Horse Racing, Abandonment & Abuse


Horse abuse is rife in the race horse industry. Many thousands of horses are produced annually in order to generate a few fast ones to compete in horse racing. Very few of these make the grade. What happens to the rest? Many meet horrifying fates such as those mentioned on this page.

 The same thing happens to ex-race horses that have been retired from
competing because they no longer make money. They are retired young, before even fully maturing.

This is the second of two pages about race horse abuse. To see the first page, click here.

Image:  What happens to race horses when they are no longer able to race. Source



Race Horse Abandonment & Abuse

The horse racing industry promotes an untrue image of what happens to retired race horses. They like people to think that horses live a happy retirement as pets, stud horses or well looked after at riding schools.

In reality, the vast majority of retired racing horses, or racehorses that do not make the grade, are put through the agony and terror of being slaughtered for the foreign horse meat industry or for pet food. During the slaughter process, these sensitive animals often thrash around trying to avoid the bolt gun and blades, resulting in them regularly going through horrific agony process alive and conscious.

Tens of thousands of ex race horses in the US alone are sent to slaughter houses every year.

It happens in most other countries too, as does the live export of the horses to countries with little or no animal welfare standards, where they are slaughtered in often extremely inhumane ways.

Other retired, injured or ungraded race horses are often inhumanely killed in other ways because they are no longer wanted. Many are abused, abandoned, or neglected until they die.

This happens all over the world. In a study conducted it was found that in any country that there is a thoroughbred horse industry, race horse abuse was present.

Race horses which once blazed race courses earning fortunes for their owners are discarded or disposed of when no longer of use. Many are locked away where nobody knows about them, neglected, forgotten by the world and slowly starving to death. Injured horses are killed and their bodies dumped.

The lucky ones are rescued by animal sanctuaries who have room for them, but most are not that lucky.

Image: An example of race horse abuse. The ex-race horse, The Spear Of Destiny, was starved to death by the owner. The owner then neglected and starved three more former race horses. Wellington SPCA trie to save them, but it was too late for one of them who suffered multiple organ failure. The other two were suffering from severe malnutrition, but were nursed back to health by Wellington SPCA. Source


Just A Few Of Many Race Horse Abuse Cases

Money is the main incentive for thoroughbred race horse breeders and owners. This means that horses who do not fit the bill of being a likely champion, or that do not live up to expectations, are often be subjected to unimaginable abuse, neglect or death, as their upkeep drains profits. The upkeep of a racehorse that can not make money just seems pointless to breeders and owners driven by money.

The following cases are just a small glimpse in to the thousands of horse abuse cases that happen each year:

When Freedom’s Flight was rescued, he was to be killed as part of the illegal horse meat trade. He was tied to a palm tree starving and his
hoofs were rotting.

Prominent thoroughbred race horse breeder Ernie Paragallo was convicted of 33 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, as 177 horses had to be rescued from his farm and many of them were infected by parasites and were starving. Paragallo, who showed no remorse, earned more than $20 million in twenty years of horse racing.

In England, the 1984 UK Grand National WINNER “Hallo Dandy” was was found in a field, starving, with scars on his back, and his ribs poking through.

Thoroughbred race horse, Accordian, was found lying in a field in Florida, near to death and too weak to stand. South Florida SPCA attempted to save the horse, but sadly the horse had suffered too much inhumane treatment.

Cases of race horse abuse reported include:

  • Starvation
  • Beating
  • Burning
  • Maggot infestation
  • Batteries implanted under the skin which give the horse electric shocks when it is faltering or slowing
  • Administering harmful drugs such as cocaine and anabolic steroids to the horse to act as a stimulant and cover pain cused by racing and training
  • Slaughtering of horses to provide horse meat to countries for human consumption
  • Shooting
  • Dragging of horses along he ground behind speeding vehicles by ropes tied around their legs

Image: A horse like Hallo Dandy found starved but fortunately rescued and nursed back to health.


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Horse Racing Is Bad For Horses Health

The unnatural stresses caused by making horses compete so aggressively and at such young ages causes, or makes worse, serious health problems. These include stomach ulcers, heart murmurs, and bleeding in the lungs. These are not found in horses worked at reasonable levels. These health and injury problems result in the need for drugs to maintain the horse’s racing value. It does not, however, help the horses health. Only stopping what causes the problems in the first place could do that.

One study reported in the Equine Veterinary Journal noted a doubling of one type of heart murmur and a tripling of another in 2-year-old horses after 9 months of training. Horses’ heartbeats can increase tenfold during a race, from a relaxed 25 beats per minute to an excessive 250 beats, leading to exhaustion, collapse, and sometimes, to a fatal heart attack.

Researchers found gastric ulcers in 93% of horses in race training. In horses that had actually raced, the incidence was a staggering 100%.

A study in the Equine Veterinary Journal found hemorrhaging in the lungs in 95% of horses checked during two post-race examinations. There is no effective treatment. Another study in the Equine Veterinary Journal found that as long as a horse continues to undergo training and racing, the lungs do not have a chance to heal.

Horses are continually pumped full of drugs to either mask the harm and pain that horse racing and the training causes their bodies, or to illegally enhance their performance without detection.

Retired horses face horrific fates after enduring months of this. Young race horses meet the same ends simply because they do not possess all the characteristics of a champion horse.

Image: One of the many types of injury ex-race horses suffer in retirement. Source



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Race Horse Industry Animal Experimentation

Rather than face that it is the stresses horse racing and training puts on these horses that causes their health problems, the horse racing industry instead carries out animal experiments on horses, claiming it is to find out what causes the illness and injury!

They purposely infect horses with devastating viruses, subject pregnant animals to abdominal surgery so they subsequently abort their young, deliberately starve them, and subject newborn foals to stress  experiments. Most of these invasive experiments end with the horses being killed after terrible suffering.

Image: ex-race horses suffer unimaginably. This is what happens to horses earmarked for the horse meat trade. Source


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Horse Meat

The fate many horses who don’t make the grade in racing is the slaughter house.

If they are no good for racing to make money, and they are not one of the lucky few to find a home elsewhere, then they will be sold at auction. The “meat man” is a big customer there, buying horses that he will then sell for slaughter. These frightened animals can be shipped to horse meat eating countries. See how they  suffer terribly on these journeys, here.

The slaughter house is an absolutely terrifying place for these sensitive animals.

Find out what they go through, here, here, and here.

The Horse Meat Scandal In The UK:

The U.K. is not a horse meat eating country, but in 2013, many well known branded foods, were found to contain horse meat instead of other meats such as beef.

It was found that slaughter houses were mislabelling meat as other kinds of meat when it was in fact cheaper horse meat. These meats were then used in many well known brands of food in supermarkets in the U.K.

Many horse lovers had been unknowingly eating horse meat.

It is not known for sure how long  this had been going on for.

Read this article about how nothing has really changed since then.

Video: What happens to horses in the slaughter. Source

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How To Spot Signs Of Neglect & Abuse To Horses

Look out for these signs of horse abuse / neglect:

  • Open sores
  • Mouth wounds. Ill fitting bits can cause wounds to the inside and outside of the horse’s mouth.
  • Scars and welts. Excessive whipping can produce welts and broken skin.
  • Burn marks. These could have been caused by the use of electric prods.
  • Changes in the horse’s physical appearance or demeanor.
  • Ribs, spine or hipbones are visible. Excessive weight loss can also be detected by the appearance of the head as being too large for the body.
  • A low hanging head or dull eyes.
  • Dull shaggy hair, or hair loss.
  • Lack of interaction with other horses or total disinterest in its surroundings.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Repetitive actions or cribbing, also known as windsucking. Cribbing / wind-sucking is where a horse bites into an object like a fence rail, arches his neck, and gulps air.Find more information here

Image: Unwanted and starving horse. Source

Below is a video showing horse abuse, including Rodeo cruelty:

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How To Report Abuse & Neglect

If you suspect horse abuse or neglect, inform the police. Make an official report, but try not to over-exaggerate the problem or be too
emotional about it. Be matter of fact about it. It is helpful if you can get photos or a video showing the condition of the horse /its surroundings and show those to the police when you make your report.

After a few days, enquire with law enforcement about whether they have acted on your report. If they have not, keep contacting them at regular intervals, stressing the urgency of the situation. It is important to be persistent and firm, but polite and non-offensive.

In addition, contact an animal rescue charities, preferably one that has the power to prosecute, such as the RSPCA in the UK and equivalent in other countries. Other organisations that can help horses could be contacted too.

Be aware that because of economic conditions, such organisations have experienced a massive fall in donations which has lead to huge cut backs. The same economic conditions are causing more animals than ever to be abandoned, neglected and need he help of these over-loaded organisations. This may affect the amount of help the organisations can offer, and how quickly they can supply it. If the situation is critical, you must keep pressing for help.

If the abuse involves a horse that is used in horse racing, make sure you alert racing officials at the race courses immediately.

A visitor to this website sent in the video below of television horse racing coverage, where a staff member can clearly be seen beating a horse with a whip in full view of TV cameras. He was apparently unaware he was doing anything wrong. The disgusted viewer called the race track to complain and the man was fired from his job.

Taking action gets results!

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How To Help Stop Horse Abuse And Suffering

Help Stop horse abuse by refusing to go to horse races, or anything connected to them, such as functions at horse racing grounds.

Don’t bet on horse races either.

Instead of buying a horse, adopt an ex-race horse that would otherwise likely end up being sold for slaughter to be made into horse meat. I know people who have gone to auctions and saved horses from the “meat man” by outbidding him for the horses.

You can get involved in protests and demonstrations, and support petitions and email campaigns.

If you would like to find organisations needing your action and support to fight against this type of cruelty, type “Horse Cruelty” into a search engine online, or search bar on social media.
Do this through a fundraising search engine so you can raise money to help animals with every search.

Raise funds for organisations helping horses in need and campaigning against horse abuse. Find ideas on how to do that here.


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Ways To Stop Animal Abuse

On this site you will find many varied ways you can help stop animal cruelty, and there are ways  that will suit everyone, no matter what your personality or lifestyle.

You can learn about how to avoid funding animal abuse you are not even aware you are funding.

If you would like to learn more about why we so urgently need to help stop animal suffering, please have a look at the Types Of Animal Cruelty section of this site. It will allow you to broaden your knowledge of many different types of animal abuse that happens in the world.

Sadly, what you will find is only the tip of the iceberg, but do not worry, because in the Help Stop Animal Cruelty section of this site, you can find a large and varied choice of ways that you can help stop the suffering. Have a look and see what ways would most suit you.

Help animals further by sharing the ways to stop animal cruelty you learn with other people and on social media. Doing this could mean more people help stop the cruelty, and therefore you are responsible for more animals being saved from suffering.

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