Welcome! My blog is about 2/3 OTTB retraining and 1/3 newbie eventer (former hunt seat/equitation girl). Please follow along with my experiences, share insight, and enjoy!
Thursday, March 1, 2012
On a serious note...
While browsing the internet to find ways to get more involved in Thoroughbred aftercare efforts I ran across an article on the business of horse racing and fan development. The article is called “Do Horse Racing’s Hot Button Issues Boil Down to What Benefits Fans?”, written by Amanda Duckworth of ESPN.com. While mainly talking about the fans of horse racing, which I don’t necessarily consider myself to be, its has a few key points that I can agree with.
I am an OTTB "owner". I got my first horse when I was 10, he was a 3 year old straight off the track (what was my mom thinking?!). I was working so hard retraining him to compete in huntseat when many people hadn’t ever heard of that being done. I’ve since collected three more ex-racers and on a farm where retirees of the Sport of Kings reigns there’s a paradox felt each time you see cute photos of this years thoroughbred foals and you start hearing about how the prep races are going for those lucky 3 year olds deemed talented enough for the Derby and beyond. As excited as I get to watch these athletes take on their fellow competitors in one of the most grueling races in sports, theres a little piece of me who is unhappy. My conscience can’t really get all that wrapped up in it because I know what life can be like for the thousands and thousands of others who didn’t quite make it to that all important first saturday in May. Its not just the battle on equine slaughter, thats another conversation for another day. Its also the safety, the health, the day to day stuff that concerns me on so many levels. In the article, Duckworth states that one of the reasons for the declining fan base for horse racing is that unlike in sports such as football, fans can’t really pull for a “team” per se, and even if they really like a particular “player” (i.e. horse), their racing career is mostly likely no more than a few years before retiring for breeding. She states “the star of the game has always been the horse.” But is it really? I mean it seems like it when the flowers are draped over their withers, but if horses really truly are the stars it would seem the emphasis would be on them and their wellbeing a bit more. Are we doing the most we can to ensure fair play and the most safety for our star athletes? Is there more than can be done to help prevent injuries, breakdowns, etc? And I get it, as a former college athlete I know what its like when you are faced with difficult decisions. Questions of “should I go play this game when I have a sprained ankle? The team needs me but if I sit rest I’ll get better faster!” are somewhat common. Are we overlooking safety precautions such as injury screens, drug testing (yes, I realize its done already to some extent), weather and track condition checks, etc to make the sport safe? Notice I didn’t even tough the subject of aftercare, there’s so much more there, but as I’m pretty sure we can all agree with, healthier racehorses make healthier OTTB’s so it really does matter!! There are so many other factors that enter this as well, and so many other questions, but just as Duckworth says later, no matter where you stand on issues such as these, its important that there is dialog happening and that solutions to problems that are facing the racing industry are being developed to benefit all involved. The fans, the owners, the trainers, the tracks, and MOST of all, the horses.