At Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, former British racehorse trainer Patrick Gilligan takes a dim view of the current modus operandi in U.S. racing. Gilligan moved to the U.S. five years ago to help his son Jack, a jockey, pursue a riding career, which he's doing on the Midwest circuit.
First and foremost, Gilligan writes, nearly everything that's done in U.S. racing is “seemingly designed to harm the horse in some way.
“I have to start with the track,” he continues, “the strict diet of left-hand galloping, day after day, after day.
“You don't need to be an expert in equine biomechanics to understand that horses – who are designed to run more or less in straight lines – are likely to be harmed by the repetitive, unrelenting galloping left-handed on a daily basis. And then they start breezing left-handed, flat out around a turn, placing more torsional stress on the pastern and cannon bone.”
Besides the constant left-hand turns, Gilligan also points a finger at dirt surfaces, which he says are at odds with a Thoroughbred's lower limbs since they evolved to run on grass.
“There is no bounce from a dirt surface, the horse's leg just hits it, time after time, two and a half times a second when breezing or racing, and the dirt does nothing to help the horse spring forward into its next stride at all.”
Gilligan advocates for synthetic surfaces, which he notes have been substantially improved since they were first installed years ago, and on Lasix, he opines that bleeding is not an issue that needs fixing:
“Minor bleeds are not a serious health or welfare issue. If the horse bleeds to an extent it negatively impacts performance, tough. That animal is not fit for purpose. Retire it, find it another life. Do not breed from it. The old adage is breed the best to the best and hope for the best – not breed the unsound bleeder to the unsound bleeder and find some stronger meds.”
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