A brown horse with sparse white markings runs in a grassy field with the bright sunset behind them.

4 reasons horse racing isn't fun for horses.

And how you can help shape a kinder future for these social and sensitive animals.
Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated November 3, 2014

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.

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?

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A young horse looks at the camera, standing beside an adult horse.

Thousands of horses bred for racing will never make it to the racetrack

Thousands of horses are bred in Australia every year 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. Every year thousands of thoroughbreds are sold at auctions 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.

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.

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 of the 2022 jumps racing season, Victoria is the only state in Australia allowing this cruelty to continue.

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

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

Two horses run side by side during racing with jockeys pulling their reigns.

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 ABC’s 7.30 exposé here.

There are lots of things that may be appealing to some about the culture of racing: 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!