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?