The Buzzer and a Question: Should Horse Racing Be Abolished in the US?

I seem to be addicted to reading the morning news online before I start work for the day. This morning I found a disheartening article in my electronic reader, a Matt Bonesteel story in the Washington Post (23 July 2015) about three jockeys’ arrest for allegedly fixing races at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana. Two brothers, Joe Patin Jr. and Billy Patin, and LeSean Conyers are the jockeys.  The Louisiana State Police stated that “the jockeys willfully schemed to hold back a horse picked as a favorite to win while utilizing an agent to place unusual bets in an attempt to maximize winning.” They are also guilty of “willful pulling of the reins . . . and cheating and swindling.” Then I read more. The Patins’ charges include “unnatural stimulation of the horses” during a couple of races on July 4 by using a buzzer, a device that shocks a horse into going faster. There is more to read elsewhere on the Internet about the unsavory racing career of the brothers, but it is the buzzer that concerns me here. A buzzer, sometimes called a “battery” or a “machine,” is about the size of a lighter, and shoots electrical current into a horse during a race (it is also used in training) so that the horse will increase his speed. It is prohibited at American tracks. And yet, people who own and train horses are still instructing their riders to use a device to force their horses to run faster, rather than training a Thoroughbred to use his great skill and strength to win on the track honestly. Arrogant people like this do not care that what they do is amoral and keep repeating their violations even though they are against the law. I write about soring, another practice that is against the law; similarly, shocking with a battery is against the rules of many racing commissions. Because racing seems to attract owners and trainers who will use any horse abuse technique to win prestige and money, it often seems to many that racing should be abolished in the United States.

 


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