Thoroughbred horses not inbred or mistreated, says vet

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

When a thoroughbred barrels toward the line at the Melbourne Cup, its half ton frame lifts off the ground entirely, propelled only by four thin legs. An enormous heart is pumping 60 litres of blood around its body for it to reach speeds of 65 kilometres per hour.

These multi-million dollar machines are the product of more than 200 years of careful breeding. Some break down spectacularly – such as Admire Ratki on Tuesday or Verema in last year’s Cup.

But vets and breeders have rejected suggestions thoroughbreds are bred without concern for their welfare.

“It’s an incredibly well controlled industry; the horses are looked after very, very well,” said Dr Leanne Begg of Equine Veterinarians Australia.

Dr Begg said thoroughbreds were not like purebred dogs with congenital weakness and diseases.

“Dogs just have to look pretty, most of them,” she said. “These horses have to get out there and perform.”

She said claims horses were put down when no longer valuable to owners were “rubbish” and that only untreatable injuries ended in euthanasia.

“Because they are 500 kilogram animals and you can’t make them lie down on a bed to recuperate, there are some upper limb fractures that we cannot fix.”

Les Young, executive director of Thoroughbred Breeders NSW, said injuries such as catastrophic leg breaks were rare and could occur off the track as well.

Mr Young said breeders responsibly balanced risks, such as the chance of internal bleeding, against racing ability.

“Some of the best blood lines we have in thoroughbreds have been descended from animals that were themselves bleeders,” he said.

Thoroughbreds date back to the crossing of Arabian horses with English broodmares in the 1700s. Today, all males can trace their lineage back to just three sires – the Godolphin Arabian, the Darley Arabian, and the Byerley Turk.

A 2011 study of 467 thoroughbreds, published in the journal Animal Genetics, found a “worrisome” increase in inbreeding among thoroughbreds over the past 20 years, as “big book” stallions bred with greater numbers of mares.

But Dr Begg said she had never treated an injury related to inbreeding and that the industry’s ban on artificial insemination formed a natural constraint.

“A small amount [of inbreeding] probably does occur but not a very great degree at all.”

Ward Young, a Coalition for the Protection of Race Horses spokesman, said it was hard to establish clear links between racing deaths on the track and breeding problems.

But he said the industry was breeding more horses than it needed, with little concern for their welfare.

“It’s ultimately the horses that are paying if they are not good enough to make it to the track and end up at the knackery,” he said.

“The horseracing industry is not willing to foot the risk that they might breed a horse that’s not competitive and then look after it for the rest of its life.”

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