I have been reading a lot of calls from Eventing and Dressage competitors for the need to get more money into these sports. I understand the desire – horses are expensive, and International transport and competition even more expensive. But, as you get more money into a sport, the competitors become commodities – just ask any professional ball player who suddenly gets traded across the country. However, while a pro-ball player chose their occupation, and still makes phenomenal money after the trade, horses are not only involuntary participants but they are highly disposable. Yes, sacrilege, I know – but you have only to look to the racing industry for proof of what happens to a horse sport that has a lot of money flying around.
This brings me to the inspiration for this post – a recent CBS sports column on the ugly side of racing.
I have known a number of people with involvement, at some level, in the racing industry. Most of those people have cared about the horses as much as you or I do about our own horses – but they are not the only people in the industry. As the columnist points out, there is a high rate of abuse and a high rate of wastage of horses. Like him, I see racing as a good idea gone bad. I have nothing against it, in principle – but I can no longer watch races as I cannot escape images of tragic breakdowns or stories of top horses who ended up in the slaughter house.
I hope that the NTRA official quoted in the column is right that the industry wants to clean up, and I hope even more that they are successful. But most of all, I wish that the Eventing and Dressage industries would wake up and take a hard look at how close they are getting to being like the racing industry – with the high rate of breakdowns and tragedies on the cross country courses, and the increasingly high rate of wastage in Dressage horses. Is the potential of Saturday Network Sports exposure really worth the price we’re already paying?
3 thoughts on “When Horses Become Commodities”
“Roughly 90% of the horses sent to slaughter are commercially and purposefully bred young healthy ‘sport horses’ produced by a business model that considers horses disposable products that should be replaced when they are three years old. In this model, money is made from stud fees, mare and foal care, and prepping young horses. Purses and prices peak at three-year old futurities. When there is no significant money to be made competing and drugs can no longer disguise their physical and mental injuries, these horses and any ‘excess’ stock are ‘discarded’, meaning sent to slaughter, and the cycle starts over.
This is bad news, not just for horses but for all reputable trainers, owners, and breeders whose efforts are marginalized. Why spend time and money training a horse properly or buying a well-trained one when you are going to kill it in a few months any way? The disposable horse paradigm is bad for the horse business. It fuels ignorance and abuse by driving down the value of mature trained horses, putting good horse people out of work, and encouraging consumers in the horse world to demand results that harm the horse. Inflated prices for and the ruthless ‘discarding’ of young stock also opens the door to criminal activity-”
from the post I wrote as I found out just how bad the sport horse business really is:
indeed, so many horses and ponies are bred with the knowledge that they might be sent to slaughter as young and healthy animals, merely because they are surplus to requirements, the wrong gender, the wrong colour…
And sadly, Dominique, even many “well meaning” breeders who don’t believe they are doing that, are still breeding without consideration for how much actual demand there is (of isn’t) for the horses already out there.