I am so, so sad over the death of the filly Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby yesterday. It put a shadow over the great run of Big Brown. Who was awesome. I just sat there and wept. That is the part of racing that I hate… they work the poor young horses too much too soon, and so often their immature bodies just can’t take the stress. In any other discipline, you aren’t even riding the horse until they are almost 3 years old! So they can still be going strong well into their 20’s. How young do you think they are on a racehorse’s back in order to be winning at the highest levels as 3 year-olds?? It’s so much about the $$, and that just makes me cry a little.
A little information, if you wonder:
Horses’ bones, ligaments and tendons in their legs usually aren’t fully matured until somewhere around age 4, give or take depending on the size and breeding of the horse. The bigger the horse, the longer it takes – so, if you’re talking about a 17 hand mare (that’s her height – 1 hand = 4", so she was approx. 5’6" at the wither, that is, the bump just at the base of her neck.) like Eight Belles, you can bet her little legs really weren’t up to the stress. In my Equine Studies classes in college, we watched footage of horse racing in slow motion…. it was wild how their hooves were just wildly flopping at the end of their ankles as they made the full stride – it’s a wonder any of them step down properly at all. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be racing until they are at least 4 years old; 5 or 6 would be better. Unfortunately, it is a money-driven sport, and that is too long to wait, I guess. I’m not saying most people in the sport don’t love their animals; they just take risks that I, as a horse owner, would be unwilling to take.