Close up of a horse's dark brown eye, their black mane sweeping down in front of their face.

Four reasons horse racing isn’t fun for horses.

Fine clothes and bubbly may have their appeal to some, but for the horses, there's a side to racing that is far from glamorous...

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated October 13, 2023

It’s race day. Young, beautiful horses are paraded about. Crowds are dressed up like minor royalty, and the champagne is flowing. It’s a day of eveningwear in the morning and drinks before noon, high bets and high spirits. They say that fortunes can be won and lost on days like this. But so can lives.

Have you ever considered what is really being wagered at the races?

1. Thousands of horses bred for racing are considered ‘wastage’

Each year in Australia, thousands of horses are bred in the relentless search for ‘winners’ – up to half of these young horses will never see the track. And of those who do make it to the track, not every single one of them can be a ‘place-getter’ and achieve ‘success’ for their owner.

‘Wastage’ is the term used by the industry to describe these horses who aren’t ‘up to scratch’ – and their fate is grim. Thousands of thoroughbreds are sold at auctions each year for a few hundred dollars, only to be ferried away and ‘processed’ into ‘pet meat’ – horses like Nature’s Child who was still listed on the website of Racing Victoria as ‘spelling’ (ie. resting) when she was brutally killed at a Victorian knackery. The investigation footage, captured by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorse, can be found here – content warning: most viewers are likely to find the investigation video highly distressing).

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Racehorse killed at Laverton Knackery, Victoria
Content warning: Distressing vision of a horse being slaughtered at an Australian knackery.
Image credit: Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

2. Racing horses are killed for human food

While it has traditionally been taboo to consume horse meat in Australia, records revealed that hundreds of horses every month are slaughtered here for the export market. Many of these horses are young and healthy thoroughbreds who simply didn’t make it on the race track. Watch the ABC 7.30 exposé here.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Racehorses in a pen at a Queensland abattoir.
Image credit: ABC News

3. Whips hurt horses

They may try to flee from danger, but horses can’t escape the person saddled to their back – which makes whipping tired and defenceless animals all the more unconscionable. Whips hurt. There are no two ways about it.

An RSPCA-commissioned review by the University of Sydney found that whipping horses does not make them run faster. The study found that how a horse runs in the first part of the race – when they aren’t being whipped – is the most critical factor in determining “racing success”. So horses are flogged near the finish line, when they are at their most exhausted, for no ‘benefit’ whatsoever. One veterinarian and horse behaviourist has described whipping as “the most public form of violence to animals in Australia today”.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A horse being whipped by a jockey during a race.
Image credit: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

4. Jumps racing is extremely dangerous for horses

Horses not fast enough for elite-level racing are sometimes ‘retired’ to jumps racing. Jumps racing is 10 – 20 times more dangerous than flat racing, and the injuries sustained can be horrific, with horses suffering broken legs, backs and necks.

With Racing SA announcing the cancellation the jumps racing season in 2022, Victoria is the only state in Australia allowing this cruelty to continue.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A horse has a serious fall during jumps racing, their head and neck crashing into the ground as the rider is thrown off.

There are lots of things that may be appealing to some about racing events: the chance to dress up, have fun with friends, and open the bubbly at midday – but it’s time to leave the horses out of the festivities

You can help horses starting today!