“Carnage,” as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, is “large-scale death and destruction.” Those familiar with this site know that I’ve oft used this word to describe what is happening within the American horseracing industry. Critics take umbrage, calling it dramatic and hyperbolic – just another bit of overheated animal rights rhetoric. And of course, they say, untrue. Well.

In each of the past two calendar years, I have identified roughly 1,000 track-related (racing/training) kills. But after factoring in what is missing – rejected FOIA requests, most notably from major racing-states California and Kentucky; training deaths omitted from other FOIA documents; the “catastrophically injured” who are euthanized back at the farm or shortly after being acquired by a rescue; slipshod recordkeeping – I believe that the 1,000 can easily and reasonably be doubled. But that figure – 2,000 (annually) – covers only deaths on or originating from open-to-the-public racetracks. There are at least as many private training facilities as sanctioned tracks. It should not be difficult to see where this is headed.

Next, consider what the industry refers to as “non-racing” fatalities – that is, deaths of stabled-at-the-track, awaiting-next-race horses from things like stress-induced colic, racing-related infections, and the proverbial “barn accidents.” For technical accuracy, I do not include these horses on my KIA lists, but make no mistake, they are no less casualties of this sordid business than the ones referred to above.

Finally, slaughter. While Racing grossly downplays the extent of the problem, proudly flashing its zero-tolerance policies and aftercare programs in defense, we do have statistics from which to draw conclusions. According to the Equine Welfare Alliance (using USDA data), an average of 135,823 American horses have been slaughtered annually over the past ten years. (The last U.S. abattoirs closed in 2007; now, we simply ship them – itself, a horror – to Canada and Mexico.) A Wild for Life Foundation study found that from 2002-2010 an average of 19% of the slaughtered were Thoroughbreds. Even if we were to use a far lower percentage, say 10%, we’re still well over 10,000 butchered – annually. Just Thoroughbreds, mind you. How many more “retired” Quarterhorses and Standardbreds meet this same brutal end?

All this – the broken bodies of raceday, wherever, whenever euthanasia finally comes; the “sudden cardiac events” in morning practice, be they at Gulfstream or GoldMark; the colic, laminitis, “found dead in their stalls”; the exsanguinations – leads to a single, inescapable conclusion: carnage. Carnage.



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  1. Yes Patrick, carnage it is.
    It’s also animal cruelty, and it qualifies for Felony Animal Cruelty charges.
    Grateful for all your hard work, dedication, and compassion for these voiceless victims.
    Grateful to all the peaceful demonstrators who try to educate people on the facts.
    My heart goes out to all racehorses who have died in the dirt either at racetracks or private training centers, whether on the track or off their lives mean nothing to those who exploit them.
    If these people had one iota of “love” for these horses then they wouldn’t subject them to this cruelty circus neither would they risk limb or life for money.
    I’m living in the wrong century because I can’t, for the life of me, understand why this is permitted to exist in 21st century America.
    I just want to fast forward to a time when this no longer exists, and the only way that this will happen is if we continue to be a voice, and educate people on the carnage
    To all you current horse Owner/Trainers – you are living a lie, you are living a delusion.
    My only hope is that one day you will see this for what it is: a cruelty circus, and a death camp.
    Then join us here on horseracingwrongs.

  2. Thank you, Patrick. CARNAGE it most surely is – it’s a horror story.

    Although I’ve always maintained that the number of deaths can, at the very least, be doubled, I had no idea until recently that there are a huge number of private facilities for training in the USA and they don’t have to disclose their deaths. I hate to think of how many more deaths occur at these places. Your realistic calculations are seriously disturbing. The urgent need for an official Government inquiry into the horseracing industry is long overdue. The inhumane mistreatment and abhorrent cruelty the racehorses suffer can no longer be tolerated by a civilized 21st century society.

  3. Horseracing , in a way, reminds me, of boxing in the old days. The only one without a word in it was the boxer himself. He could complain, though, to his manager, although it did no good in the long run, but a horse can’t even do that. He has to run and run his life out (or hers). Then, that horse is said to have “heart”. I come from California Chrome territory. I know nothing about him or his owners. But they seemed out of place with the “regulars” at the big races. I hope they were. I’ve only heard whisperings over the years, but you are opening my ears and mind, Patrick. I look forward to the day when the only races we have will be the 5k runs and marathons that people like to do and that the wild horse and burro round-ups and “adoptions” will end and the transportation of those horses and all horses to Mexico and Canada and possibly to any slaughter facilities in the USA (ND? SD?) will never happen again.

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