Horses expressions of defiance happen all day at any given racetrack. Most don’t get a mention. The barriers are a common place for such defiance. Horses don’t like confined spaces and have to be trained/coerced to go in because it goes against all their natural instincts. Some horses are rejected from racing simply because they can’t be made to go into the barriers. This is what that looks like.
In late 2019, we reported on how common this is, using Melbourne Cup Day as an example (article here). Across Australia, there were well over 50 incidents at the gates in this one day; what stewards refer to as “difficult to load”, “unable to load”, “fractious in barriers”, “became cast in barriers”, “broke through the gates”, “dislodged rider”, “leg stuck in gates”, “reared at the gates”. Below are just some examples.
Words taken directly from steward’s reports:
Worrigee Star – The mare which escaped from its attendant behind the barriers and galloped a considerable distance before jumping a perimeter fence was declared a late scratching by order of the Stewards at 12.35pm.
Highton – Trainer G Hickman was advised that a warning would be recorded against the gelding which proved reluctant to proceed to the barriers and caused a delay to the start.
Daunting Warrior – The filly was declared a late scratching by order of the Stewards at 2:28pm after it shied en route to the barriers and broke through the running rail, dislodging rider J. Grob in the process.
Daredevil – After being loaded into the barriers, became fractious, reared and became cast over its nearside barrier partition.
Lilly Pilly – After being loaded into the barriers, the filly became fractious, reared and sat down behind.
Red Hot – The filly, which was in the stall adjoining Lilly Pilly which had become fractious and was removed from its barrier, then reared and struck its head.
Animals resist their exploitation all the time. Or often, they are just downright terrified. Another recent example of this is 9-year-old gelding Stirling Estate from Western Australia who, in January 2021 refused to enter the barriers and was therefore withdrawn from the race. His race history shows that his trainers have received warnings and suspensions for Stirling Estate’s objections several times and on one occasion it was noted that he is usually loaded into the barriers with a buggy whip and had refused because one was not available.
The below image is of a filly they are trying to force into the barriers in Sydney. The witness told us “this was a top filly and she was absolutely terrified of the man with the buggy whip behind the barriers.”
As a slight side note, Stirling Estate is now deceased. His trainer claims he kicked out in the washroom bay after racing in Bunbury on February 11, just one month after receiving his fifth suspension for “refusing to load” – his injury apparently turning gangrene and requiring euthanasia.