Are racehorses treated well?

Many of us enjoy a day out at the races; this is a chance to dress up in fancy clothes, watch beautiful, powerful racehorses – and perhaps even enjoy a little extra cash in our pockets thanks to a successful bet at the horse racing at Newbury!


In recent years, however, there have been a number of growing concerns expressed over the treatment of racehorses, with a number of animal rights experts voicing their worries about the way that these animals are handled once the cameras are off.


Below, we take a closer look at these concerns in an attempt to find out the truth.


How are racehorses usually treated?


The horses used for racing are usually bred by thoroughbred breeders who take great care to ensure they are well cared for. They are fed a diet high in protein and vitamins, and given regular exercise. The horses are also kept in stables where they can be protected from the elements and other dangers. When it comes time to prepare them for the races, they are taken into a special stable called a “jockey’s room”. This is where they will spend most of their time before the big event.


There are a number of elements of care that need close attention, and these include:


  • Cleaning and grooming


Horse owners must make sure that the horses’ hooves are kept clean and trimmed regularly. In addition to this, the horse should be washed down regularly with a soap which has been designed specially for use on horses to keep their manes, tails and coats in great condition.


Then, the horse can be groomed as usual to keep their coat shiny and healthy. It is important that the groomer does not pull or tug on the hair when washing the horse, as this could cause injury. After bathing, the horse should be dried thoroughly using a towel made specifically for this purpose.


  • Feeding


The diet of a racehorse is very important, and needs to be carefully planned so that it provides all the energy the horse needs to perform at its best. A typical racehorse diet includes hay, oats, carrots, apples, potatoes, bananas, oranges, corn, peas, beans, wheat bran, molasses, salt, and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.


  • Exercise


Racehorses need plenty of exercise to stay fit. They are exercised daily to help maintain muscle tone, and to prevent injuries. Exercise for a racehorse involves walking, trotting, running and jumping.


  • Racing

A racehorse needs to be prepared physically and mentally for the events ahead. To do this, it is trained to run around a track, and this helps the animal to get used to the nature of the track, as well as to moving at higher speeds.


What happens during racing?


During a race, the horses are put through a series of jumps and obstacles. Each jump requires the horse to leap over something like a fence or pole, and each obstacle requires the horse to climb over something like a wall or bar. In order to get past these obstacles, the horse must either jump over them or climb over them.


Potential for injury is high here; if the horse fails to clear the jump, he may fall and break his legs or even worse, injure himself badly enough to end up having to be euthanised. In addition, if a horse falls during the course of the race, he will often suffer broken bones, torn ligaments or internal bleeding.


When the race is finished, the horses are brought back to the starting point and the jockeys dismount and collect their mounts. Then the horses are led away to be cleaned off and examined by veterinarians to check for any bumps and scrapes.


What happens when racehorses are treated badly?


Sadly, there are a number of ways in which injuries to racehorses can occur. Some common causes include:


  • Being trained too hard


If a horse is being forced to work too hard, it will become exhausted and injured. This can happen if the horse is working at an intensity level that exceeds its ability to cope. For example, if the horse is being asked to gallop for long periods of time, it will eventually tire out and collapse.


Horse trainers may sometimes try to force a horse into training sessions that are too intense, and this can lead to the development of soreness and inflammation in the muscles, tendons and joints. The horse may then have difficulty performing properly, and this can result in further injury.


  • Ill treatment


Sometimes racehorses are treated badly by people who don’t know how to care for them properly. This can include mistreatment of the horse’s feet, improper feeding, lack of veterinary attention, poor grooming practices and other forms of neglect.


Some common examples of injuries include:


  • Hoof problems

Hooves are very sensitive areas on the body, and they require special care. If a hoof becomes damaged, it can cause pain and discomfort, and this can make it difficult for the horse to move properly. It can also affect the way the horse walks, runs and performs in races.


  • Ankle problems

The ankles are vulnerable areas of the body, and they are prone to injury when horses are running fast. They can become swollen and painful, and this can make the horse unable to perform properly.


  • Lack of veterinary care

Sometimes racehorses aren’t taken to see a vet until after they’ve been injured. This means that the horse might not receive treatment until it has already suffered damage.


Final thoughts


While the majority of racehorse trainers take pride in caring for their animals properly, there are sadly always those that abuse their power and treat their horses badly. If you become aware of any ill-treatment with regards to any animals, it is crucial to report this to the authorities as soon as possible.