In a shocking series of events, around eleven horses had to be put down in a race event in Saratoga. This race is now being investigated by state law enforcement, with the death toll for the past two years set at 19.
A commission is being put together to determine the cause of these deaths, along with recommendations for improving the safety conditions for competing horses. Medical officials believe that conditions are better than they were ten or fifteen years ago, but more can be done. Injuries need to be reduced and the amount of drugs given to horses must be drastically reduced.
Six of the eleven deaths took place in race conditions, while five died during training. The biggest reason for these deaths is that horses are over trained and over raced. Jockeys and owners are looking to make as much money as possible, which means a lot of racing and intense training. If a horse is struggling with an injury, they are pumped with drugs and sent back out.
This is still not the worst case involving horse racing. In 2012, there was an event in Queens, New York where 20 horses died under various circumstances. In Saratoga, most of the eleven deaths involved fractures to the lower leg of a horse. There were also cervical injuries and damage to the lumbar spine in a couple of cases. When horses are damaged that badly euthanizing them is the only humane option.
There are those in the horse racing community who chalk these deaths up to accidents and coincidence. They do not see a reason to change things in the sport. However, ten or more horses dying at a single event is cause for concern to authorities, and the commission’s verdict is expected in the coming months. Whether horse jockeys and owners will comply with those findings is another matter.
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