Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What's Wrong With These Horses?

I have been a fan of horse racing since my formative years. I remember an August day at the fence at the back of midway at the Maryland Sate Fair, watching a dozen thoroughbreds rumbling around the track, snorting and sweating and making me feel their power all the way up through my chest. It was majestic. I was awe-struck.

I watch the Triple Crown every year. I catch what I can on TV: Breeder's Cup races, and the occassional other races on ESPN's cadre of networks. I know what the sport is like. I know how the horses are bred (I don't mean the birds and bees aspects, I mean the qualities breeders look for). I look forward to the races.

But, over the last three years, I have seen too many horses injured and euthanized. Saturday's legendary performance by Eight Belles, the only filly in the race, was amazing. She truly seemed to run her heart out, only to fade at the last and lose to a mountain of a horse in Big Brown. Sadder still, as she pulled up, she apparently broke both of her foreleg ankles. She was put down within minutes of the end of the race. She follows many recent tragedies, not the least of which was the super-publicized ordeal of Barbaro a couple of years back.

So, what's happening? Well, here's my theory. Thoroughbreds are a small population of animals relatively, and champions are usually bred from other champions, so the gene pool may be reduced even more. Is it possible that these horses are being inbred to the point where they are incapable of safely performing the tasks they are bred for? I have no evidence, but, it might be possible. I don't know.

But, after the Derby this past weekend, I am really wondering if I can go through another break down. I might not watch the Preakness.


comoprozac said...

I heard that they're breeding for speed and not durability. Also, a lot of horses are racing before they are three and aren't fully matured for a race like the Derby. Horse racing could also do without the whipping since it only drives horses past that moment when something gives.

I got all that from listening to ESPN radio the other day.

La Fashionista said...

I hate to sound terribly bitter, but I have wonder, "What's Wrong With These People?"

People choose to participate in sports, possibly become athletes, possibly injuring themselves, possibly taking dangerous substances to enhance performance, etc. Animals are not able to make these choices, yet they suffer the consequences for how they are treated - and too often mistreated.

At the risk of sounding militant, I am incensed and deeply saddened about the way animals are treated in this culture. This is just another sign of how barbaric we can be.

To quote one of your fave people:

"I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it."
-Abraham Lincoln

Yeesh. I wasn't aware of how strong (and, I guess, bitter) my feelings are about this until I started writing.

Loose association tangential style, in the past several months I've been enjoying coffee for the first time in my life. Woo!



boring election said...

Yours is the same theory the "experts" have been throwing around on the talk radio podcasts I've digested in the past 2 days. And it was pointed out that it would take generations to reverse the problem. Also, it was bandied about that those in the business of breeding don't really care what happens to the horse once it's sold...their chief concern being the amount they can get for the sale - and that price is directly tied to the lineage of the horse, as ability isn't known by that point.

Of course, it seems as though there is too much money involved to solve the issue as it stands. Instead, they want to introduce synthetic surfaces at the tracks that are more forgiving, etc. Nothing like a quick fix...

Now, if only that damn Democratic race could end tonight. I might have to petition you to change my name to annoying election pretty soon.

Jami said...

Tony and MM,

Are you still planning on coming to BoCoMo this weekend for Joesephina's graduation partay? It begins at 6:00 - dinner and drinks will be provided and we would love to have our special boy for the weekend. I should have sent this to your e-mail address but could not find it in the mess that is my school e-mail. Hope you are well!