There’s an argument that racing is cruel. Many in horse racing believe that the sport involves cruel treatment, and people are willing to make the same argument for everything from the NFL to soccer. Some people believe that racing is inherently cruel to its customers, because the sport relies heavily on brutality. But how often do you encounter a horse race that is cruel, or has a track where riders take turns shooting each other, for instance, or where horses are used in such brutalistic ways that they get bloody? In short, how often do you see a race where the riders are so violent, or are so brutal, that they actually need to resort to a rule that lets them continue? Many are quick to tell you that the sport is a good thing. For others, it will take a while before people can understand what goes on behind the scenes, but for those who don’t have the background or understanding, these accusations are hard to take seriously.
I do have a point, however: the sport has some serious problems. The first is that, once again, it’s not the races but the spectators that are cruel. The world of horse racing is a spectacle that involves millions of viewers, and it’s hard to believe those same millions can be cruel to one another. But it appears at least as much, if not more, so what gives? And that’s a tough question, because in horse racing people aren’t just spectators, they’re partners who have a lot of conflicting emotions (for example, anger with their horses), and it’s hard to separate what has happened that night.
As an example, let’s consider what’s happened in the last year to the sport of racing. In 2016, there were a number of deaths from horse riding mishaps. We also saw a number of lawsuits levied against the trainers and racing organizations, and several more deaths in the years since (although most of them probably never received as much attention as the deaths from 2016). In May and June of this year, a number of riders died while doing tricks. In fact, in May the first death of this type since 2012 took place:
I’m not quite sure how to explain what the rider named George, riding the No. 21 stallion, did during the last trick. He went through an incredibly dangerous position, the last one of the loop, where he was in front of the rider, so he could get off one leg, a maneuver called a “mule kick” in the horse world. The rider was
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