While the horse racing industry is quite popular, it has a dark side that few are fully aware of. There’s a lot of pain and suffering endured by the horses as well as the jockeys. Yet the horse racing world would prefer that fans not delve into these unsavory truths as they might not be as inclined to tune in to watch races in the future. Let’s take a look at the dirty secrets of horse racing.
In order for a horse to be competitive in a race, he has to carry as little weight as possible to boost his speed. Jockeys know that their presence on the horse is an added burden. What many fans don’t understand is that each track has stringent weight requirements. A horse’s gender, age and skill require a specific weight maximum that is determined in combination with the length of the race. Unfortunately, many jockeys take extreme measures to reduce their weight before races.
They often starve or purge themselves and deal with the accompanying eating disorders that can last for years. Others try to sweat off the pounds in saunas or steam rooms and become unnaturally skinny as a result. Some even make use of laxatives and diuretics to shed the pounds.
These jockeys know that a few pounds can be the difference between finishing out of the money and placing, showing, or winning. Some tracks have installed “heaving bowls” in jockey rooms where jockeys induce vomiting to meet weight requirements. Former jockey, Randy Romero, now awaits kidney and liver transplants as a result of his risky weight loss tactics. He vomited six times per day and has been bulimic for three decades.
Aside from damaged organs, jockeys who starve themselves can also suffer from blood disorders, muscle weakness, abnormal hearth rhythms, osteoporosis, and ruptured esophaguses. Most horse racing fans don’t realize that jockeys are independent contractors and don’t have health insurance. It’s usually too expensive.
These 110 pound men ride 1,200 pound horses at speeds up to 40 mph and risk trampling. As noted above, many compromise their health just to make the weight requirement of each track. The nasty truth is that every race has the potential to end in an injury that causes a jockey’s personal bankruptcy.
Another dark secret of the horse racing industry is the poor treatment of horses. In the 1980s, jockeys began applying lasix to their horses to stop the internal bleeding that occurs as a result of racing stress. Industry experts believe that 9 in 10 jockeys applies lasix even though many horses don’t suffer from internal bleeding. While lasix is legal, it is thought to be the cause of many injuries.
Horses need time to recuperate after taking the drug as it takes a toll on the body. Many have developed injuries as a result of taking it and most experts believe that today’s horses compete in fewer races because of the strain that lasix puts on their systems.
When horses are injured and no longer able to compete. While this might prevent prolonged pain and suffering caused by debilitating injuries, some horses are slaughtered for human consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined that in 2003, 50,000 horses sold for human consumption in other countries. 30,000 more were sent to Canada and 1,000 were sent to Mexico to be slaughtered. While Americans haven’t warmed up to horse meat, it is considered to be a delicacy in parts of Belgium, France, Japan and Italy.