For new fans getting into thoroughbred racing, there’s a lot to enjoy. There’s the beauty of the animals, the thrill of watching them in action, and the joy of outsmarting other riders and cashing in your bet.
But there are some cold facts about the sport that fans and critics find hard to accept. That means that sometimes horses are injured in the arena, and sometimes they are euthanized.
Earlier this month, seven horses died at Churchill Downs ahead of the Kentucky Derby, four of them injured while racing or training. And the victory of National Treasure, trained by Bob Baffert at Preakness, was clouded when another Baffert racehorse collapsed and was euthanized earlier in the day at Pimlico Racecourse.
Those who are against horse racing in principle often point to such events in their arguments. Even for horse racing fans, the disturbing reality of injury can sometimes raise the question: “Should something as simple as a broken leg have to lead to the horse’s death?” According to veterinarians, the unfortunate answer is often yes.
Horses are different from many animals and even other horses. “They can run very fast,” said Dr. Scott E. Palmer, Equine Medical Officer for the New York State Gambling Commission. “And because they weigh about 1,100 pounds, the force on their legs is enormous.”
Palmer continued: “Their muscles are all bulging. The lower legs literally have skin, bones, tendons, blood vessels and nerves. If something breaks, circulation in that area can easily be compromised by the injury.” I have.”
As a result, horses are more prone to leg fractures. It happens when you run on a racetrack, run in a pasture, or kick a stall door. The problem is that it is very difficult to heal a horse’s broken leg.
Fractures in horses can be much more serious than in humans or other mammals due to their weight and fragility of their legs. “A high-energy impact can cause a horse to shatter its bones more than just cracking them, making repairs much less likely,” Palmer said.
To heal a broken bone in an animal, it is necessary to immobilize the fracture. However, immobilizing a horse comes with many challenges. Horses are restless and capricious. Thoroughbreds are bred to run. It is difficult to store in the same place for a long period of time.
Horses spend almost all of their time on their four legs, even when they sleep. Therefore, all four legs bear the weight. If you suddenly have to support that weight on three legs, the uninjured leg can quickly become a problem.
The most common and dangerous is laminitis in horses. Laminitis is a painful condition that affects the tissue between the hoof and bone. “The hoof is attached to the bone by an organic fastener, like a Velcro system,” says Palmer. “When that little hook swells, it comes off. It’s impossible to care for it.”
The whole experience of treatment can be extremely painful for horses, and of course they cannot understand what is going on like humans undergoing painful treatments.
The horse’s pain is “no” consideration. 1, 2, 3,” Palmer said.
Laminitis causes “unbelievable pain,” he says. “They can’t stand on their feet. Now the horse has a broken leg and can’t stand on the second.”
Horses cannot lie down for long periods of time without bearing weight on their legs. Lying down for more than a few hours can damage muscles, restrict blood flow, and cause blood to pool in the lungs.
The elaborate or unusual process of trying to repair a badly broken bone can cost thousands of dollars. Few horse owners are willing to spend that kind of money on a painful treatment process that may be ineffective and probably won’t get the horse back on the racetrack. Euthanasia is an unfortunate choice in most cases.
When 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke his leg at Preakness two weeks later, owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson decided to save him.
His injuries were severe, breaking his leg into 20 bones. He underwent five hours of surgery to insert 27 pins and a stainless steel plate.
Palmer was at the scene on the day of the injury. “I said, ‘The fracture is bad, but it didn’t go through the skin. So I think surgery is possible.’ I thought it was my chance. “
Two months after surgery, Barbaro developed laminitis and had to have most of his hoof removed. After that he had a good few months. However, the hoof did not grow properly and another operation was required. He had a bruise on his leg, followed by more surgery. Complications further developed laminitis in two of his limbs, significantly increasing Barbaro’s suffering.
“We’ve just reached the point where it’s hard for him to live without pain,” said Roy Jackson. In the end, this extraordinary effort extended his life by only eight months.
“From a purely surgical standpoint, it was very unsatisfying that he didn’t succeed,” surgeon Dr. Dean W. Richardson said at the time. “As professionals, I think we did our best.”
The 1975 brilliant filly Raffian underwent a 12-hour operation after a bad break. When she awoke, she began to writhe in her stall, again causing a breakdown and leading to euthanasia.
If euthanasia is the only option, after sedating the horse, a barbiturate solution is administered, usually behind a screen that blocks the spectator’s view.
Recent decades have seen advances in the treatment of horses, including the development of better antibiotics, aluminum splints, and a better understanding of laminitis.
Prevention methods are also improving, and given the horse’s specialized anatomy, this may be the most promising path to progress.
After a series of horse deaths at the aqueduct in 2011 and 2012, Palmer et al. Recommendation, including improving racetracks, changing billing and purse rules, and tightening drug controls.they help reduce the number of deaths during racing come down and stay there.
Palmer has his sights set on a Fitbit-type device, a biosensor that can detect horses with gait that could cause injury before injury occurs. He said last year’s trials at Saratoga Racecourse were promising.
However, the challenge of caring for horses is likely to remain. Palmer said of the difficulty of the surgery: That’s a big challenge. “