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And God Gave Us Horses


My Diamond With A Flaw

I have memories of me sitting astride a black and white pony being held steady by my father at about the age of three, I wonder was this the beginning of my fascination with these animals?

To say I've been fascinated with these animals all my life is true. Obsessed may be a better description. I remember that as a young girl I would often sit and just watch these animals grazing in their fields for hours at a time. My involvement in this obsession was to start at the basics, I mean helping out where ever and whenever I could. Offering to groom, feed, muck out, do anything that got me interacting with them. I would spend my weekends at the riding school, but I think it was when I became friends with people who trusted me to ride their horses on my own that I became a confident rider. Any horse, no matter what size or temperament was a ride enjoyed. I would watch showjumping on tv. My favorite being Ryan,s Son. I wasn't watching to see who won, neither was I interested in how much prize money they got. They made it look so easy. A connection I hoped I would have one day with my own horse.


Thoroughbred Racing wasn't a sport I was particularly interested in at that young age. The lives of these Thoroughbreds I never really thought about, that is until the day I acquired one.

That's when a whole new world opened up to me. Their lives in this industry became something that I was really concerned about. Their treatment, their training, the cost, not only of their keep but the cost to their lives. It wasn't until later in my life that I researched their world. Their breeding, their bloodlines, their retirements, or their too often early deaths. Their end of ( usefulness,) them being (disposable commodities), the (overbreeding), and the fact that given a second chance, retrained, they could be the best in any sphere they entered into.

The racing industry is big business. For the Breeders, trainers, owners, jockeys, and punters. We don't get to know or see a lot of what happens to them other than (on the track). These horses are very well looked after while they are in training or being raced. The best of feeds, veterinary care, grooming, but when you look into their lives and all it entails, there is needless suffering involved, and it's all about the money.

In the past, there have been many a tale told of the injured horse that shouldn't be raced but is given pain killers to mask their pain, only to break down through their injuries on the track. If they survive their careers, there are very few who are retired or retrained, they go to slaughter. These maybe horses that are too slow, ones that don't get placed, or their owners have done with them and find it too much of an effort to allow them to be retrained for the ordinary rider, or for people serious enough to want an OTTB. (Off Track Thoroughbred). Given the proper training, they can become the best at any discipline they are introduced to. So many of these horses have died when they could have been given a chance to adjust to a life of usefulness as a riding horse, and a loving companion with many abilities. These horses are not your ordinary everyday riding school type. I agree that they need experienced owners and riders as they are hot-blooded, intelligent, spirited, and sometimes hard to handle. Not at all a novice ride. Given time and patience, respect, and a firm hand they do become rideable. In my experience, they are the best ride there is. You will be spoiled for anything else after you have ridden a Thoroughbred or the Arab. When I first encountered thoroughbreds many years ago they were expensive, and the cob was the cheaper horse. Now, today it has turned around price-wise. The cobs you can pay silly money for and the Thoroughbred are very cheap. Anyone can buy a Thoroughbred off the track today, but to keep, take care of, and ride one is a different matter.


My First Horse

As a young girl my first horse was a shetland pony, and then a Gypsy cob, both were colts until I sold them on. My second pony, (pepper) taught me everything I needed to be a confident rider. He was a very safe reliable pony, never sick or sorry, and barefooted. Any ones ride. 100% bombproof. Ponies like these are much sought after for young inexperienced riders. He was high milage and a good keeper. I eventually sold him to a gentleman who liked him so much he kept him for the cart, and as a pet for quite some time.

After I was married and the children grew up, It became possible to buy the horse I had always wanted. , the one that would give me pleasure and enjoyment. I was right, but not in the way I had envisioned. The internet offered some beautiful horses for sale. Large animals looking like the showjumpers from my childhood, but there was one that I kept going back to and he was an OTTB, a beautiful gelding, a bay with dapples in the summer. Beautiful head, large eyes, and a record that seemed perfect. Dressage across the scale, as well as being retrained to jump at Sir John Renshaw yard, his daughter associated with the Olympics. There were photos of him jumping with a male rider, and I knew he would be forward going and a well-schooled ride. He was fourteen when I brought him home, he needed field rest the owner said as he had had an accident jumping too far off the jump, but he wasn't showing any lameness at the time I got him. It was strange but the receipt I got from his sale said,( A male horse sold). Now I know why it didn't say gelding, he acted more like a stallion than a gelding and was probably a rig, (retained a stone) He was an Alpha male.

Good ground manners, very fast, responsive, good breaks, dream paces, a fantastic jumper, worked on an outline, Intelligent, very loving, and he had a strong presence, Only one thing spoiled him, and that was that he couldn't keep a lid on it when first ridden, I mean he got over-excited. He would explode, but then the rest of the ride was perfect after you got back on. He never in eleven years I looked after him bolched or kicked anyone. He learned tricks very quickly, such as bowing for treats. He loved to play, with me, making him run around the field while I rattled keys in a bucket. But we knew each other so well that he would come to me after our playing chase, with no fear of me, and stand quietly. Other horses wouldn't have come near you the rest of the day after you,d chased them. We were close, he was protective over me, and if there was anything unusual happening in the field he would come and stand between the threat and me. There is so much to tell you about this boy.

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Bad News

But back to the reason, I am writing this piece. It has come to my notice more recently that the press has informed the public about the slaughtering of Thoroughbred horses in the racing industry. It has highlighted the Australians and what has been investigated and facts found out is that they have been lying about the number of their horses being unnecessarily sent to slaughter. They said when asked about the number of thoroughbreds they breed and dispose of in this sport that approximately 1% of the horses were disposed of at slaughter. When investigated the true number of horses was far greater. Some are retrained for riding, some may go to auction, some mares may be used for breeding, but most go to slaughter. Overbreeding means foals that are not good enough or are not worth the cost don't even get to touch the grass. Also, you have the foster mares, the ordinary horse that is put in foal, only for their own foals to go to slaughter. This is because the Thoroughbred foals need the milk of the foster mare as the birth mother is again sent for breeding. These babies were not included in the count of disposable Thoroughbreds which numbers were nearer the 15.000 mark, rather than the 1% they stated. This is made up of the 5000 that have ended their careers, 400 that are raced to death, and the 4000 foals which are considered not worth the expense.

We Don't Eat Horse Meat Do We?

America closed their slaughterhouses in 2007 saying we don't eat horse meat, only to re-open them in 2012. When this happened the unwanted horses went to Canada and Mexico for horse meat to be consumed mainly by the people. The method used by the Mexicans was confirmed by a Mexican veterinarian who said, "All over Mexico in their slaughterhouses they stab the horse repeatedly in the spine till it disables it, then hangs them by the back leg and it has its throat cut. Some are hit with a hammer and usually alive while being skinned". I cannot imagine the horror these animals go through before they die. The transporting of them to these countries is horrendous for them. Cramped together with no headroom. So if kicked they cannot avoid injuries. Some are trampled to death as they cannot get back up when they go down. Then there is the treatment from the handlers who move them from the trucks into the buildings where the smell of blood and the noise must be terrifying for them. They are kicked and hit, some men using the prods that give an electric shock on contact. They are then forced into a metal box, then if they are lucky, die straight away before the floor opens and they are dropped onto another level to have the chains wrapped around their back leg which then lifts them up, and they then have their throats cut. We need to change things in this sport of kings. These animals don't ask to be born, they have no control over their lives, they do their best for us, humans, they are the War Horses of today. They give us their all, some burst their hearts running, die trying to please their jockeys, and for what? Money. The industry needs to be honest about what happens to their horses, then maybe things can change, but to be misleading with their information to people trying to help these horses isn't helping. Wasted lives, the suffering, the terrible deaths. It really is a case of what we don't see won't hurt us. What amount of suffering is worth the money they win from racing? We all make mistakes, we all make bad decisions at times, we can regret our bad moves, but to keep breeding and killing these animals is just greed for money. They the horses have earned their retirement, They have given us they're all.

All that I can say now after seeing only some of what happens out of the publics' eyes, is that if you want to bet your money on these beautiful animals, have a look into what really goes on. Do we treat human athletes the same way? Every life matters, Just do these horses a favor, and before you place your bets in the future, think about the suffering they go through. ?

What Happens To Retired Horses?

We only see the few that get to race, we have the Hall of Fame for the best. The rest don't get a mention in this industry, and the people who want to become Jockeys shouldn't start at the beginning but at the end. Then if that's ok with them let them go ahead and train to ride. But my thoughts on this one are if its ok after the horrors of slaughter then they shouldn't be Jockeys because they don't have the compassion needed to be with these animals.

The OTTB I was honored to know and allow him his retirement, made me wonder what the others would have been like given a chance! He wasn't perfect as he went lame with chips of bone in his knee, but as for the years we had together he was a diamond, I called him my diamond with a flaw. I would do it all again, every minute of it. He stayed with me till the day he passed away which was my promise to him, he would stay with me till the end and never know the horrors of the slaughterhouse.

I kept my promise.


Sharon A Robinson (author) on September 24, 2020:

Thank you for commenting on this article. It is horrendous to think about how they die. we need more awareness and compassion.

Marwa S on September 15, 2020:

A touching article. It was very disturbing reading about what happens to these beautiful creatures.

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