Horse Tips

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1993:

Prairie Bayou, the pre-race favorite in the
June 5 Belmont Stakes, suffered a shattered foreleg
while running 11th in the backstretch among a field of
13––an indication of exhaustion or injury––and was eutha-
nized half an hour later. Prairie Bayou placed second in
the Kentucky Derby five weeks earlier, and won the
Preakness Stakes two weeks earlier as another top-ranked
horse, Union City, collapsed and was destroyed due to
similar fractures. The loss of the horses drew attention to
the theories of several experts about horse racing injuries.
Veterinarian James Rooney of the Maxwell H. Gluck
Equine Center in Lexington, Kentucky, argued that the
back-to-back collapses of Prairie Bayou and Union City
were, “Pure bloody coincidence,” claiming that only 2%
of North American races result in fatal breakdowns––but
that would still mean the deaths of 1,600 horses a year.

Many of these deaths, Rooney told Maryjean Wall of
Knight-Ridder Newspapers, are because “racetracks are
not banked properly. Most breakdowns begin with
sesamoid problems. It’s interesting that fractured
sesamoids are virtually unheard of in Europe, where they
run mainly on the turf and often down straightaways or
around a dogleg instead of a turn.” Trainer David Cross
and veterinarian Alex Harthill agreed that the financial
pressure involved in horse racing is driving owners to send
their horses out too often. Veterinarian Calvin Kobluk of
the University of Minnesota pointed to a study he did in
1988 for the American Association of Equine Practioners.
“We were able to show that certain trainers had high injury
rates,” he told Wall. “We learned styles of training make a
difference, that lower-class horses are more susceptible to
injury, that angle of shoeing plays a role, and that spots in
the racetrack can play a role, such as going into and out of
turns, or areas where the track surface is more compact-
ed.” Kobluk also discovered that the risk of breakdown is
highest in older horses, that horses under three are most
vulnerable to fractures, and that horses in claiming
races––typically high-stress events for horses of uncertain
value––are at the highest risk. And 54% of all break-
downs, Kobluk demonstrated, occur in the homestretch
turn, where tired horses are urged to push on to the finish.
Scotland Yard, humane societies, and local
police are still seeking the culprit or culprits responsible
for a decade-long series of mutilation attacks on horses in
Great Britain, usually involving genital maiming. Crime
experts believe the attacker may be acting out a displaced
rape fantasy, involving class-based resentment of the
wealthy young women who typically are the riders of the
equine victims. More than 30 attacks have come since
1990, including some by apparent imitators of the original
attacker, who appears to be well-versed in horse behavior
and anatomy. Most of the attacks have occurred in rural
districts surrounding London, but there have also been
some in Yorkshire, along the Welsh border, the south
coast of Wales, and in Cornwall. Twenty-seven suspects
had been questioned as of June 24, but none have been
charged with any of the crimes.
The Hooved Animal Humane Society, a n
Illinois horse rescue group, held a fundraising pork chop
dinner on June 19, and avoided becoming target of a
demonstration only because local activists were already
committed to another event taking place the same day. As
the caller who alerted ANIMAL PEOPLE put it,
“Somebody should tell them that pigs have hooves, too.”
You can, at 10804 McConnell Road, Woodstock, IL
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