Is Horse Racing Cruel?

Among all animal sports, horse racing is probably the most glamorous in terms of image. However, there are noteworthy issues that have been brought up by animal rights activists in relation to the industry. The primary question that has been raised is simple: is horse racing cruel? Unfortunately, the answer is not as straightforward, especially when the economic and cultural value of the sport is concerned. However, there are various cruel and illegal practices in the industry that violate animal rights.

Irresponsible Drug Usage

Horses like other animals will sustain injury from time to time due to physical training or even accidents. Ideally, the race animals should rest and receive treatment before returning to their normal routine or the race track. Unfortunately, some trainers will use strong or unnecessary drugs to mask the pain of the animal and keep the horse moving. In addition, there is a notable practice of using illegal drugs such as steroidal substances to increase performance capacity. This will always lead to the decline of horse health.

Underage Racing

The age at which a horse should start racing is a major issue of discussion between animal rights activists and horse trainers. When horses start training when they are too young, they are often at a high risk of injury. Basically, the internal skeletal system is not fully developed and is still growing. Therefore, the body is not ready for the physical stress imposed, and the strain will curtail proper and healthy growth to adulthood.

Harsh Training Conditions

The training for horse racing is intense and often involves multiple regimes to achieve maximum physical output. The hard training can to painful and irreparable muscle and skeletal injuries. These include torn tendons and ligaments, fractured bones and even dislocated joints. The horses are also fed using high concentrate grains in most of the training centres. This type of food is not ideal for long-term use by horses and it has been linked to gastric ulcers in race horses. In ideal circumstances, the animals should have access to extended grazing pastures.

Mental Stress

Horses are sensitive creatures, so they will often suffer from mental stress due to their living conditions on the race track. Basically, most of the animals are individually stabled during training seasons and competitions. This is a practical and economic choice because daily transportation is time-consuming and expensive. Unfortunately, the horse will not have social or even environmental stimulation in these conditions. Therefore, the animal is likely to develop destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation and crib biting due to the stress.


When horses are no longer capable of competitive racing, they will have to retire from the race track. In ideal circumstances, these horses should be able to live a slower paced life in a farm or the general countryside. Unfortunately, this does not happen in most situations. The horses are often sold and sent to slaughterhouses and their meat is used in the production of dog food or horse meat.

All the outlined reasons are evidence that horse racing can be a cruel industry. However, the practices detailed above are not standard; each horse owner and trainer chooses how to handle their animal. One can choose to treat their horse like a commodity or a beautiful sentient creature.



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