Horses are not fully grown until they are at least 5 years old (not until then do they have a full set of adult teeth). While their bodies are large and appear to be mature, the danger to a racing 2-year-old or even 3-year-old horse is at its greatest, because the full weight and size are supported by young, not fully strong bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles.
The added stress of racing is often enough to tip the balance too far, and another horse dies on the race track. For the many so-called 2-year-olds are even younger than their official ages.
Australian breeders produce the second highest number of Thoroughbred foals in the world, after North America. Of this large number of foals, most end up as rejects, either because of injury or lack of ability. When horses are prematurely withdrawn from racing, it is referred to as "wastage".
In the Victorian racing industry, of the foals produced by 1000 mares, only about 300 ever start in a race. There is further wastage at the end of the first or second racing season, as horses are discarded because of chronic injury or lack of winnings.
A Queensland study followed the progress of 1804 horses.
Around 40% of these horses earned NO money at all in their first season of racing. The earnings of 87% of the horses were insufficient to cover training costs. Of those horses that first raced as 2 or 3 year old, 71% continued to race for at least a year after their first start, but only 46% continued to race for at least 2 years. In Victoria it is estimated that one third of the racehorse population is replaced each year, mainly due to lack of ability and to some extent exercise-induced injury. In the Queensland study, lack of ability also appeared to be a major cause of "wastage"
Whatever the reason for the "wastage", many horses end up being killed.
Only champions have a quiet retirement or a life at stud. The documentary They Shoot Horses, Don't They? , broadcast on the Cutting Edge programme on SBS TV, showed how unwanted race horses end up neglected in paddocks, or in slaughterhouses to be processed into meat.
Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage
Between 1% and 2% of horses have blood flowing from the nostrils after a race. The first time this happens they are banned from racing for 3 months, the second time they are banned for life.
However, the situation is actually much more serious than people have realised.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne have shown, through the use of an endoscope inserted into the horse's throat, that 50% of horses have blood in the windpipe, and 90% have blood deeper in the lungs. In post-mortems of racehorses, one fifth have bruising at the back of the lungs, with the bruise more prominent the more recently the horse has raced. Racing regularly causes blood vessels around the lung to rupture.
The speed at which horses run makes a difference. When horses were tested within 2 hours of racing, 75% had blood in the upper respiratory tract, and 9% had blood at the nostrils.
However, when horses were examined after only cantering, 38% had blood in the respiratory tract and 2% had blood at the nostrils. Those that bled at the nostrils did not always have the most severe internal bleeding.
A study of race horses at Randwick in NSW found that 89% had stomach ulcers. Many had deep, bleeding ulcers within 8 weeks of starting race preparation.
Apart from the stress of racing, the major reason for the ulcers is intermittent feeding. On pasture, horses spend around 70% of their time grazing, and their stomachs secrete acid constantly. However, when they are permanently confined in stables and fed only at certain times, there is nothing to neutralise the acid and it can damage the stomach lining. The answer is to give horses continuous access to fibrous feed.
Race horses in training are kept permanently in stables - they can spend more than 20 hours a day in a small stall. This confinement can lead to abnormal behaviour such as wood chewing, box walking (round and round the stall), wind sucking (grasping an object with the teeth and sucking in air), or weaving (swaying the head, neck and forequarters from side to side).
The reality is that horseracing is not glamorous as the media would have us believe. It is downright cruel. Don’t judge the way racehorses are treated by the 'few' that are champions adored by everyone in the industry and the public, the truth is the majority of horses are NOT champions and are discarded and thrown away when no longer profitable to their owners.
Last Melbourne Cup day (2007) Ataac was involved with HORSE RACING KILLS to stage a protest right at the finishing line of the race. This had never been done before and took considerable planning and smuggling in of the posters and banners. 5 minutes before the 'big' race we took out all our gear for everyone to see. After about 5 minutes we were surrounded by police and racing officials and placed under arrest and escorted from the grounds.
Watch our video of the protest HERE.
We would like to thank Alistair at ANIMAL LIBERATION S.A for providing us with their information for this facts page.
Have a look at their site, they are doing a great job over in Adelaide! ANIMAL LIBERATION S.A
To find out more, check out these sites. They have heaps more info and facts about Horse Racing in Australia and what you can do to help; HORSE RACING KILLS.COM
HORSE RACING KILLS.ORG