Racehorse deaths

Do a quick Google search today using the terms ‘Melbourne Cup racehorse death’, and you’ll be flooded with hits relating to the sudden post-race deaths of Admire Rakti, the favourite, and Araldo, who placed seventh.

Lateline last night aired footage they obtained showing Admire Rakti’s actual collapse. They warn that the footage may be distressing, however for me the most distressing part was the attendant who is seen trying to brutally jerk the horse back to his feet. I’m sure this action would be deplored by all horse lovers, regardless of their personal stance on horse racing.

Araldo had to be euthanased last night, after he was spooked by a child waving a flag on the way back to his stall. The horse apparently leapt at a fence, breaking either his cannon bone or pastern (news reports differ). Many are quick to point out that this is the second year in a row that a horse has died in relation to the Melbourne Cup, after Verema broke her leg in the middle of the 2013 race and had to be immediately put down.

Interestingly, Araldo’s trainer is quoted as saying, “They’ve run 150 Melbourne Cups and nothing like that has happened before”.[1] Perhaps he’s referring to the specific incident of a horse being spooked and injuring itself so catastrophically, in which case he may well be right, however in the very first Melbourne Cup three horses in the seventeen-strong field fell, and two of them suffered fatal injuries, so this sort of thing is not unheard-of. Injuries were suffered by both the horses and the jockeys involved in the fall, though the horses certainly came off the worst  – the mare Medora broke three of her legs, and Despatch broke her spine. The third mare involved, Twilight, was uninjured, though her rider broke his collarbone. [2]

Criticism of the racing industry is starting to go mainstream, which is an interesting development. Yesterday’s events do seem to vindicate the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses and the recent controversy over their ‘Is the party really worth it?’ billboard. It looks as though it will be more and more difficult for the industry to dismiss anti-racing sentiment as solely belonging to cranks and a small number of animal liberationists, and it will be interesting to see how it responds.

From the period 1 August 2013 until 31 July 2014, 125 racehorses died in Australia, as a direct result of their participation in a race. As this news.com.au article points out, both pro and anti-racing advocates share a fundamental love of horses, however there are many issues that both sides disagree on. One of these, I have to point out, is the stance taken by the article itself, which is that ‘these horses are here for a purpose and that purpose is to run.’ [3] Personally, I think this assumption is highly debatable, and I wrote a post questioning some of our fundamentally anthropocentric presumptions concerning horses back in April.

I do not think the conversation between those opposed to racing and those invested in the industry will be easy, however yesterday’s events seem to dictate that it is now a dialogue that must be had.


[1] Patrick Bartley and Rania Spooner, “Two horses, including favourite, die soon after Melbourne Cup”, smh.com.au, accessed 5 November 2014 http://www.smh.com.au/national/two-horses-including-favourite-die-soon-after-melbourne-cup-20141104-11gv58.html#ixzz3I9E5hdno
[2] “Victoria Turf Club Spring Meeting”, The Argus Friday 8 November 1861, p. 5.
[3] “Melbourne Cup 2014: Racing industry and animal welfare share love of horses’, news.com.au, accessed 5 November 2014 http://www.news.com.au/sport/superracing/melbourne-cup-2014-racing-industry-and-animal-welfare-share-love-of-horses/story-fndpqu3p-1227113216040

4 thoughts on “Racehorse deaths

  1. I think it’s very harsh to race 2 and 3 year olds, ie put the to the stress of doing their best – busting a gut – which of course they do, being not terribly clever and wanting to please/obey. This push to start early is happening with humans too, where we see champions of several sports at early ages. Perhaps gymnastics is the worst, but at least with humans there is a choice. Not so with horses.

  2. Hope you are able to make a comment on the Conversation article today that seems to be downplaying this type of incident.

    • Hi Wendy, Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting that that article aims to, as you say, downplay the incident, when I think the greater shock to the public has not been the specificity of that one death (which the article you mention emphasises), but the general fact of racehorse death altogether – two deaths at one Cup, immediately following Verema’s death in the 2013 race. It remains to be seen how the situation plays out, and what the long-term ramifications of Tuesday’s events might be!

  3. Pingback: “Everyone else can get stuffed”: why a female jockey winning the Melbourne Cup might herald deeper change | horsesfordiscourses

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