I'm a proud and passionate Thoroughbred race horse owner and I can no longer stand by and let hyped-up sensationalists inaccurately portray Thoroughbred owners as cruel and uncaring. The fact is, that characterization couldn't be further from the truth!
Over the past three months I have watched major media outlets and advocacy groups take advantage of our vulnerability to advance their own agenda while reporting inaccurate information to the unsuspecting and uninformed general public. There is no question our sport faces many challenges and is in need of reform to improve the health and welfare of the industry and our horses. But it's unfair and unethical for the media to weave fact and fiction into the same news story and hope the unsuspecting public won't be able to discern the difference.
Since Paul Harvey is no longer with us, someone needs to tell “the rest of the story.”
I lack any authority to speak on behalf of all Thoroughbred racehorse owners, so I'll share my own personal feelings and observations about the horse owners I've encountered over my 15 years in the game.
Have you ever seen how a parent looks at their children with pride and loving eyes? We burst with joy as we boast about their latest accomplishment and achievement. As a parent of two daughters that have given me a lifetime of proud moments, it's with a similar sense of pride that horse owners feel and care for our four-legged “children.” There isn't anything we wouldn't do to protect them, and we do this sparing no expense.
Thoroughbred racing is not an inexpensive proposition, and when you couple our passion for the animal with the price we pay to play the game, it should make sense to any observer that we will do anything to protect our horses. Why would anyone spend tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to lead their horses into harm's way? That defies logic and common sense on any level.
Thoroughbred owners are compassionate people who love our equine athletes, and if we're guilty of anything it's being so passionate about our game that it nearly consumes our lives. At the center of our passion are the very horses we have been accused of abusing while we spend close to $5,000 a month to care, feed and provide medical/veterinarian treatment that would make our human health care system envious.
For decades, ABC's “Wide World of Sports” would preface its weekend sports telecast with “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” There is no greater thrill than when your horse crosses the finish line first and you are standing in the winner's circle to celebrate the victory and the accomplishment of our beloved equine athlete. Conversely, there is no greater agony than when one of our horses leaves us for the other side of Rainbow Bridge.
To be clear, we lead our horses to the saddling paddock and not the slaughter house as some would lead you to believe. We celebrate our horses and their accomplishments, give them the best of care and we never intentionally endanger their lives.
Do we have work to do to make the sport safer for our horses? Of course we do, and it's often through tragedy that positive outcomes arise. It's not unlike football with new concussion protocols to protect against head trauma or baseball during the steroid era and the new testing that evolved to protect the athlete and the integrity of the game.
Thoroughbred owners want for our athletes what the NFL and MLB want for their athletes – safe and productive careers. With racing regulated at the state level, we lack a united governing body to implement changes across the board, which makes reform slower to implement and adopt.
But make no mistake about it: owners are united on one front, and that is to provide the highest care possible for our horses and do whatever we can to protect our Thoroughbreds. We are not the Offenders and I am Offended that anyone would report otherwise.
Thoroughbred owner Mark S. Martinez of San Antonio, Texas, races in the name of Agave Racing Stable.
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