Injury and death
Every year horses die routinely on New Zealand tracks.
Jumps racing has a high rate of death and injury because horses are pushed to jump high fences at speed, surrounded by many other horses. Additionally, jumps races are usually much longer than flat races. Tired horses have a greater risk of falling and risking injury to themselves. Jumps racing is impossible to make safe, as by its very nature, there is a constant risk to the horse.
The injuries that occur when horses fall or hurtle into the jumps or barriers can be horrific. Horses' bodies are powerful but also delicate. Bones can shatter into tiny pieces meaning recovery is impossible. Even when it is, often trainers are reluctant to spend lots of money when recovery is not guaranteed.
Horse injuries leading to euthanasia vary from burst arteries to fractured legs and spines. Twenty-one horses have been euthanised on NZ tracks between 2013 and 2016, according to Stewards' Reports. There may be many more that have died off track as a result of injuries sustained in races or in training.
Horses and Jumps
Despite trainers saying horses love to jump, many experts disagree. Horses also have poor forward vision making it a particular problem for jumping at great speed.
“There is a common misconception that the horse is a natural jumper, possessed of a flexible and supple body capable of maintaining balance at all gaits and speeds. The reality is very different. In fact, of all athletic animals, the horse has been provided with a very inflexible carcass of great bulk and weight … apart from the trunk providing anchorage for muscles responsible for limb movement, its weight is a serious handicap to rapid and flexible progression, like a motor car with a very heavy chassis”. Scientists have confirmed that horses did not evolve to become jumping animals.”
Horse Structure and Movement, R Smythe and P Gray.
When thoroughbreds don’t perform, their days are numbered. Many failed or older racehorses are sent to the slaughterhouse, facing a long, stressful and cramped trip down to Gore, where an abattoir called ‘Clover’ slaughters them for the European market or pet food.
Our horses are dying in Australia too - two of the three horses that died in the opening weeks of the 2016 jumps season were from New Zealand horses: Cliff's Dream and Fieldmaster. SAFE is liaising with Australian campaigners to work towards an end to jumps racing in both countries. Overseas it's already banned in New South Wales and has become increasingly unpopular, despite efforts to make it more attractive to a modern public.
The reality is horses are dying on tracks every year and the casualties will continue to mount unless action is taken.