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Letter: Well-being of horses should be top priority

Letter: Well-being of horses should be top priority

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The Kentucky Derby is upon us. This is the day when the racing industry will attempt to put a happy face on a brutal and ugly sport. I've owned race horses in the past and have seen first hand what this industry is all about.

More than 2,000 horses are killed racing or training across America every year and hundreds more die in their stalls. If a horse actually survives racing, many are sent to slaughter. That's their reward for being kept in 12x12 stalls 23 hours a day for almost their entire lives.

Another dirty little secret of racing is that many horses are drugged or doped to mask injuries and numb pain. Some are legal, but many are not. Trainers are very skilled at masking the presence of these drugs. So now you have the perfect storm - an injured horse who feels no pain running at top speed. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and unfortunately often does.

Here are a couple of facts about the Kentucky Derby that probably won't be talked about much this week.

The 1996 Derby winner was a beautiful chestnut horse named Ferdinand. Unfortunately he was not as successful as a stallion as he was as a race horse. This poor horse ended up dead in a Japanese slaughter house.

In the 2008 Derby, the filly Eight Belles snapped both of her front legs after crossing the finish line. She was euthanized while lying there on the track.

That image is still just burned into my memory. I finally realized that I could no longer be involved with racing and still claim to be an advocate for the welfare of horses. I had to make a choice, and that choice was easy. The well-being of these magnificent animals will always be my top priority. I truly hope that many of you feel the same way.

Rick Bowman, Wise


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