to race.
I know I’ll get slammed for this comparison but race horses start as immature teenagers for the same reason that teenagers are considered the best candidates for the military. They have a lot of energy and are still quite immature.
Seattle Slew won the triple crown. But after he retired, he became the equine equivalent of a couch potato. He got older and wiser.
A point of fact: That was Michael Matz (the trainer) who started running. The woman crying was DD Matz (wife of trainer).
Which is not to say that the owners weren’t upset.
Well, respectfully, I still take issue with your comparison. No one is training these horses with their destruction in mind. No trainer is out there thinking that if they can just train the horse to the edge of catastrophic injury, the horse may win the Preakness. No owner puts their horse into a race anticipating or even wanting injury. And I’m pretty certain that no jockey intends to ride his (or her) horse hard enough to cause potentially fatal injuries.
If these horses were trained with the expectation that they would injure themselves and need to be destroyed, I may agree with you, but that’s not the case. Heck, even if the training process left horses abused, mean spirited and unsuitable for life outside the track (as is the case with dogs bred for fighting), I might agree. But in general, these horses are treated better than some humans treat their own kids.
The Other Steve
I get so tired year after year of city slickers with their PETA memberships going around telling the world how we ought to treat animals.
Anybody who compares horse racing to dog fighting is ignorant and doesn’t deserve a response.
True. But these horses are bred with the intent to maximize the “will to win”. The goal is to breed out the self-protection instinct.
They’re also bred for faster speeds at younger ages. The goal is to breed youngsters who will bring a faster return on their investment. In contrast to years past when a distance horse (and necessarily older horse) was most prized. Younger, more immature horses racing at faster speeds.
Another pattern is the tendency to retire them immediately after an injury to get them into the breeding shed. So they’re potentially breeding animals that are more fragile than in the past. Fragile bred to fragile over several decades and guess what you get?
Asshole. I grew up around horses. And no PETA membership. Yes, I know. It’s shameful to have an opinion about something I know about.
I probably feel worse for Barbaro than most folks, but I still love horse racing. I was pulling for Barbaro when they were in the gate Saturday and I’m pulling for him even harder now. I sure hope he makes it and I’m still watching the Belmont in a few weeks.
Some of us will take a moment to remember the great Ruffian when things like this happen.
I’d agree. Look, my posts above weren’t meant to cast the owners are money grubbing heels, but this is a business. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t cost thousands upon thousands of dollars to perform surgery on animals, but it does. And anyone who thinks that this much would be spent to save the life of a plodder is fooling themselves. I’ve loved each and every one of the pets I grew up with, but I wouldn’t have spent what it’s likely to cost them to keep Barbaro alive no matter how attached I was. But if those pets were going to have the ability to pay for the procedures through breeding, it would make a lot more sense. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop for stud fees.
I’m sure the concern and the emotional attachment are very real. But I’m also pretty sure that earning power of these horses play a big role in the decisions to save them at any cost.
Here’s something way higher on the list of things to change. Every kid in America should have better health care than any HORSE. When we get more concerned about the health of our HORSES than our CHILDREN, we’ve got a really priority problem. Call me a specist if you want…
Why does it have to be an either/or?
I suppose it doesn’t, even though there is a limit to total resources. But let’s just make kids first.
I’m all for health insurance for all Americans, especially the children. However, if a horse wins a million dollars for its owner, the horse deserves the best medical care a million can buy.
When I see something that disconnected from the real world, I can only conclude that it is spoof. Since spoof is a significant portion of the traffic here, if you are serious (which I sincerely hope is not the case) then I’d say you need to work a little harder to differentiate your material from the spoof material.
Spoof or not, your post ignores the point. It’s not about whether the fucking horse “enjoys running.” It’s that he is bred to spindly legs that are prone to injury when the animal is allowed to run at full speed in traffic. The injury is a creature of the sport and of the conformation of the animals used for the sport.
So as I said, it’s not about humane-ness. It’s about the asinine behavior of humans, inventing a sport and designing an animal for it that is prone to injury and then pushed to injury …. for our amusement. Not science, not food ….just for laughs. I can do without abusing animals for my amusement, even when the animals don’t know they’re being abused.
Regarding grammar, I’ve noticed that as I use AIM more and more my grammar and spelling gets worse and worse. Though not in the ways I would expect. It seems to be related to writing as conversation, as if the part of my brain dealing with speaking has taken over. I still use fulll words, but I misuse homophones frequently. I think it would make an interesting study into the brain and language to observe someone who is an IM junky writing vs. someone who is more of a longform writer using it.
I have always been appalled by horse racing. In no way is it a sport, it is the mistreatment of animals as a betting game.
Fools. Animals are meant to be dominated, conquered, tamed, and ultimately eaten.
I want to speak