Horse abuse is rife in the race horse industry. Many thousands of horses are produced annually in order to generate a few fast ones to compete in horse racing. Very few of these make the grade. What happens to the rest? Many meet horrifying fates such as those mentioned on this page.

The same thing happens to ex-race horses that have been retired from competing because they no longer make money. They are retired young, before even fully maturing.

This is the second of two pages about race horse abuse. To see the first page, click here.

Page Contents

If you choose, you can click on the titles below to go straight to that section of the page.

  1. Race Horse Abandonment & Abuse
  2. Just A Few Of Many Race Horse Abuse Cases
  3. Horse Racing Is Bad For Horses Health
  4. Race Horse Industry Animal Experimentation
  5. How To Spot Signs Of Neglect & Abuse To Horses
  6. How To Report Abuse & Neglect

To go to the sections in the list below, please click here.

  • Horse Racing Facts
  • Grand National Facts
  • The Grand National Horse Race
  • Reactions To Grand National Deaths

Race Horse Abandonment & Abuse

The horse racing industry promotes an untrue image of what happens to retired race horses. They like people to think that horses live a happy retirement as pets, stud horses or well looked after at riding schools.

In reality, most retired racing horses, and racehorses that do not make the grade, are put through the agony and terror of being slaughtered for the foreign horse meat industry or for pet food, and never seen or heard of again. During the slaughter process, these sensitive animals often thrash around trying to avoid the bolt gun and blades, resulting in them regularly going through horrific agony process alive and conscious.

Tens of thousands of ex race horses in the US alone are sent to slaughter houses every year.

Other retired, injured or ungraded race horses are often inhumanely killed in other ways, abused, abandoned, or neglected until they die.

This happens all over the world. In a study conducted found that in any country that there is a thoroughbred horse industry, race horse abuse was present.

Race horses which once blazed race courses earning fortunes for their owners are discarded or disposed of when no longer of use. Many are locked away where nobody knows about them, neglected, forgotten by the world and slowly starving to death. Injured horses are killed and their bodies dumped.

The lucky ones are rescued by animal sanctuaries who have room for them, but most are not that lucky.

Below: An example of race horse abuse. The ex-race horse, The Spear Of Destiny, was starved to death by the owner. The owner then neglected and starved three more former race horses. Wellington SPCA trie to save them, but it was too late for one of them who suffered multiple organ failure. The other two were suffering from severe malnutrition, but were nursed back to health by Wellington SPCA.

Horse abuse owner starved ex race horse Spear of Destiny to death

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a name="Just A Few Of Many Race Horse Abuse Cases">Just A Few Of Many Race Horse Abuse Cases

Money is the main incentive for thoroughbred race horse breeders and owners. This means that horses who do not fit the bill of being a likely champion, or that do not live up to expectations, are often be subjected to unimaginable abuse, neglect or death, as their upkeep drains profits. The upkeep of a racehorse that can not make money just seems pointless to breeders and owners driven by money.

The following cases are just a small glimpse in to the thousands of horse abuse cases that happen each year:

When Freedom's Flight was rescued, he was to be killed as part of the illegal horse meat trade. He was tied to a palm tree starving and his hoofs were rotting.

Prominent thoroughbred race horse breeder Ernie Paragallo was convicted of 33 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, as 177 horses had to be rescued from his farm and many of them were infected by parasites and were starving. Paragallo, who showed no remorse, earned more than $20 million in twenty years of horse racing.

In England, the 1984 UK Grand National WINNER "Hallo Dandy" was was found in a field, starving, with scars on his back, and his ribs poking through.

Thoroughbred race horse, Accordian, was found lying in a field in Florida, near to death and too weak to stand. South Florida SPCA attempted to save the horse, but sadly the horse had suffered too much inhumane treatment.

Cases of race horse abuse reported include:

  • Starvation
  • Beating
  • Burning
  • Maggot infestation
  • Batteries implanted under the skin which give the horse electric shocks when it is faltering or slowing
  • Administering harmful drugs such as cocaine and anabolic steroids to the horse to act as a stimulant and cover pain cused by racing and training
  • Slaughtering of horses to provide horse meat to countries for human consumption
  • Shooting
  • Dragging of horses along he ground behind speeding vehicles by ropes tied around their legs

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Horse Racing Is Bad For Horses Health

The unnatural stresses caused by making horses compete so aggressively and at such young ages causes, or makes worse, serious health problems. These include stomach ulcers, heart murmurs, and bleeding in the lungs. These are not found in horses worked at reasonable levels. These health and injury problems result in the need for drugs to maintain the horse’s racing value. It does not, however, help the horses health. Only stopping what causes the problems in the first place could do that.

One study reported in the Equine Veterinary Journal noted a doubling of one type of heart murmur and a tripling of another in 2-year-old horses after 9 months of training. Horses' heartbeats can increase tenfold during a race, from a relaxed 25 beats per minute to an excessive 250 beats, leading to exhaustion, collapse, and sometimes, to a fatal heart attack.

Researchers found gastric ulcers in 93% of horses in race training. In horses that had actually raced, the incidence was a staggering 100%.

A study in the Equine Veterinary Journal found hemorrhaging in the lungs in 95% of horses checked during two post-race examinations. There is no effective treatment. Another study in the Equine Veterinary Journal found that as long as a horse continues to undergo training and racing, the lungs do not have a chance to heal.

Horses are continually pumped full of drugs to either mask the harm and pain that horse racing and the training causes their bodies, or to illegally enhance their performance without detection.

Retired horses face horrific fates after enduring months of this. Young race horses meet the same ends simply because they do not possess all the characteristics of a champion horse.

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Race Horse Industry Animal Experimentation

Rather than face that it is the stresses horse racing and training puts on these horses that causes their health problems, the horse racing industry instead carries out animal experiments on horses, claiming it is to find out what causes the illness and injury!

They purposely infect horses with devastating viruses, subject pregnant animals to abdominal surgery so they subsequently abort their young, deliberately starve them, and subject newborn foals to stress experiments. Most of these invasive experiments end with the horses being killed after terrible suffering.

You can see what kind of trauma animals are put through in experiments here.

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How To Spot Signs Of Neglect & Abuse To Horses

Look out for these signs of horse abuse / neglect:

  • Open sores
  • Mouth wounds. Ill fitting bits can cause wounds to the inside and outside of the horse's mouth.
  • Scars and welts. Excessive whipping can produce welts and broken skin.
  • Burn marks. These could have been caused by the use of electric prods.
  • Changes in the horse's physical appearance or demeanor.
  • Ribs, spine or hipbones are visible. Excessive weight loss can also be detected by the appearance of the head as being too large for the body.
  • A low hanging head or dull eyes.
  • Dull shaggy hair, or hair loss.
  • Lack of interaction with other horses or total disinterest in its surroundings.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Repetitive actions or cribbing, also known as windsucking. Cribbing / wind-sucking is where a horse bites into an object like a fence rail, arches his neck, and gulps air.

    Find more information here

    Below is a video showing horse abuse, including Rodeo cruelty:

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How To Report Abuse & Neglect

If you suspect horse abuse or neglect, inform the police. Make an official report, but try not to over-exaggerate the problem or be too emotional about it. Be matter of fact about it. It is helpful if you can get photos or a video showing the condition of the horse /its surroundings and show those to the police when you make your report.

After a few days, enquire with law enforcement about whether they have acted on your report. If they have not, keep contacting them at regular intervals, stressing the urgency of the situation. It is important to be persistent and firm, but polite and non-offensive.

In addition, contact an animal rescue charities, preferably one that has the power to prosecute, such as the RSPCA in the UK and equivalent in other countries. Other organisations that can help horses could be contacted too.

For rescue organisations, click here.

Be aware that because of economic conditions, such organisations have experienced a massive fall in donations which has lead to huge cut backs. The same economic conditions are causing more animals than ever to be abandoned, neglected and need he help of these over-loaded organisations. This may affect the amount of help the organisations can offer, and how quickly they can supply it. If the situation is critical, you must keep pressing for help.

If the abuse involves a horse that is used in horse racing, make sure you alert racing officials at the race courses immediately.

A visitor to this website sent in the video below of television horse racing coverage, where a staff member can clearly be seen beating a horse with a whip in full view of TV cameras. He was apparently unaware he was doing anything wrong. The disgusted viewer called the race track to complain and the man was fired from his job. Taking action gets results!

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You are currently on the second of two pages about race horse abuse. To go to the first page, please click here.


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