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Fan’s View: Do Horses Actually Love Horse Racing?
Recently, headlines have been crying out about the cancellation of HBO's 'Luck' due to the death of three horses. Across the pond in England, the recent Cheltenham horse races resulted in the death of five horses. In response to this, you hear the voices of outraged people around the web that are calling for an end to horse racing altogether.
However, there are several horse racing aficionados that claim that, "horses love horse racing because horses love to run." Is this weird statement true or is it just a myth?
Can horses commit suicide?
In Kentucky, you will commonly hear a statement about how horses need to run or they will stop eating. Scratching the surface behind this statement is a little shaky. On the one hand, there is evidence that animals do not commit suicide. All other arguments about whether they love to run aside, saying that a horse will starve themselves to death if they do not run is a little complicated.
After searching online, it appears that people who say a horse will quit eating if it cannot run are referring to issues such as over-stabling the horse. Boredom with horses can take angles that dog and cat owners are unfamiliar with. This type of horse-related anxiety can agitate medical conditions that co-occur with over-stabling such as colic.
In other words, some feel that the horse needs to get out and have regular exercise in a properly managed field or they may wind up with respiratory problems. This is especially evident during storm seasons when horses get sickly due to cabin fever.
Vet and trainer says horses love to run
In the heart of horse country near Lexington, Kent., Dr. Larry Bramlage of the American Association of Equine Practitioners tells ESPN, "You don't force a racehorse to race. They love running. If you came to where I am right now, with all the yearlings in the field, you'd see them out there trying to prove who runs the best."
Richard Mandella, star horse trainer, backs up Dr. Bramlage's 37 years in equine medicine by saying, "But even hard work and "extreme efforts" can't protect the animals. As far as accidents happening … I don't care if they're in a prairie or anywhere, that can happen. They play rough and they're competitive."
Interesting answers about why horses love to race
On Yahoo! Answers, there are several questions in the horse racing section concerned with whether or not horses are forced to race. Overall, answers veered toward the ideas that horses are naturally competitive creatures and like to run around in big groups.
FrediWhite writes, "My grandmother owned a Morgan mare that didn't like to be passed, and often found herself street racing whether she wanted to or not." Squareth agrees with FrediWhite by saying, "Ask the Derby winner Big Brown, or the Horse of the Year Curlin. Both look pretty perky and happy after every win."
Leading the voice of opposition, CRCT2004 disagrees with, "Have you ever seen wild horses race? I have watched a bit of video of wild horses and I have seen them play, fight, and run around, but never once saw them race."
To counter negative statements that horses hate horse racing, BlueSea points out, "If they did not run, it would be suffering for them, they need it like they need water. Go visit Kentucky horse country, I dare you. Spend time there and then say they don't love to run or that they are not most beloved by the people that own and work with them. Speak not what you do not know."
In the end, AQHA8 points out what few were highlighting when they say, "When horses run, they run together. Safety in numbers is what they think. So in other words, when you see those horses running and a jockey falls off, or he breaks something and gets up and run. Most of that is instinct. They see the other horses running away and that horse is thinking 'woah! there must be something there I should catch up with them so i'm safe!"
PETA says horse do not love to run
On occasion, a horse race is delayed because a horse does not want to go into the gate. On the PETA.org website, this video was used to explain PETA's theory that horses do not love to run. In the comments, Kaylin opposes this theory and comments, "Saying that a horse does not like to run because it was feeling grumpy one afternoon race is like saying a worldclass track athlete does not like to sprint because he/she got into an argument with their coach prior to a race."
The other points that PETA makes about horse racing are questioned by many who work with horses directly. On the other hand, PETA's sentiment appears to be similar to Comfort Eagle at Yahoo! Answers that states, "Horses love to run. They do not love to be whipped and forced to race each other around a man-made track."
In my opinion, due to the fact that horses do not speak human languages, we may observe that they love to run—but we will never directly hear it 'straight from the horses mouth' whether or not they truly love the sport of horse racing.
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Maryam Louise is a longtime resident of the Bluegrass State and has lived in the shadows of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky over the past two decades. In addition to being a fan of horse racing, she has also had a chance to get to know jockeys, horse groomers, and betting clerks as an ESL instructor. Currently, she writes for KentuckyDerby.org and relies on her friends in the multiple facets of the equine industry for writing inspiration.
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