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I can't believe Eight Belles is dead!

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
I'm not very knowledgeable about horses or horse racing, but I've always enjoyed watching the derby.

I was so excited to hear she took second and now so saddened that she had to be euthanized.

Does anyone know how she broke both front ankles? did it happen right when she went down or did she run on the fractures? They didn't give much coverage after they announced her death.

What a sad day.

~Julia
post #2 of 30
Well, I don't know what happened in this case, but it wouldn't have to take running on fractures to make her unhealable. Fractures are extremely hard to heal well enough to give the horse any quality of life. It becomes a weight baring issue. You can sling a horse and give them several weeks to get the healing process under way, and then allow the horse to decide how much weight to bare, when, etc.

But with double fractures it would mean completely elevating the horse until the healing process is 100% complete, which poses problems. Horses are not designed to be immobile, and periods of decreased activity with the weight of their body on their internal organs, even in a sling, can be very, very dangerous. We're talking 6 months of a horse being suspended in the air, so if the legs actually showed signs of healing enough to allow the horse a relatively pain free existence on the ground, you'd have to make sure their organs didn't begin to fail while being slung. Horses sleep on their feet for a reason - their body can't handle the weight of itself compressing on its organs, and the sling causes major pressure points.

And with the gut being compressed the chances of colic go up astronomically, so you have to feed a very specialized diet, and the horse usually ends up with a major decrease in body fat and muscle mass to the point where they are supplemented intravenously. They are basically only fed enough roughage to keep their intestine moving (a horse being "empty" is extremely dangerous), the rest is intravenous nutrition.

It's extremely difficult and risky to do this kind of rehab (double fractures) on a horse. I've seen many trainers and owners try it, because everyone once in a while the breaks aren't as bad as everyone first thought, but 9 times out 10 it ends up in euthanasia.
post #3 of 30
I am proud of her, and sad for her, but I'm glad they put her down so fast once they realized what was wrong.

I hate racing days that end like this though. I'm glad I wasn't at the track this year. Poor sweet filly.
post #4 of 30
I know I can't believe she is dead, either. What a beautiful horse she was, and what a race she ran today. To come in second and then poof, she is gone. I couldn't believe it. At least she isn't in pain.
post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
Well, I don't know what happened in this case, but it wouldn't have to take running on fractures to make her unhealable. Fractures are extremely hard to heal well enough to give the horse any quality of life. It becomes a weight baring issue. You can sling a horse and give them several weeks to get the healing process under way, and then allow the horse to decide how much weight to bare, when, etc.

But with double fractures it would mean completely elevating the horse until the healing process is 100% complete, which poses problems. Horses are not designed to be immobile, and periods of decreased activity with the weight of their body on their internal organs, even in a sling, can be very, very dangerous. We're talking 6 months of a horse being suspended in the air, so if the legs actually showed signs of healing enough to allow the horse a relatively pain free existence on the ground, you'd have to make sure their organs didn't begin to fail while being slung. Horses sleep on their feet for a reason - their body can't handle the weight of itself compressing on its organs, and the sling causes major pressure points.

And with the gut being compressed the chances of colic go up astronomically, so you have to feed a very specialized diet, and the horse usually ends up with a major decrease in body fat and muscle mass to the point where they are supplemented intravenously. They are basically only fed enough roughage to keep their intestine moving (a horse being "empty" is extremely dangerous), the rest is intravenous nutrition.

It's extremely difficult and risky to do this kind of rehab (double fractures) on a horse. I've seen many trainers and owners try it, because everyone once in a while the breaks aren't as bad as everyone first thought, but 9 times out 10 it ends up in euthanasia.

Wow, I've never posted here before - I feel like a stranger in a strange land - but wanted to thank you for this - I suspected something like this but didn't know the details. Thanks!
post #6 of 30
ya thats what they get for racing a baby, especially such a big one :

The racing industry needs to set an age limit. Some of these race horses are backed as young as 8 months old. EIGHT MONTHS: so that they can be racing ready by 1.5 - 2yrs. No wonder so many break down.
post #7 of 30
This story was so sad. It made me cry.
post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by BunnySlippers View Post
ya thats what they get for racing a baby, especially such a big one :

The racing industry needs to set an age limit. Some of these race horses are backed as young as 8 months old. EIGHT: No wonder so many break down.
I agree about new age legislation. However, backing 8 month olds is really a stretch, and is not the norm. The problem with racing the 2 years old is that in the racing industry the 1st of the year becomes their birthday, which can make 2 year actually as much as 3, 4, or even 5 months younger then 2. Developmentally speaking, that's a lot.

For example, horses foaled in April or May of this year will be considered yearlings on the 1st of January 2009 when they are only 9 months old. By January of 2010, when they are only 20/21/22 months old, they are being shipped to the track to go into training, having probably already been backed (at as young as 18 months old, though realistically, heavy training doesn't typically start then).

In terms of racing of 2 year olds, trainers often try to pick horses foaled early in the season, sometimes as early as late December, which makes them long 2 year olds. This is ideal, though obviously not always the case.

I don't know the actual foaling date of Eight Belles, or any of the story actually. But I whole heartedly agree that the racing world needs new age regulations.

There is some legitimacy to the idea that stressing immature bones can cause them to become denser as the horse matures, making it important to at least start training sooner rather then later, but the problem with this is that determining the horse's capabilities lies completely in the hands of the person interpreting the horse (either the trainer or rider). That's where we run into problems. Some people actually have the welfare of the horse in mind, and others only have winning in mind. Since we obviously can't trust people to acknowledge that the horse is not capable of certain training (either too early, or too hard) then we need to set some ground rules that in the long run will hopefully benefit the horse. This goes for age legislation, and pre race testing and inspection.

Most of the emphasis for testing now is for when the animal wins, not during the breaking process, pre training, or even for less important races. I wish the racing industry insisted on a standard level of care for the entire life of the horse, not just for when it wins a race.

I don't know what the answer is, to you the truth. (Well, I do, but we're a while away from the banning of racing.) I just think that if people had to account for the health of the animal and the environment it's raised in from the day it's born, we'd see a lot less stories like this one.

I've seen some pretty rotten things in the racing industry, but unfortunately nobody cathes it in time. Some tracks are adopting random testing and vet inspections, which I think is a step in the right direction, but they don't give a hoot what happens at the farm before the horse comes to the track, and that's where the really critical treatment happens (ie; the actual breaking and pre training process).
post #9 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BunnySlippers View Post
ya thats what they get for racing a baby, especially such a big one :

The racing industry needs to set an age limit. Some of these race horses are backed as young as 8 months old. EIGHT MONTHS: so that they can be racing ready by 1.5 - 2yrs. No wonder so many break down.
I'm curious about this. I've read before that many think 3 is too young to race horse this far.

I know horses take longer to mature, when would a horse be considered full grown? And why are they raced at 3 yrs? And are there races with all different ages of horse or can only the same age race together.

Sorry for all the questions! I'm curious! :
post #10 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlutgendorf View Post
I'm curious about this. I've read before that many think 3 is too young to race horse this far.
I personally don't think a horse should be raced before 4, that would mean the horse goes into training at 3. I don't even put a saddle on my horses until they are well into their 2nd year, and don't attempt getting on until they're in their 3rd year.

As I mentioned before, putting horses into light work before their legs are mature and their knees are closed *can* cause their legs to become denser had you have waited for structural maturity. HOWEVER, doing this correctly, and with the horse's development as the top priority, is really hard. It requires very closely monitored vetting (x-rays, ultrasounds, etc). It requires the trainer to be VERY aware of the horse and how it moves. It requires the rider to be VERY aware of the same things, plus the ability to pick up on differences while the horse is in motion before break down happens. It takes a very experienced horse person to pull the horse up BEFORE a serious injury. And anyone who has ever had a horse, race horse or not, can attest to this. Heck, it's even happened to me, when all of a sudden I feel a noticeable limp. Chances are, that could have been picked up if you were looking for it and knew how to spot it. The problem is that not all, if many, trainers/riders know what they're looking for.

Industry standards say that early training and racing is fine, when in truth it's only Ok for a few amount of horses. Very few.

Quote:
I know horses take longer to mature, when would a horse be considered full grown?
Depends on the breed, but "full grown" is such a subjective term. Some breeds are sexually mature at just over year, while not skeletally mature until 3 or 4. And every horse is different, even with in it owns blood lines.

It's telling that in most other disciplines you see the best horses much later in life. You won't find a grand prix dressage horse that is under 10.

Quote:
And why are they raced at 3 yrs?
You want my honest answer? Because horses are expennnnnnnnnnnnnsive. It costs a lot to raise a horse until the day it races. The majority of race horses do not win and do not make money. If they don't win, they leave the track. A lot of horses never make it out of training, and never get to see the starting gates. If an owner/trainer sat on that horse until it was 4 to find out that it can't win, or shouldn't be raced, it would almost not be worth it in the first place.

A dressage horse, however, is not a money making conglomerate. A few few horsemen outside of racing make enough to call it a career, and it takes years upon years upon years of winning with various horses to make it to that level (which is usually sponsorship and endorsement deals).

Race horses, in comparison, are a churn and burn industry. Get them in, race them, get them out, bring in the new ones. That's how you make money. No one would make money sitting on a horse till it was 3, 4, or 5.
post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post

I don't know what the answer is, to you the truth. (Well, I do, but we're a while away from the banning of racing.)
I don't have any great love for racing, but I'd be reluctant to see it banned. Not only would hundreds of thousands of horses then be abandoned or euthanized, you'd open the door to banning virtually all competitive horsemanship, from endurance (which is also a race, though it's common for 20+-year-olds to win them) to show jumping (also timed) and cross-country.

There aren't easy answers to this. The vast majority of TBs either never make it to the track or wash out (slowness or injury) before they get to the elite level. That means that you're in effect breaking 99 cups to keep 1. But without the 99, the 1 would not exist, and without the 1, there's no point in breeding TBs or Standardbreds. Good breeders and good trainers care for the 99, have placement programs, give away a lot of horses. Bad breeders and bad trainers don't really care, and so a lot of horses suffer.

And even the "1"s sometimes get lost--good grief, poor Ferdinand.
post #12 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks North! (we cross posted).

So could you liken horse racing to greyhound racing? Using a sheer volume of animals as you *should* then get a few winners?

~Julia
post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by thekimballs View Post
I don't have any great love for racing, but I'd be reluctant to see it banned.
Me too, actually. Like I said, we're a ways off from that. ETA: And if that does happen, it could very well change the breed purpose and standard completely. Though unfortunately in our society, I can see it happening if gambling remains a priority over a mere animal. It's also the only horse sport in North America that supports a gambling industry. I mean, we placed bets at the Olympics to see which country would take the gold in dressage, but by and large, you have to play numbers to make money when you're gambling, which is how the racing industry functions. Churn and burn. The more horses in the barn in training, the more chances of making it to the races, the more chances at winning. This happens in the span of a year or two, compared to 7, 8, 10, 12 years in other sports.

I am not against racing horses by any means (TB's SB's or QH's), I'm just against the industry that is has become. It is by far the most corrupt horse sport I've ever been involved in, and I largely attribute that to the gambling and the need to make money quickly. There isn't really another equine sport that is so deeply dependent on gambling.

Even Olympic level athletes will tell you it they're in it for the passion of the sport and not the opportunity to make money. There just isn't money in any other other sport. A lot of the Olympic level athletes joke among themselves that they're in one of the very few sports where you have to PLAY to play the game.

On a certain level this is true with TB's, but if you play the numbers enough you'll eventually win. This leaves more room for error, poor breeding, poor ethics, etc, because if a horse break downs on the first race, just bring a new one in. If a dressage horse breaks down it could mean 12 years of intensive training and HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars down the drain (possibly even millions, which is hard to compare to an 18 month old horse in training at the track).

There is more to loose when you are working with smaller numbers (of horses) and investing more time into training, and more money into the over all day to day costs of keeping a horse.

If the racing industry went back to being about the passion of the sport, and not about profit, it would take the pressure off starting horses too young, and being less diligent about quality in favor of quantity.
post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
I agree about new age legislation. However, backing 8 month olds is really a stretch, and is not the norm. ).
uh no its not a stretch. I come from a racing back ground, I know what goes on.
post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by BunnySlippers View Post
uh no its not a stretch. I come from a racing back ground, I know what goes on.
I have a racing back ground, too. Maybe it's regional?

I know it happens, I've seen it, but it's not the norm where I come from. It's pretty frowned upon from our local racing community.
post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by thekimballs View Post
I don't have any great love for racing, but I'd be reluctant to see it banned. Not only would hundreds of thousands of horses then be abandoned or euthanized, you'd open the door to banning virtually all competitive horsemanship, from endurance (which is also a race, though it's common for 20+-year-olds to win them) to show jumping (also timed) and cross-country.

There aren't easy answers to this. The vast majority of TBs either never make it to the track or wash out (slowness or injury) before they get to the elite level. That means that you're in effect breaking 99 cups to keep 1. But without the 99, the 1 would not exist, and without the 1, there's no point in breeding TBs or Standardbreds. Good breeders and good trainers care for the 99, have placement programs, give away a lot of horses. Bad breeders and bad trainers don't really care, and so a lot of horses suffer.

And even the "1"s sometimes get lost--good grief, poor Ferdinand.

I would like to comment on this--I have been in greyhound rescue for many years. Not quite the same, but some of the same issues.
For one thing, if racing were shut down, yes, there would be a national panic as all of these tens of thousands of dogs would be put down. But then the upside would be--after the initial damage is done--wouldn't it be better in the long run as people got out of greyhound racing and into whatever else there is to get into? I mean, think of how many dogs would not have to be born so suffer needlessly?
I think it would be tragic initially, but in the long run, it would be better. And I've had a lot of greyhounds over the years--all died from old age or cancer.
And I've seen races and attended national rescue meetings.
Again, this might be different than the horse industry--but I think in the long run, the horses (and dogs) would all be better off.

Regardless, I totally agree with the age limit on racing. My SIL has horses--but they are working horses--and she said the very same thing.
To have that poor horse lose her life as a baby, really, is just unfair and senseless.
post #17 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by GranoLLLy-girl View Post
I would like to comment on this--I have been in greyhound rescue for many years. Not quite the same, but some of the same issues.
For one thing, if racing were shut down, yes, there would be a national panic as all of these tens of thousands of dogs would be put down. But then the upside would be--after the initial damage is done--wouldn't it be better in the long run as people got out of greyhound racing and into whatever else there is to get into? I mean, think of how many dogs would not have to be born so suffer needlessly?
I think it would be tragic initially, but in the long run, it would be better. .
I would support this if I thought that the greyhound racing industry was systematically bad for greyhounds--if it was, for example, an industry that slaughtered greys. As it is, there's no doubt that abuse exists, but the majority of greyhound trainers and owners love their dogs and, while they're not house pets, the dogs live a reasonable life.

If we banned greyhound racing, not only would thousands of well-cared-for greys die, we'd have opened the door to banning all performance sports for dogs (which is what several of the anti-racing groups would like). I'm not willing to go that direction because abuse exists; I'd rather strengthen the penalties for abuse.
post #18 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
I have a racing back ground, too. Maybe it's regional?

I know it happens, I've seen it, but it's not the norm where I come from. It's pretty frowned upon from our local racing community.
well thats nice to know its not everywhere, I find it so depressing.
post #19 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by BunnySlippers View Post
well thats nice to know its not everywhere, I find it so depressing.
Indeed. It's just one of many reasons I am now out of the horse industry (in its entirety) by choice. Next time I step foot in a barn it will be to see my own privately owned pleasure horses.
post #20 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thekimballs View Post
I would support this if I thought that the greyhound racing industry was systematically bad for greyhounds--if it was, for example, an industry that slaughtered greys. As it is, there's no doubt that abuse exists, but the majority of greyhound trainers and owners love their dogs and, while they're not house pets, the dogs live a reasonable life.

If we banned greyhound racing, not only would thousands of well-cared-for greys die, we'd have opened the door to banning all performance sports for dogs (which is what several of the anti-racing groups would like). I'm not willing to go that direction because abuse exists; I'd rather strengthen the penalties for abuse.
Have there been big reforms since all the greyhound scandal in the early 90s (I think, i was in 5th grade at the time, it's hard to remember!)? Or was that all over hyped media clips?

I just remember them uncovering huge mass graves of greyhounds. I did some sort of class report on it, but I can't remember specifics, just that there were a lot of dead dogs on the news.

All the reports I saw plus my aunt and uncle's adopted grey (who was wonderful. and HUGE) have made me want to adopt a greyhound one day.

~Julia
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