I have been so busy and the heat really get’s to me, so I didn’t watch that program last night on BBC1, to be honest I had no intention of watching it. I have not watched the BBC since the beginning of the pandemic, they are the most biased, untruthful corporation I have ever known.
However, I have been told that the program was vile and distasteful, I could not have watched 5 mins of it if I had seen any suffering to an animal. I was told that there was a lot, mainly caused by the transportation of injured horses and the way the idiots at the abattoir dispatched the animals.
Both are inexcusable, that place should be shut down and the w$$%%£s that sent the horses there should be charged with cruelty. I was brought to tears hearing about it, I could not have watched it, even worse it was before the watershed, should children have been able to witness it?
I understand that it was mainly Irish horses but that is no excuse, it is happening, all be it on a smaller scale than the idiots would have liked but even so, what are we as an industry going to do about it?
I have just had a look see on social media and whist it is heartening to see the hundreds of posts from trainers and owners of their horses after racing, why should we be the ones who are trying to defend racing, when the powers that be bury their heads?
Lets face it, the ones who do the best by their horses throughout their lives are normally the smaller/medium owners and trainers, the ones who spend every last penny on their horses, who would forsake a new pair of shoes, just to buy their horse some, who can’t afford to employ enough staff, so they end up riding 6/7 a day, mucking out, driving the lorry, running the office, running average horses that they adore in gaff races for £2k and are delighted when the win or get placed.
We don’t have £150k to spend on a more quality horse and why would we?
You see people like me, and my owners love our horses, we don’t so much love racing, it’s the horses we love, do you get that? We love these animals like family, every time they run my heart nearly comes out of my chest, every time I am terrified of something happening to them.
However, they love their jobs, it gives me more pleasure to help a horse that has issues have a life and succeed when others have written him or her off, than to take a bred in the purple £300k horse who is expected to win, do not get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn it down, but I love to see how happy it makes my horses to do well and feel confident.
Once our horses have reached a point, whether their soundess is in question or they have had enough of racing, I think that’s enough, they are retired and rehomed to good homes, homes for life. I write into the contract that if anything changes, they come back to me, not to the owners, but to me. I feel a massive responsibility, they are my friends and l want to know they are ok, for all their lives’.
I have only ever put one horse down due to temperament and the rest bar one (who came back) have all stayed in their happy homes, competing or being pleasure horses.
Luckily though, more through being me (stroppy and fussy) than by choice, I have ended up in the enviable position of having owners who all feel the same way, every single one of my owners would go the extra yard to give their horses whatever they need after racing and I think that there are an awful lot more owners like that out there than not.
Granted there are those who need educating, that is our jobs as trainers, we need to spell it out every step of the way, what we do we do for the good of the horse.
However, that said, racing really needs to get it’s house in order.
How though? Firstly, for all my sentiment, it is a business that has many facets to it, breeding, pretraining, sales prep, stallion fees, sales companies, agents and they are all before the horse reaches the trainer and owner.
The prices in the sale ring are inflated, that then creates massive expectation from owners, especially new owners to racing who may not know the true cost of things, they fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds, buy their new horse.
The horse goes into training, turns out to have a wind problem / an issue, possibly only found after it’s first run having been in training for 8 months or a year (£24k?). They pay for the wind op (£1500), The horse recovers and runs again 3 months later (that’s another 5k in fees), runs averagely, lets get him handicapped says the trainer.
The horse has another couple of runs, costs another £5k in fees, £1500 in expenses to get to the races and is still average or injures itself. What does the trainer do? They jab it, patch it up, cost the owner thousands more, or get rid as fast as possible? They need to fill the box with a potential winner, keep the owner sweet, where does that horse go? Neither scenario is acceptable.
So first stop breeding rubbish horses with weak/hereditary issues, then stop the running up of sale prices.
Next if a horse is badly injured, is dangerous, has hard to manage issues that would not be easy to rehome. Have that horse put to sleep humanely on your property, do NOT send them off to the abattoir, let the horse have a peaceful passing, in a place where it was happy (hopefully it is one of the lucky ones).
Do NOT sell it, give it away to make you feel better, it is cruel to keep a horse alive that has not future or is in pain, that is a fact. It is our responsibility to make that decision in a kind and considerate manner, we owe them that much.
Next if that horse does manage to win a race, what has he won? £3k? A month and a half’s fees? Is that as good as that horse is? Yes. So, what happens? they get rid of it, some (not all) big owners and trainers only want Saturday horses, well that horse has at least won a race, so they stick it in a sale.
Again, the prices are inflated, and a smaller owner or trainer buys it if it’s lucky, but sure as eggs is eggs, it will have issues, possibly due to being rushed or patched up.
So, if we want to help these horses, we need to put more money back into racing, allow a better return for all involved, the media rights are astronomical, but guess what? The racecourses do not share their income from the media rights, so we have no idea of the amount and most of them have so many directors, subsidiaries, staff, the money gets swallowed up before it comes back down to prize money.
What is the answer? More transparency in the figures, the horseman’s group, National Trainers Federation, the racecourses and the BHA need to work together to distribute the money throughout racing fairly. With a lot more going to the retraining of racehorses, although there is a case that any trainer worth their salt will retrain and rehome their own horses, however for those that slip through the net, that needs to be their lifeline.
This would enable the less talented horses to continue to do what they were bred for, the can still be gambled on and money will still be paid for media rights, they just won't be top draw and won't find themselves without a job earlier than needs be.
I have heard many people say there is too much racing, yes I agree with that, however it needs to be the right racing for the demand if that makes sense? There is no point in having races worth huge amount with 3 runners as the big boys don't want to take each other on, or worse still train all the entries between 3 of them...
There are a lot of people purporting to “save racehorses” however there are some that allegedly get “saved” and end up with a fate worse than death, this should not be allowed to happen.
We the trainers and owner’s are responsible for the animals in our care, however the BHA needs to jump on this now, stop the ones who slip through the net, curb the amount of horses any one trainer has, stop the factory trainer.
Finally, the small people need support, we are usually the ones who bend over backwards to help these animals and yet we are the ones who get penalised by the system as it is, a lack of races for our “average” but loved animals, and when we do we are taking on massive trainers for tin pot races that should be the bread and butter of the smaller owner.
As I said before there ought to be league racing, for owners/trainers with less than say 20/30/40 horses, give those who really care a chance.
Anyway rant over, the heat has spun my head out today again, sorry for having a small turn! This issue breaks my heart and I could list all the horses I have rehomed but that won’t solve this problem, however if you have read this far and have one of my horses, please post a picture for me to show the world how lucky a lot of these horses are.
On with the rest of the blog…
life has been very hectic here at Common Farm, we now have a brilliant canter track that has been repaired and put in correctly by a super firm, Smiths of Gloucester (the camber was 70 mil out the wrong way on the corners and the surface was too firm even for a ménage, so we had to start again with it, that is a whole other story and it resulted in the death of one horse and tendon injuries of 3 others, but let’s leave that for another rant.).
We now have a new Martin Collins mix surface. The surface is based on the deep sand gallops that everyone is using now, but it has a small amount of wax and some pvc to keep it consistent all year round, I am delighted with it.
The horses find it hard work and we barely go faster than a hack canter on it, what an amazing facility to have, the old saying speed kills is absolutely correct, so by using this canter in the right way, it is similar to weight training for the horses, they have to use their core and balance themselves if ridden correctly.
The build of the ménage is well under way and that will be completed by the middle of August at the latest, the gallop should be starting the beginning of August all being well. The planners have been great about moving the siting of the gallop, it is now being placed in a drier area of the farm and will be 6 furlongs with a gentle climb to the end.
We will soon have facilities to rival a lot of yards and hopefully it will make training a lot easier!
The horses are all well and we will be having a couple of runners this Thursday, it’s for Alan and Catlow, look out for my Facebook/insta pages and I will be doing a write up about them.
We will be taking part in the National Racehorse Week and I would like to invite people to come to our yard and see how well these horses are taken care of, we will be having some demonstrations and hopefully you can gain a bit more of an insight to the very much loved racehorses and their daily routines.
Here are a few pics of our lot to cheer us up.