TOO MANY UNWANTED HORSES AND FEW GOOD SOLUTIONS

Based on a survey, the American Horse Council estimated in 2005 that there were 9,222,847 horses in the United States.  Of these, the Council found that racehorses of all breeds (Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Quarter Horses) numbered 844,531, or 9.2% of all horses.   Certainly, these approximations have changed in the past decade, but are still likely in the ballpark today and demonstrate the extent of horse ownership in America.

The U. S. Humane Society projects that some 160,000 horses from the United States are slaughtered annually.  Perhaps 14,720 of them (160,000 x .092) are racehorses.

The large numbers demonstrate the magnitude of the task faced by rescue organizations of all breeds of horse:  160,000 horses going to slaughter every 365 days is overwhelming.

And the situation just got more complicated.

In late 2014, the European Union suspended horse meat processed in Mexico, and 87% of the horses slaughtered in Mexican plants come from the United States.  The European Union’s Food and Veterinary Office stated:   “American horses are raised for use in show, sport, work, and recreation, and are regularly administered drugs and other substances over the course of their lives that are potentially toxic to humans.”  Moreover, the Food and Veterinary Office objected to the sordid condition of many horses arriving in Mexico.

The ban by the European Union will likely have two consequences, both negative.  First, some of the meat rejected by the European Union will be diverted to countries in which there are not high standards on meat quality.  Second, horse owners who directly or indirectly want to sell horses that end up in Mexican slaughterhouses will find that course of action is less viable.  As a result, they will simply abandon or neglect their horses, or euthanize them.

The view here is that euthanasia is the least bad choice when the owner won’t or can’t afford to provide for his or her horse’s retirement–or cannot locate a caring home for the animal.  However, a plethora of horse owners (160,000 horses per year in the USA to slaughter) obviously won’t pay for the euthanasia and, instead, they seek the last dollar they can get from “disposing of” horses, no questions asked.  To these people, their friendship with Flicka evidently ends when a horse becomes infirm or a nuisance.

All my life, I’ve heard people say “If people cared enough about their pets to have them spayed or neutered, we would not have so many unwanted animals.”  That’s true, but enough people don’t care or the animal shelters would not be so overcrowded.  Same with providing for horses that owners no longer want.

Recognizing the sad reality that only a small fraction of the nearly 15,000 U. S. racehorses sold off for slaughter every year can reasonably be saved by rescue organizations, an industry euthanasia initiative supported and funded by people who own racehorses (or make their living from them) is worthy of consideration.  It is not the ideal option, but it beats the indignities and atrocities of slaughter.

(A future post will sketch how a euthanasia initiative might work and be financed.)

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business

ECLIPSE AWARDS 2014 HIGHLIGHTS

The Eclipse Award for 2014 Horse of the Year went to California Chrome, a modestly bred colt owned by people who have to work for a living.  The final vote from the members of the Daily Racing Form, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters was a landslide win for California Chrome.  The first four top vote getters were:  California Chrome, 143 votes; Main Sequence, 53; Bayern 36; and Shared Belief, 12.

The Horse Racing Business post of December 26, 2014, was titled “2014 American Horse of the Year by the Numbers” (available in the archives).  I used a point system to predict 2014 Horse of the Year that I developed in 2010 to evaluate the hotly debated Horse of the Year contest between Zenyatta and Blame (the point system correctly predicted that Zenyatta would win).  The value of a point system is that it removes emotion and also gives equal weight to what a horse has done all year, thereby eliminating the psychological tendency of recency bias, wherein the most recent information is given more weight.

Following is a verbatim quote from the December 14 post:

“…point totals for 2014 HOY are:

California Chrome = 110 points (including wins in four G1 races and over two different types of surfaces in G1 races)

Main Sequence = 100 points (including four G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf)

Shared Belief = 95 points (including four G1 races and only one career loss)

Bayern = 90 points (including two G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic)”

It is gratifying to see that the voters in the aggregate made almost the same exact rankings.

Now, getting into the area of pure opinion rather than numbers, I thought that the Eclipse Awards webcast was very well done.  Jeannine Edwards did a smooth job as master of ceremonies, like the television professional she is, and the Gulfstream Park setting made for a germane and stylish backdrop.

Especially appropriate was the presentation of an Eclipse Award to Jose Arias for being the 2014 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapper of the Year.  As Steve Crist of the Daily Racing Form said in his introduction, folks like Mr. Arias make the entire horse racing industry a viable commercial endeavor.

As a columnist for Blood-Horse, I was particularly pleased to see writers for the magazine win two Eclipse Awards in the media category.

The vast majority of people are not likely to watch an awards broadcast from start to end, and the Eclipse Awards webcast made it easy for a viewer to drop in and out.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business

THE RUSH TO JUDGMENT ON STEVE ASMUSSEN

On March 18, 2014, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) received a letter from the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that requested an investigation into the alleged misconduct (during the period April 2013 through July 2013) by trainer Steve Asmussen, his assistant Scott Blasi, and KDE Equine.  The charges were basically of animal cruelty and the illegal administration of a prescription drug to a horse.   PETA also asked for an investigation into whether prominent trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockeys Calvin Borel, Ricardo Santana Jr., and Gary Stevens may have possessed or used an electrical device on racehorses, or knew of someone who did.

After an exhaustive review by the KHRC (encompassing a detailed examination of each of PETA’s allegations), on January 15, 2015, the KHRC stated that no evidence was found of rules violations by any of the named parties.

Further, the KHRC said that even though PETA requested the inquiry, it would not give the Commission access to PETA’s 285 page report and seven hours of video.  Rather, PETA supplied several photographs and videos lasting about 22 minutes.   The KHRC stated:  “The videos are extensively edited and audio has been overdubbed.  PETA presented conversations out of context and contrary to the substance of the conversation as a whole.”

(Click here for the KHRC website and then select the appropriate link to see the complete report.)

Based on the PETA allegations alone, with no due process, consider what transpired:  The National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame removed Mr. Asmussen’s name from the Hall of Fame ballot for 2014 and at least one owner with lots of horses fired him as a trainer.  Mr. Blasi’s employment was terminated.  The Kentucky Derby telecast was marred by terrible publicity when NBC sports anchor Bob Costas interviewed Mr. Asmussen on television about the PETA allegations.  These were just a few of the indignities emerging from the PETA affair, including a black-eye for horse racing during the showcase Triple Crown season.

Predictably, some folks in the horse-racing industry piled on Mr. Asmussen et al. as though the PETA assertions must be true.  Never mind waiting until the KHRC investigation was complete.

The KHRC report is thorough and specific, as there is plenty of dispassionate analysis and no obfuscation or white washing of the facts.  The conclusions illustrate that several people’s reputations were tarnished by unfounded accusations supported by tampered-with evidence.

Naturally, PETA will no doubt defend itself by attacking the integrity of the KHRC, notwithstanding that PETA thought enough of the KHRC to ask for the investigation to begin with.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the countless people who heard or read about the supposed animal abuse exposed by PETA won’t ever know that Mr. Asmussen (and the others) were vindicated by the KHRC report.  That is what phony accusers know and depend on–sling enough mud and some will stick.

Many “angels of mercy” work diligently and quietly to take care of animals who are abused or neglected.  Support them and avoid the extremists with a radical agenda.

Copyright ©2015 Horse Racing Business