Monday, May 5, 2008

Speaking of horses and injuries -

Ironically, just as I'm so cautiously optimistic about Snoopy's progress, I read about the tragedy at the Derby on Saturday. Eight Belles broke both ankles and had to be euthanized. I'm not a vet by any means, but I think what she broke were her pasterns; in one article, the vet also mentioned her sesamoid bone, which is what Snoopy broke.

According to the research that Niki and I did about Snoopy's type of injury, broken pasterns and sesamoids were most common among thoroughbreds, and on their front legs. A lot of people have commented to Niki and Tina that they have had horses with these injuries, but the bone has been crushed, resulting in euthanasia.

In other words, we were lucky.

I have mixed feelings about horse racing. On the one hand, it's thrilling to watch. Having read all of the Black Stallion books as a child, I spent plenty of hours imagining myself on a speeding horse, flying around the track to victory.

On the other hand, it's just cruel. These horses are babies, for Pete's sake, they're only 3 years old. Yes, they're as big as tanks at 3, but their joints, their muscles, are all still growing. The pounding of slender hooves on the hard track takes its toll on all of them. Not to mention what some trainers will do to "get more speed" out of them. From diuretics to "make them lighter", to cattle prods to "urge them forward", don't ever think for a moment that trainers love their horses too much to hurt them.

"But they love to run," is the common response. Yes, race horses love to run. But we have bred them to love to run, the same way that we have bred certain dog breeds, like bulldogs, to love to bite things. Does that make it right?

I confess, when I was looking for a suitable stud for breeding Frostie, my mare, I studied bloodlines and temperment, so in a way, I meddled with Snoopy's birth as much as any race horse breeder. But, at the end of the day, have we really been fair to any of these animals by tampering with their family trees?

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