Everything at Stake: When Horse Racing Goes Wrong

Horse racing tends to conjure images of fancy days out at the races, where everyone has the chance to get a little dressed up. There is a certain prestige and elegance surrounding this sport that attracts people from all walks of life. Yet the reality for the racehorses who are pushed to their limits and often have their lives put at risk is quite different.

The Grand National is one such horse race that attracts both thousands of spectators and ample criticism. 2019′s event saw the death of three horses — most notably Up For Review, who landed on his neck after jumping the first 30-foot fence and died, convulsing on live TV, the Independent reports.

Viewers were horrified to watch this poor horse’s final moments. And #Youbettheydie immediately began trending on Twitter, with many vowing to boycott all future Grand Nationals for its cruelty.

The British Horseracing Authority attempted to assure viewers that Up For Review’s death would have been instantaneous. Yet Animal Aid’s racing consultant Dene Stansall had a different view. “Up For Review’s death wouldn’t have been instant — it would have taken a few seconds, maybe up to two minutes,” Stansall told the Independent. “The initial pain would have been great.”

Despite the public response, the British Horseracing Authority decided not to conduct a review of the event. “It is obviously sad when we lose any horse, but it is important to note that the Grand National Festival, and the big race itself, have a very strong recent record since the measured changes implemented by the course and the BHA following the review in 2011,” British Horseracing Authority Chief Executive Nick Rust told Sky Sports News.

And this wasn’t the only recent example of the British Horseracing Authority’s inaction as horses suffered.

In March 2019, the Cheltenham Festival faced criticism when four horses fell and needed emergency veterinary attention. Thankfully three recovered within minutes, but a horse named Ballyward had to be euthanized on the spot. Three jockeys were suspended for animal cruelty for continuing to race “when it appeared to be contrary to the horse’s welfare,” according to The Guardian. Again, the British Horseracing Authority’s review panel failed to see the need for changes — noting only that falls were on a decline.

This feels very much like the value of human entertainment is placed far higher than the safety of these horses.

Animal Aid found almost 40 percent of racehorse fatalities were due to broken bones, fatal spinal injuries, heart attacks or burst blood vessels. And according to the League Against Cruel Sports, British Horseracing Authority data showed that between 2010 and 2015 an average 193 horses per year died due to racing. But this figure doesn’t even include horse deaths from incidents during training or elective euthanasia following a race or training-related injury.

It is astonishing that this could be seen as an acceptable figure from an equestrian organization purporting to care for horses.

Perhaps even more horrific is the way horses are bred to go into this fatal industry. According to Animal Aid, a stallion might be expected to cover three mares a day over the six-month breeding period — while living a life almost in total isolation when not breeding to minimize risk of injury. Mares in the wild might have one foal every two years, but those bred for racehorses are pregnant every year. A horse pregnancy is 11 months. This is a barbaric way to treat a horse purely for future profit.

Horse racing attracts a glamorous crowd who might be oblivious to the cruelty of the sport. Please consider learning more about the treatment of racehorses, and boycott these barbaric races that put the lives of horses at risk purely for our entertainment.

Photo credit: quentinjlang/Getty Images


Nicky H
Nicky H16 hours ago

Horse racing is among the best paid and wealthy businesses. The horse owners, the jockeys and all the rich people who bet on the horses are richer than the sea is deep. I would prefer that horse racings wld be banned totally, but with all the money involved, this will never happen. Then why not solve the problem of injured or old horses in another way. To dispose of your toy when it is broken is a far too easy and DISGUSTING way., but it's CHEAP. Is this horse not worth more than a tin of dogmeat?? Why should an organization not start raising funds for disabled and old animals. Each horse owner, each Jockey and each lucky guy who won a small fortune by betting on the 3 first animals should give a certain percentage of the profits to an independent organization who then, in turn, divide the money under several people for opening and maintaining sanctuaries for horses who can no longer perform. Now they are exploited to the maximum, are injected with drugs to help them run and win the race if possible... Then you sometimes see the owners with tears in their eyes saying farewell to their "beloved" moneymaker when he is brought to the slaughterhouse. Don't make me puke !!

Nicky Heindryckx
Nicky H16 hours ago

I hate horse racings. Reall HATE it. These animals are pushed to their limits, again and again, every day. When there is no racing, there is a whole day of training, and here it's just the same. Hard to believe sometimes no more victims drop dead or break their legs!! In Belgium, we have a sanctuary where some horses are taken in, because their performances are insufficient, and they have to leave the stables. Either someone is willing to buy them for a few hundred euro's, or they are taken to the slaughterhouse (for dogmeat) and some were brought to this sanctuary. It all were poor devils, limping and with clearly visible back injuries. Now they had no luxury stables but were grazing together with their mates in the open air. In the winter they either slept in their stables or remained there when the weather was too bad or too cold. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there was only ONE such sanctuary, run by an elderly lady. When she died, nobody was willing to take it over, and the doors were closed. Do not know what happened to the horses and burros. But this is the other side of the glamorous world of horse racing !!! SCANDALOUS!!

Jan S
Jan S2 days ago

thanks for sharing

Shae Lee
Shae L3 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn4 days ago


Sherri S
Sherri S4 days ago

Horse racing is a brutal, cruel industry for the horses and needs to be stopped once and for all.

Danuta W
Danuta W4 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Karen N
Karen N4 days ago

Regarding the comment of Sharon F and the transport of horses many miles for a race. Recently a race horse in Lincolnshire was killed in a road accident while travelling home after having raced at Market Rasen. Quote from article . . . "Everyone at the yard and his owners are distraught as Rockwood had won six races for us." . . . Obviously had he NOT won six races, then they would not have been so bothered about his death. The following is a link to the article . . .


Shame Rockwood cannot be added to Animal Aid's Race Horse Death Watch List


Stephanie G
Stephanie G5 days ago

Horse racing (and in particular the Grand National) will NEVER end - there is far too much money to be made by greedy owners, bookies, gamblers, TV channels, etc, through the suffering and deaths of the horses. I also doubt that the deaths of jockeys during the race will ever cause the GN (or horseracing in general) to be stopped permanently. Unfortunately, money always rules, and viewers have short memories.

Alice L
Alice L5 days ago