Donna Brothers, long-time NBC Sports racing broadcaster, former jockey and Thoroughbred Idea Foundation board member published a thoughtful piece this week outlining the industry's legitimate case against those seeking to eliminate horse racing.
Among her notable remarks are the following:
"The causes of death for a horse are many. Colic is the number one cause of death in domestic horses though infectious diseases, metabolic diseases, bone and tissue degeneration, and acute trauma (including fractures) also ranks high. But, in terms of evolution, fracture injury is the natural mechanism by which most horses’ lives terminate, and our studies of feral and other wild horses show that this remains the number one reason for elimination of wild horses from the herd.
"Though musculoskeletal injury to a horse during racing is an aberration, it is a gut wrenching event for everyone. Horses are made to run. Horses love to run. But history shows us that running naturally ends the majority of horses’ lives when left to their own devices. In fact, humans don’t force horses into vulnerability, it is just the opposite.
"Much of what humans know about the care of horses, from our advances in modern medicine, our understanding of biomechanics and training, and our advances in nutrition and therapeutic protocols, is owed to private funding from the thoroughbred racing industry. We reduce the likelihood of terminal skeletal injury, and we’re getting better at it all the time. That said, we cannot totally eliminate the evolutionary destiny of horses left to their own accord anymore than we can eradicate all diseases and fractures in man.
"It turns out that it is actually safer to race our horses than it is to drive our children on the roads, but if we leave the story-telling of this subject to extremist groups such as PETA and sensationalist media sources seeking to exploit anyone’s suffering, anyone’s loss, any negative tidbit that can be found in order to increase their ratings, views, clicks and hits, then those who know very little about horse racing would be led to believe the loudest voice: extremist organizations like PETA and known, sensationalist news outlets that in the end, are also deeply profiting from this gambit.
"Irresponsible media reporting is not the fault of the public. They’re simply watching news they have been told they can trust, and then reacting instinctively. Any psychologist will also tell you that we humans are emotional creatures that are prone to category errors and dreadfully poor at understanding and calculating risk.
"As an example, consider all of the people you know who are deathly afraid of spiders and/or snakes in spite of the fact that, in the United States, you have about a one in 50 million chance of dying from a snake bite. And since the dawn of modern anti-venom, death from spider is almost nonexistent. Even in Australia, a place known to have some of the most venomous spiders in the world, there have been no reported deaths related to spider bites since 1979.
"Like all sport horses (from warmbloods to Arabians and beyond), our Thoroughbred racehorses are athletes. Just like human athletes, our equine athletes suffer injury in both competition and training. Many of these injuries are repairable given sufficient time off, however, broken bones are often catastrophic and fatal because horses do not understand that they need to keep weight off of a leg in order for it to heal and they are biologically designed to stand and graze. In some (though not all) cases, the humane option is euthanasia. In the wild, a broken bone ensures the horse suffers until being found and eaten by a predator."
To read Donna's full blog, visit her website HERE.