Every couple of weeks across the eastern states there is at least one horse sale, whether it be online or at sale yards. Sales where vendors have no idea who is buying their horse or what sort of life their horse will have. Vendors who sell to whoever has the highest bid, the money more important than the future of their horse. Some sellers care enough to at least put a reserve on their horse – potentially keeping them out of the hands of kill buyers (for now at least) some don’t.
The horses listed are often thoroughbreds – horses that were bred only to make money. History proves that once thoroughbreds are no longer “earning their keep” most are discarded at sales or straight to dealers or doggers. Some get lucky and go on to have happy lives with people who value them for who they are, not what they can provide. Many don’t. With the racing industry breeding around 13,000 thoroughbreds every year there is just not enough homes for them all. A recent online sale, where most thoroughbreds did not sell, (many not coming close to their reserve), further proves this.
The sale had sixteen thoroughbreds listed, only three of whom sold. Two of those didn’t have a reserve – one of them was raced until he was nine years old, had won over $66,000 and all he was worth to someone was $445, the other unreserved horse hadn’t raced at all, obviously deemed not good enough. Two of the thoroughbred mares that were listed had the comment “last chance to find a person of her own”. They did have reserves which were not met so what is their future now that their “last chance” has been and gone? Five of those sixteen horses had been listed in previous sales, which is a common occurrence, listed over and over as their reserves get less or they end up unreserved and sold to anyone. One horse was withdrawn, his sale photos so horrific that his breeder bought him back, presumably to save face. Yet it still remains unclear what his future holds.
An unraced filly born in 2018, referred to as Dixie (with no registered racing name) was among those ‘passed in’. Coincidentally, her mother Appleholic was at the Echuca sales two years earlier, almost to the day. She was so emaciated that the RSPCA stepped in to ensure she not be purchased by anyone that would lead to her enduring the long trip to Meramist Slaughterhouse, Queensland in such condition. Appleholic gave birth to seven foals over the eleven years she was used for industry breeding, her final being Dixie, before being dumped at the sales sickly thin. She sold for $700 to an unknown buyer.
Her three year old filly Dixie didn’t reach half the reserve placed on her – her fate remains unknown.
At a saleyard last year, a group of unnamed thoroughbreds were destined for slaughter until members of the public bought them from the dogger, lining his pockets in the process. Those horses weren’t even in the sale to have a chance at finding a home, they were in a holding yard already wearing their death tags. Why were they bred? They were living proof of the consequences of overbreeding.
The racing industry is well aware that thoroughbreds showing up at sales, knackeries and slaughterhouses is a bad look, so are pulling out all stops to prevent that from happening. Sadly that does not mean pushing for national traceability, a ban on horse slaughter, reducing breeding or adequately funding life-long care. It means introducing ‘on-farm euthanasia’ programs, where owners and trainers are encouraged to kill their unwanted horses on-farm, after a token rehoming attempt is made. The industry will even cover the expense of the body disposal.
All horses should be valued and have good lives. We focus on racehorses because they are bred for one reason and one reason only, money. The average time a horse is used for racing is less than three years, whilst the life span for a horse is twenty-five years or more. If the owners of these horses loved them as much as they profess to, they would make sure that their futures were protected for life, that they would never end up in a sale or in a doggers yard, it’s that simple.
The racing industry continues to breed 13,000 horses a year knowing the vast majority of participants no longer have an interest in keeping them once they can no longer race them – and that’s if they make it to the track at all.
The racing industry just doesn’t add up. It never will.