Does horse racing cause premature harm to horses?

Does horse racing cause premature harm to horses?

I'll Have Another is retired with tendonitis at three years old. Is this fresh proof that the racing industry is inhumane?

Another blogger on the Horse Forum, Erika, recently posted on whether Thoroughbred racing is inhumane.  Ironically, less than two weeks later, I'll Have Another -- a three-year-old colt who has won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness -- was retired due to a tendon injury.  It means that he won't be able to compete for the chance to win the Triple Crown, which he would have gotten if he'd won the Belmont Stakes, too.

I'm glad that his owner and trainer made the decision not to run him on an injury -- but I am also disgusted by the fact that this colt has tendonitis at age three.  The fact that these horses have to be "retired" before they are even out of adolescence, due to injuries -- shouldn't this be a sign that horse racing, at least the way the industry currently operates, is inhumane?

I think a great deal of the problem is that these horses are being worked -- and worked hard -- long before their bodies are mature.  In most other disciplines, a horse isn't even considered old enough to be backed until it is three -- any younger, and their bones aren't finished developing, which leads to injuries.  Horses that are started too young, even as leisure horses, can have debilitating joint problems later in life.

And here we are even talking about horses that are ridden gently -- or at least gently compared to pounding down a racecourse at a full gallop with a rider on their back.  And if you think about it, to be raced at two and three years old, as most career racehorses are, they must start their training far younger.  By the time they are running in big races like this, they have been working so hard since they were mere babies, that they really are physically ready for retirement.

But is it inhumane or abusive?  Yes, I think so -- on both counts.  A century ago we decided that it was inhumane to make small children work in factories.  Why is it any less humane to make young horses -- equally as undeveloped as those children -- work so hard that they are causing life-threatening damage to their bodies?