This post is in response to the Vexing Point. prompt “The Power of Change’. This no ordinary response to a prompt however. It contains information on a subject that’s very dear to my heart – horses.
It’s funny when God comes along and decides to give you a big push to let you know that there’s something you’re not doing quite right and He’s watching so you’d better get on and fix it or else he’s going to be a source of annoyance for a very long time. That’s what happened to me tonight when this popped into my inbox, so when that happens (and it happens all the time) I usually get straight down to work. I don’t like messing with the big guy because he’s usually right (funny about that). I’ve had a particular thought going through my head, and especially this week as it was the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, an international race where people come from around the world to participate in, be they celebrities, owners, jockeys and racegoers in general.
I was born with the ability to train horses, to work with them in harmony and partnership, to call them my friends. When I was 12, I finally had the opportunity to live on a property in Toowoomba, Qld, and have my own horse which was thrilling, and what I wanted to do was dressage. Dressage comes from the French which means ‘to train’ and is considered one of the most difficult things to accomplish because the concentration and the discipline involved can be intense. To me, my horses had to be happy and relaxed in their work so to that end, I never stabled them even during competition season, mainly because horses are naturally grazers and if they stand around in a box all day, they develop ‘behavioural’ problems and I simply can’t stand to see an unhappy horse. So I’d much rather do all the extra preparatory work before a competition.
I also wouldn’t push a horse to do any more work or a higher level of dressage than I think they could handle, and I certainly would not attempt to make a young horse do either as they don’t fully develop until 5 years old, that’s when all the bones are grown, the nervous system is grown, and they can handle more work. There’s a rule in Dressage that you can’t compete in Grand Prix (think the Olympics where the horse sort of dances across an arena, not the car race).
Consider the life of the racehorse. This highly fit athlete is subjected to 23 out of 24 hours a day in a box that’s often not even big enough to swing a large moggie in. They only see the light of day when they’re exercised early in the morning out on the track, then walked to cool them down because they are such delicate creatures if you put them away without the walk, they will seize up and develop colic. Often they’re taken from their mums early, and raced when they’re 2 years old. Mares are forced to stand for stallions literally only weeks after giving birth, this acheived by altering the mare’s body clock by artificial means, and I believe I know what that forced mating would be called if it were to happen to a woman.
Horses are killed every day during a race because often they break down, and sent to a knackery instead of being given the opportunity to have an operation. That only happens to the famous horses. The Melbourne Cup has a grim and not-discussed past of horses having to be put down on the famous Flemington Racecourse itself. They will frequently break a bone in their foot or leg, and they’re often not afforded the luxury of retirement because the racehorse industry doesn’t have a retirement plan for the animals that provide them with their money. Horses like that don’t have an option, they’re referred to as ‘wastage’ which is a kinder term than ‘dog meat’.
I’ve personally bought 2 racehorses off the track so I know what they’re like when given the freedom of a paddock. They stick close to the house yard, wishing for human company, because at that point they’re more used to us than they are their own species. They stand almost unnaturally obediently to be groomed and saddled up, and sometimes they require a fair bit of retraining in the art of eating their food, because that’s one of the few pleasures they have, and can stuff down their food in odd ways. They haven’t had the privilege of grazing with other horses, which is paramount as horses are social creatures, and will live in the wild in herds with a hierachy.
The not-for-profit-charity Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses has an ingenious solution to the problems that horses face if they’re born a thoroughbred. They’re suggesting that
A 1% betting levy would result in $143 million annually being given back to racehorses, thus sharing the riches from the ‘Sport of Kings.’ – See more here
Just 1%. Surely we can effect change and save our beloved horses? It’s so important to stop the abuse and killing of theses wonderful animals that give people so much pleasure. The premises are:
- A reduction in breeding, with stallion breeding caps and improved stallion and broodmare selection
- A 1% levy on all betting turnover to raise the bulk of the funding
- A 1% levy on prizemoney to assist with raising funds
- A foal registration levy to reduce indiscriminate breeding
- A re-homing incentive scheme to encourage current owners and trainers to re-home their horses
- A rehabilitation/retraining/re-homing model to increase the popularity of thoroughbreds after their racing lives
- An immediate $10 million injection into existing racehorse re-homing organisations to increase their current capacities.
So my answer to the statement ‘If you had the power to change something you would change…’ the unnecessary death of the horses I love, the animals who have given me so much and asked for so little. I want to see themm roaming a paddock, or being ridden by someone who love them as much as I do. Let’s try and look after these beautiful, inspiring and evocative animals. As the old saying goes ‘Let a horse be a horse’.
For more information on how you can help click HERE.
Please SHARE this post to every service you can to help get the word out.
This photo is of my mother feeding my thoroughbred ex-racehorse ‘Count’ an illicit piece of licorice.