Five Dirty Secrets of the Horse Racing Industry

            In almost every situation and circumstance, there is generally more to the story than meets the eye. The horse racing industry happens to be no exception to the rule! The wildly popular sport would prefer to present its finest image to the masses, but if we dig a little deeper, there is more than one dirty little secret to be found!

Secret #1

we-all-have-secretsWhen many people think of sports where the competitors go to back breaking lengths to keep their weights down (even sometimes dangerously so), sports such as boxing and wrestling often come to mind. It turns out that horseracing jockeys can be added to the list of folks who place some seriously tights restrictions on their weight.  Ideally, you want your horse to be as fast as possible and jockeys are well aware that their own weight on top of the horse is an added extra burden.

Even further, a lot of fans are unaware that each track holds specific weight requirements depending on the horse’s age, sex, skill and the length of the track. Unfortunately, jockeys often go to extreme measures to keep their weight in check before the race such as using saunas, steam rooms, laxatives or diuretics. Many jockeys have developed eating disorders that last long after their horseracing career is over.

Secret #2

The jockeys aren’t the only participants who have suffered due to the stress of the sport. While not all the horses have been treated poorly, there are certainly many tales of unnecessary and undue stressed place on the large creatures. Often, internal bleeding occurs as a result of the horses racing too much.

Back in the 1980’s, jockeys started administering Lasix to their horses to H_R00600stop the internal bleeding.  Lasix is technically legal, but animal scientists believe that it increases the susceptibility of horses to various other injuries. Some people believe that as many as 9 out of 10 jockeys are administering Lasix to their horses.

Secret #3

Here is a fun fact for you. When horses are injured and can no longer perform in competition, many of them are not sent off to live in pastures of the Wild West.  Instead, many of the horses are slaughtered. Some horse racing fans are in support of euthanizing the horses to prevent further pain and suffering, but many of these horses are being slaughtered for human consumption.

eat-a-horseEating a horse isn’t particularly popular here in the United States; in other parts of the world, horsemeat is seen as standard cuisine. The USDA estimated that in 2003 alone, 50,000 horses were slaughtered and sold to other countries to eat at their next family meal. While not all of these horses came directly off the tracks, many of them did. In countries such as Belgium, France, Japan, and Italy, horsemeat is eaten as a fine delicacy.

Secret #4:

The horseracing track is breeding ground for organized crime. Horse racing is a cash cow, and where lots of money is involved, we all know that some sort of criminal activity cannot be too far behind. If we look back a few decades in history, you can read about stories of horses getting shot or kidnapped.

While there are fewer incidents that the public is made aware of in modern times, crime is still abundant in the sport. Asian triads, Mexican cartels, and the Irish mafia have all been associated with the sport. Illegal activities include the use of performance enhancing drugs, race fixing, bribery, and illegal betting circles.

okygen_epo-evening-primrose-oil-60-softgels_1Secret #5:

Performance enhancing drugs are not isolated to humans or the sports f bike racing or professional baseball players.  Respected racers and veterinarians have confirmed that allegations of performance enhancing
drugs being used in horses are true. One popular drug that has been used is erythropoietin, also known as EPO, is the same drug that cyclists have been using since the 1990’s. This drug is popular because it is very hard to detect in lab work and is known for delaying fatigue. Officials are cracking down in an effort to bring fairness back in to the world of horse racing.

Growing up in Louisville, it was hard for me to escape all things horse racing. With a father who made it his yearly tradition to go out and bet on the Kentucky Derby and his weekly tradition to sip on some honey and bourbon, play the guitar and talk about all of the horse races happening throughout the year with his drinking buddies, I grew up with the talk of horse racing in my blood. This tradition and culture has followed me in to my thirties.