Horse racing is easily one of America’s hottest trends during the summer. Around here, everyone knows about Saratoga because it’s close, it’s huge, and it’s the center of horse racing history. Saratoga is THE place to be when it comes to racing. In fact, Disney World has a Saratoga-themed hotel. When I went, it was pretty cool, if not a little weird since it was basically like being home.
But lately a new trend has risen from the track, and it’s not a good one. Last year, over a dozen horses died. This year, the total has reached 12 as I write this article. I’m sure by the time it is published, the total will go up. *EDIT: I believe 18 horses died this year. It’s the highest number since rescords have been kept. Wowza.* How? What is going on up there? How can we fix this?
I’m personally very skeptical of horse racing because of these deaths. I used to adore this sport until I saw how they were dropping. As an animal lover, I can’t support it until I know that something is being done to figure out why. The Gaming Commission said they were looking into it, but I’m not sure that’s even enough. I’m starting to wonder if a total makeover will be needed to fix this–if not a total demolition of the sport altogether.
The problem with demolition is multifaceted though. We cannot deny how the track helps the Saratoga economy while it is in. Not even just the track itself, but the businesses around it THRIVE while people travel far and wide to come watch these animals run around a track a couple times. You can’t get anywhere near Saratoga during the season without traffic jams, hour waits, and overall frustration. In some cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if the revenue from the track crowd keeps some of these businesses afloat.
There’s also the public interest aspect. While myself and many others are concerned about what is going on, there are some people who either don’t want to think about it, or they simply don’t care. I’m not going to say that these people are horrible people because I truly hate blanket statements about something like this, which is so murky. What is pretty obvious to me might not be obvious to others, and I won’t call these people enablers.
I’ve heard many people say that these horses love to run. Yes, horses love to run. But do they love to run under this much pressure? In a pasture where they can graze and enjoy life, yes. But as a racehorse? Do we know they enjoy it? Some say they will stop if they don’t, yet I’ve been to the track. The loud noise that is made to keep them running is designed to stop them from stopping. At the harness track, they whip the horses. I don’t know an animal that will defy a human when it’s THAT well trained. But yet again, this is just my basic elementary knowledge.
I’ve been around horses. One of my mom’s ex boyfriends had a former show horse from England. On his back leg was a branded crest that signified what he was while he was an active show horse. Branding an animal is never ok. My heart broke when I saw that scar. Sure, these horses are pampered and have a million doctors, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping the deaths, does it?
How do we reconcile all of this? Saratoga cannot continue on this path; there is too much blood on that track. How do we reconcile all of these horses who die for our pleasure while knowing that Saratoga’s economy and community is so reliant on the racing industry? It’s so ingrained in the culture of Saratoga that I don’t know if removing it is an option. I don’t know. To me, a life is a life. To others, that’s not quite how it works.
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this, especially since the track just closed for the 2017 season. Please be respectful and remember that while you might see something one way, someone else might see it another way. This is a hot issue, but it doesn’t mean we can’t discuss things–that can be done with respect and understanding.