Equine deaths are becoming an increasingly visible part of horseracing due to high-profile mid-race injuries that occurred during this year’s Melbourne Cup, but Wagga horsing experts believe this is only one side of the story.
News of the Irish horse Cliffsofmoher that was euthanised shortly after the race due to a fractured right shoulder, landed the industry in hot waters.
A Wagga horse-lover Ellie Sales, 21, argued that horse racing should not be banned, but there are other welfare concerns in the industry that warrant consideration.
“The welfare standards for horse racing needs to improve and reduce the amount of wastage and improve the safety for riders and horses, which is easier said than done,” she said.
“There’s a lot of horses that are bred for horse racing and only a small number are successful and because of that many horses are just wasted.
“While some are re-homed and trained for another purpose, many horses are deserted or killed for meat.”
Ms Sales argued that when it comes to animal welfare many people hold “extreme views” either for or against.
“I don’t think that horse racing is necessarily cruel and I don’t think it should be banned either, but when it comes to horses I don’t think a lot of these views are accurate, but rather emotional and not informed,” she said.
“The horse racing industry is definitely in the spotlight and something needs to be done to keep everybody happy.”
The Murrumbidgee Turf Club is Wagga’s major horse racing stakeholder and its chief executive Scott Sanbrook said horse and jockey welfare are the main priorities in horse racing.
“It’s so disappointing to what happened to Cliffsofmoher and racing horses are extremely looked after and treated like family,” Mr Sanbrook said.
“It’s really heartbreaking for the owners and trainer and when these events do happen, horse and jokey welfare are the biggest priorities in horse racing and there are many steps put in place, like overseen by stewards.”
Mr Sanbrook said the Wagga horse racing industry plays a huge role in the community.
“There are so many benefits that derive from the industry, including millions of dollars being injected into the business and tourism sectors,” he said.
“There’s also huge employment opportunities that are provided.
“I want to stress that the horses are so well cared for and we want to make sure their welfare and the jockey’s are the biggest priorities.”
Charles Sturt University’s Dr Rachel Hogg, also a horse lover, said a number of arguments have been raised since the Cliffsofmoher’s death, “overshadowing the usual spectacle of entertainment” and fashion.
“There are multiple issues at stake, including the wastage of horses that are bred to race but have short, unsuccessful careers and are consequently disposed of and whips in horse racing is another contentious issue that has not been resolved,” Dr Hogg said.
Dr Hogg argued that the common defence of the racing industry that racehorses are loved by their trainers and owners and are often better cared for than non-race horses is “highly problematic”.
“The problem here is the obvious selectivity of compassion that is shown to racehorses – successful racehorses have very different trajectories to unsuccessful racehorses because quite simply it is productivity that drives the racing industry,” she said.
“Those with the most emotional attachment to the horse, typically those who interact regularly with the animal, such as track riders, jockeys, grooms and trainers, are rarely those with the most power and thus even successful racehorses are not guaranteed care or protection from a system oriented around profit in which animal welfare is critical insofar as it facilitates profit, much less so when it does not.”