It’s been a long week, yet I haven’t even been on here to update. So this will be a bit disjointed – my apologies in advance!
While there has been plenty of stuff going on at CANTER – highs and lows, the fun of new horses and the heartbreak of losing old friends, saying goodbyes and saying hellos, the biggest news this week revolves around the Grayson-Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, held last Monday and Tuesday at Keeneland. Allie was invited to speak on the panel focused on retirement and rehoming.
Also on that panel were representatives from Turning for Home, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Second Stride, and the Kentucky Equine Humane Center. For the panel discussion, each group talked a little bit about their approach and differences from each other, and also about the issues that are most vital as far as rehoming horses. Coming on the heels of several panels that discussed recent safety studies and health studies, the number one thing I took away from all this is that everything is inter-related. Track surfaces, drug rules (especially in regard to joint injections), and various other race-safety issues are directly related to the job that WE do. Every innovation that the racing world comes up with to keep its athletes safer is one that also makes our job easier.
The second day, the panels, plus additional experts and representatives from industry groups, convened in small workgroups to come up with some ideas and goals for the next year that should, hopefully, make things better. Several very interesting things came out of this, including creating standard veterinary guidelines (through the AAEP) specifically related to race injuries – as to what horses are good rehab prospects and which ones are not, and for which situations euthanasia might be recommended. This sounds simple, but a codified and objective set of guidelines could really help, not only in terms of horses being sent to rescues, but in terms of owner education. Some other great ideas came up that will hopefully lead to better owner education and horses finding appropriate second careers when they are retired.
We also got the chance to meet some great people – trainers, people involved in track management, veterinarians doing some really, really cool research (particularly in the areas of precursor signs of major impending injury and in measuring the impact of different track surfaces), and I got to meet Fran Jurga of the Hoof Blog *grin*
What the main point is, here, is that racing seems to be making some sort of effort to really make racing safer and better.
What’s harder to see is if some racing management types really understand how important safety and welfare are not just to the horses, out of ethical concerns, but to the survival of the sport itself. Sometimes I’m not sure they all understand that every time a horse gets hurt, every time one ends up in a killpen, every time one comes off the track with ankles so damaged they’re not capable of being ridden, it effects their bottom line. Racing is dying – it is becoming increasingly irrelevent to the vast majority of people in this country, and the perception that it’s somehow cruel tends to keep people from getting seriously interested. The very group of people who should be most interested in racing – horse people – seem the most likely (from my anecdotal experience) to have a poor opinion of it. Probably because they are connected to the icky side of the industry – they know people who got injured horses, they found horses in the kill pen or know people who did, or they saw a horse breakdown and could never go back.
I stumbled onto this quote on tbfriends yesterday:
From Cassie, age 11…., Logan, Utah: “Horse racing makes me so mad. Keep saving those thoroughbreds.”
In reading other blogs the last few days I’ve seen lots of comments about a few bad situations driving people away from racing, but that short little line really caught my attention. When I was 11, I was still reading Walter Farley books, and dreaming of becoming a jockey (shame I grew a bit tall, and my love of food gets in the way of being 110 pounds…). I watched horse racing as often as I could on TV, and there was a CT lottery tie in where you would buy a lotto ticket, then if your numbers matched the numbers of the horses that won in four specific races that day, you won money (and of course they actually SHOWED the races). I watched every big day of racing, including The Breeder’s Cup, with my grandfather, who remembering Native Dancer always said to “bet on the grey.”
What’s the difference between the younger me, and little Cassie? A little knowledge. A little awareness. And with modern media, the fact that all this stuff has nowhere to HIDE means little Cassie, someone who might have been a racing fan in another day and age, is growing up despising it.
I think some people in racing don’t really fully grasp that problem. They may not all be committed to safety and welfare beyond the lip service it takes to get us crazy rescue people off their back. I’m hoping that the other folks, who are committed to those things and do understand that the future of the sport depends on it continue to make headway -the summit is encouraging that way, at least 🙂
Anyway, sorry for rambling. I’ve had a long week (let’s just say I’m not the world’s best traveller and need to put any thoughts of going on The Amazing Race out of my head right now!) and it is difficult to put my thoughts together. In any case, more coherent information on the actual outcome of the summit should be coming soon, when I can get it together. There are press releases and some summaries available on their website though, including video of the different panels, where you can learn about the research going on, some findings of ongoing studies (for instance – does racing at 2 cause more injuries? It appears not, when you look at the actual numbers…).
In the meantime – yes, Mikey is still here and doing well 🙂 He has made friends with his pasturemates (and this morning I spied an incredibly innapropriate grooming session going on!) and is learning about the workings of a big boarding farm. He was unsure about the indoor at first, but I think has had some more opportunity to check it out. I’m waiting to really do much until we have his teeth done this coming week, but did hop on him on Saturday (bareback, with a sidepull), just to see what he felt like. He’s not so into the forward motion, but very comfortable bareback!
Our steering was pretty poor, especially as he hates things touching his face. I often found myself just grabbing mane and letting him choose his own path at the trot, but he seems pretty confused by the whole idea of “work” and let me know by trying to pull his head down and stop.
Oh Mikey. We’re going to have so much fun together….
Till next week! (and oh, what a weekend it will be… I drowned my phone and have no idea if it will recover… this is making me a littttle angsty!)