A horse’s health depends on its physical condition, but a certain amount of stress is natural in a racing season: The energy that’s involved in a horse’s daily race schedule – to run quickly, to stand up, to turn left or right, to do a 180-degree turn in an attempt to outrun, to turn at full speed as soon as possible, to jump and sprint, to leap, all of those things – it’s that intensity of racing, I believe, that the horse’s health depends on. So, I understand and respect the point made, and it’s certainly true. But I also understand why the breed’s proponents like to suggest that the stress they’re trying to mitigate is more akin to a drug test: The point of a drug test is to test to see if a horse has any drugs in his system.
It’s important to reiterate that this doesn’t mean horse owners are trying to “get away with anything.” As a result, I find the horse racing industry — and its supporters — to be pretty hypocritical. If there’s a problem, they’re using a drug test to try to avoid it. But if a horse has drug problems that require intervention in the community, they are trying to resolve them with a drug test in order to avoid it: The horse needs to be euthanized, not just treated, because the risks are so low.
Are there any racing standards outside the rules that you think are unfair?
One of the most common criticisms of the sport is that all of the rules are written in such a way as to eliminate or limit individual racing skill and experience. Some say it’s like “scouting”: People are always looking for the next best thing, so the rules eliminate a lot of possibilities.
In the case of a horse, that’s an unfair comparison: Horses can look good and act good. But that’s not how we race every day. If racing wasn’t an occupational job, then a lot of people would probably do it differently because the job would be boring. The problem is that people are doing it. And people who race are very, very good at racing. I can tell you the number of times I rode past someone in a field and I had all his race horse running at full speed, and then I had a very experienced horse sitting there waiting for someone else to run, and the one that was ahead of him decided to take the lead. Those are not the kinds of things that go on in the horse racing
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