Revisiting Eigth Belles & Barbaro
When Eight Belles collapsed in 2008 at the Kentucky Derby, millions witnessed the tragic fall of a thoroughbred. Barbaro, who won the Derby in 2006, broke down in the Preakness and was euthanized later that year after complications from his injury. These big stories generate attention, but does the public know just how often injured racehorses are euthanized?
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Danger to the jockeys, harness horses
When horses break down, Blowen says it's also an obvious danger to the jockeys. Dangers exist in thoroughbred racing, as well as standardbred harness racing.
In 1997, Henri Filion, a harness jockey, was involved in a serious harness-racing accident at a racetrack in Aylmer, Quebec, Canada. Filion was driving Bye Bye Angus when the horse went off stride and fell, throwing him to the track. Fillion died a few days later from the injuries he sustained during the horse-racing accident.
In 2008, Maltese Artist, a harness horse, died from catastrophic bone injuries he suffered during a race at the Western Fair Raceway in Ontario, Canada.
Rescue ranches like Blowen's and Deibel's continue to reach out. Angel Acres has rescued up to 242 horses, the majority thoroughbred, but the ranch also has ponies, porters and standardbred horses.
"I was under the misconception too that racehorses must be retired to a grand life," Deibel says of her pre-rescue days.
Old Friends, which began as a retirement and rescue facility for pensioned thoroughbreds, now has 52 thoroughbreds on the farm and 26 it supports off the farm. It has two Canadian horses of the year, although neither were rescues.
Horse Rescue Ontario has rescued and placed more than 140 horses into loving homes. The organization started with Willing Spirit, a racehorse that was left in a field to die.
In addition, after Eight Belles' breakdown, the Jockey Club created a national panel to examine safety, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority did the same on the state level. States across the country have begun to adopt new rules regarding performance-enhancing drugs, especially anabolic steroids.
How you can help
Those who want to reach out can support local horse organizations by volunteering, donating money or adopting horses. Deibel recommends researching the rescue ranches first to ensure your money is put to good use.
It's important to realize that in some cases euthanasia is the only option in order to not have the horses suffers any longer. Racetracks in the US and Canada are working very hard to try and protect their horses, however, accidents are still a reality of the sport. For those horses lucky enough to survive their injuries, but are no longer suitable to race, rescue ranches are a second chance.
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