My article of September 12, 2009, titled “In Search of Accurate Reporting About Racing Casualties” drew a few passionate comments from readers who did not agree with what I said and a number of emails from others who did. One person wrote: “Question: How many horses “died” at Del Mar during this last meet? Answer: TWELVE.” This is unfortunate and sad but is anecdotal and does nothing to answer the main question of how many racehorses actually died or were euthanized at racetracks during the past five or six years directly due to racing or training accidents. In other words, the Del Mar catastrophes would be part of the aggregate statistics and one cannot generalize from the results at one racetrack. This would be like trying to predict who will win a presidential election from the findings of a poll in Massachusetts or Utah.

Another poster delved into horse slaughter and the delayed effects of racetrack injuries on racehorses. These are emotionally charged issues but the former has no place in a study of racetrack casualties due to racing and training accidents and the latter cannot be measured with a metric.

I have spent most of my life as a researcher, professor, and consultant. The approach I have followed is the scientific method to testing hypotheses with empirical data to solve problems. If progress is to be made in addressing issues like racetrack casualties, a dispassionate and unbiased examination of the facts is called for. As soon as opinion and deeply held feelings enter into the equation, the study is biased and nothing will get done. My point about the AP compilation of racetrack deaths is that because it did not follow acceptable research procedures and was based on second-hand data from the individual racing jurisdictions, the validity of the findings is questionable.

A “let the chips fall where they may” course of action would be to have a study conducted on the issue of racetrack casualties by an independent researcher who has the proper training in research design and data analysis. Even here, however, if such a study were commissioned, say, by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, many of the people who did not agree with the results would no doubt dismiss them as biased owing to the sponsoring organization.

One thing I have learned from writing this blog is that the subject of animal welfare is one in which it is difficult to discuss without feelings getting in the way of research and solutions to the problems. Recently, a study was released on the effects of Lasix. One person dismissed the results (which presumably he or she adamantly disagreed with) as something promulgated by “a bunch of veterinarians” or something to that effect. When highly skilled research veterinarians are so cavalierly dismissed, one knows for sure that some folks have made up their minds and no amount of data and facts will change that. If not vets, who else is qualified to do research on Lasix?

The subject of horse slaughter is another hot-button issue. One side asserts that all horse slaughter is cruel and immoral and others see it differently. Consequently, it is almost impossible to hold a civil conversation about horse slaughter, while focusing on facts and possible partial solutions. The attitude often is “if you don’t agree with me, you are stupid or even evil.”

People who love animals are kind and caring. These people include those in racing and outside racing. Sometimes it is this love that gets in the way of working toward compromise solutions, however imperfect, that will make for a kinder and gentler world for animals.

HorseRacingBusiness.com is intended to be based on dispassionate analysis and will be as long as it is on the Internet.  

 And thanks for reading what I have to say.

Copyright © 2009 Horse Racing Business


  1. Mr. Shanklin:

    I am not emotional about the numbers of cast-offs, either living or dead associated with the racing industry. Please don’t try to dismiss or diminish my points (yeah, I made a slaughter point…but no less relevant because many of the walking dead /injured go to kill directly). I will not go into the pseudo-psychology of those that “quibble” about the specifics of the death and injury rate of the athletes (human or animal) involved in this game. Please understand that there is nothing more beautiful, even spiritual like than that of a horse running AND winning, even just competing for me in race…the movement is perfection poetry and struggle for life in form. The death and injury is just the same, just in reverse philosophy (v. win). I’d say, as opposed to being “emotional” (which I do not agree with), you tend to maintain the staus quo and stick your head in the sand.There is a problem here, sir.

    You missed (as the “it’s just the price of playing the game” crowd continually rationalizes) my points:

    (1) There is no national data collection authority as to these statistics (so don’t bitch about the AP…it ain’t their job in the first place);

    (2) How do you qualify what constitutes or quantifies a horse racing fatality????? You seem to be focused on the freakin’ oval….why?

    (3) Related to the former (1 and 2), there is absolutely no doubt in my simple mind that the industry doesn’t want to know the answers or stats to these issues/questions.

    Why is this lost on you? Why do you focus on AP? …or me or the Del Mar poster? Wasn’t an aspect of the Safety/Integrity thing suppose to start tracking this info (albeit, voluntarily which is a joke)?????

    I’d love to know what trainers have the highest injury and mortality rate. Wouldn’t that be a fun blog?! There is more that I could say, but will not (you get the drift) and I do respect your knowledge and acumen regarding this industry. I just think your focus is wrong on this issue, intentionally or blindly so. I hope it’s the latter and why I post my opinion. Thanks for the opportunity. Sincerely.