8 Things They Don't Tell You About Horse Racing
  • 02
  • Apr

The Grand National: 8 Things They Don’t Tell You About Horse Racing

Whatever the results of this year’s Grand National, there’s one thing that you can bet on with confidence – horses will suffer as a result of the unethical spectacle at Aintree.

PETA US has just made headlines with its searing undercover investigation into cruel and illegal industry practices among horse trainers in the US. But here in the UK, horses hardly face better odds. The following are a few home truths about horse racing, which make it clear that the Grand National and races like it are a national disgrace:

  • Horses die on the racetrack all the time. Eight horses have died at Aintree in the past two years. Four died at Cheltenham this year. Their deaths were traumatic and frightening, a stomach-churning mess of tangled limbs, fractured bones and broken spines.
  • Jockeys see horses as “replaceable”. Jockey Ruby Walsh caused a scandal with his comment on the death of Our Conor at Cheltenham: “You can replace a horse“. But his callous remark served only to highlight the widespread attitude within an industry that treats horses as commodities, not as sensitive, sentient animals.HORSE EYE
  • Horses are often on drugs. Drugs, both legal and illegal, are as ubiquitous at the racetrack as silly-looking hats are at Ascot. Horses are often drugged to mask their pain and keep them running when they should be resting or receiving treatment. Last year, trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni was banned from racing for eight years after he doped horses with prohibited steroids at one of the world’s leading racing operations. Billboard
  • Former race horses are “retired” to the slaughterhouse. According to Animal Aid, around 1,000 horses from the racing industry are killed in slaughterhouses in Britain every year, to be turned into dog food or horsemeat. Other horses may face horrific live export to Europe.Horsemeat

  • Aintree is one of the most deadly courses in the world. The infamous Becher’s Brook is known as the world’s most dangerous jump and has racked up many fatalities, yet authorities refuse to remove it. Racing 40 skittish horses at a time makes accidents still more likely, while the minor so-called “improvements” to the course are simply token gestures. It’s the very dangerousness of the race that draws in crowds and lines bookies’ pockets – while horses pay with their lives.Aintreenational
  • Horses are made to race when they’re too young. Making horses risk their lives on the racecourse is wrong at any age. But it’s especially heartbreaking to learn that these animals may begin to race when they’re barely more than babies and their bones are not up to the pounding and stress of the track. It’s hardly surprising, then, that injuries, lameness and exhaustion are common afflictions.HORSE
  • Horses are whipped to the finish line. To hurt an animal deliberately is illegal in most other circumstances, but riders at the Grand National are actually required  to carry whips – despite the RSPCA’s verdict that “[u]sing whips can cause pain and suffering to the horses” and often makes them run beyond their usual capability, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Frequently, jockeys violate  the already watered-down whipping regulations, which dictate how often and where they hit horses.Muybridge_horse_gallop_animated_2


People who care about horses are turning their backs on the Grand National and every other race in which horses are being run to death.

This cruelty will end only when the public realises that there is no such thing as a “harmless flutter” when it comes to funding the cruel and exploitative horse-racing industry.

Please help spread the word about the cruelty of horse racing:

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  1. avatar tabelt says:

    But the horses do make some pretty fine glue and burgers when they’re done with them

  2. avatar heather horse-lover says:

    Please stop the barbaric practices. Sheer torture for such beautiful creatures. They deserve so much better than to be used for the gratification of humans!

  3. avatar Jade Dennett says:

    Disgusting, I have never supported any kind of horse racing and I never will. Just another cruel blood sport for ignorant assholes to be on, who dont give a toss about the animals, just their winnings!

  4. avatar Vanessa frustaci says:

    This has to STOP

  5. avatar maureen martin says:

    This races as all are is dangerous snd cruel. Racing should b banned.

  6. avatar Carolynn Wentworth says:

    I am at a loss for words that anyone can hurt animals and it’s allowed ?? I watched this race for the first time since arriving in England from Cape Town and couldn’t stop crying for days after seeing 2 beautiful horses die The one beautiful horse tried to run away before the race almost as if she knew what would happen to her. Shame on all those involved in hurting these magnificent animals.

    • avatar tesco value burger says:

      shame on all those, too that breed these monsters
      please come and liberate all us burgers from Tesco and Poundland

  7. this so wrong them poor horses suffer so much , please get this horse racing stop , and the cruel of it all

  8. avatar Debbie Shaw says:

    The government should step in and ban it. It needs to stop.

  9. avatar Paula Scotcher-Lane says:

    I used to follow horse racing until I got a bit wiser – thanks indeed to PETA. I am now quite horrified at the awfulness of it all but as long as there are rich and ignorant people involved the ‘sport’ will continue.

  10. avatar Diane Thibault says:

    Please can you consider to stop training those beautiful horses in their young age and to hurt them with the whips if you love horses think twice about what you are doing to them. Do not think you would like to be treated the same way right?

  11. avatar Ali says:

    After the Ruby Walsh comment there was a debate on Irish National radio about horse-racing. Unfortunately it seems that the general public are completely ignorant of the real truth about the cruelty of horse-racing and are of the opinion that race-horses are treated like kings! Any ‘sport’ that uses animals as a product and without genuine respect for their healthy and welfare should absolutely be banned, but with the majority of the people seeing horse-racing as a harmless bit of fun it will be very hard to do this.

    • avatar Ginni says:

      This is probably because a lot of people choose ignorance over knowledge Ali. It’s easier than facing the truth – such a sad world. It’s unfortunate, but those of us who really care and take time to learn the truth CAN make a difference – even if it’s just a little bit at a time. My heart breaks for these defenseless creatures. I agree with you that it should be banned.

  12. avatar Helen Murphy says:


    People are work are running a sweepstake tomorrow, but I’d like to push for all those not wanting to take part to raise money for charity instead. Is there a charity which saves race horses from death? As I know they shoot a lot because they can’t be used for racing anymore.

    I’d appreciate your feedback and I’ll continue to do what I can to support your amazing work.

    • avatar Anne says:

      Hi Helen,

      Thank you for your message, it’s wonderful that you are raising awareness among your colleagues about the cruelty of horse racing. So many people are simply not informed about this issue. There are a number of charities in the UK that work to rescue and rehome ex-racehorses – with a little bit of research, you might be able to find one that is perhaps local to your area to raise money for? I’m sure they will be very grateful for your support! Good luck!

  13. avatar Julie says:

    I feel no sympathy when horses injure their riders I think the riders get what they deserve. Horses are beautiful and not made to race, only to be kept as pets.

    • avatar Carrie says:

      Not all working is cruel. I work for Riding for the Disabled where the weight a horse is allowed to carry is strictly limited (all of our current horses at my branch are 85kg-limited, potential riders weighing more than that are put on a waiting list just in case we get a horse capable of more), the workloads are carefully monitored so that no horse is over-worked, their diets are carefully monitored and assessed on a regular basis by a vet with equine expertise, and any sign of illness or injury is promptly responded to, with the horse being rested until they’re fit to return to work.

      Under these conditions, there is no problem with horses working. They give the riders major benefits, and the horses themselves get spoiled and showered with affection.

      Under the right conditions, non-pet horses can thrive. Racing, however, is a different kettle of fish. Unlike organisations that understand that the welfare of the animal is as important as the welfare of the riders, racing is all about the money.

    • avatar Carrie says:

      Sorry, I made a mistake in my previous message (it’s 2:30am); the maximum weight of our horses is 85kg. Not all of the horses are allowed to carry that much. There is a pony and a smaller horse, and their weight limits are much less than that. I worded it wrong in my first reply.

  14. avatar C Park says:

    Racehorses would not even be foaled if there was no racing. Most get treated like royalty & have the best of everything. Yes it’s very sad when they lose their lives but it’s also very sad when cattle, pigs, sheep & poultry are kept in horrendous conditions & killed inhumanly just for us to eat! If you are vegan then good for you, you are the only people entitled to comment on here about cruelty to racehorses! I am not vegan btw.

    • avatar Joel Thorpe says:

      Totally agree with this comment, too many people read an article and believe everything. As someone involved in the industry I know that these horses are pride and joy of not only the owners, but trainers too, they are treated better than some of you opinionated humans treat your own children.
      The horse are bred to race, its in their blood and they love every single minute of it, when we have the unfortunate situation when we lose a horse, it is not just a little “oh well”, the trainers/owners/jockeys and anyone who’s involved and loves the sport is absolutely devastated.
      As the poster said, if you eat any form of meat, then you have no right to an opinion on animal cruelty and should maybe look a little closer to home on the way the animals are treated before they enter your mouths, I for sure know I don’t eat horses

    • avatar Rachel says:

      Hear, Hear! And before people say ‘that’s different, those animals are providing something etc’ bear in mind how big of an industry horse racing is and what it does for the UK economy.

    • avatar Carrie says:

      I’m curious, are you saying it’s okay to subject a horse to these conditions because they wouldn’t be born otherwise?

      There are changes that can be made to make racing safe for horses (beginning training a little older, when their bones are fully developed… changing obstacles to be less risky… banning the use of whips…).

      Most racehorses get treated like royalty… while they are winning and in the public eye.

    • avatar caroline says:

      I love animals but I do not think horse racing is cruel what so ever they love to run and jump they are amazing animals no one want to see horses killed but its something that they love to do dog fighting is cruel making bears dance on hot coal with rings in there nose clubbing baby seals to death fox hunting all these things are barbaric its great that they have made the race as safe as they can so these beautiful horses can all go on and lead a safe and happy life x

    • avatar Candace says:

      This is literally, one of the most silliest things I have heard. You cannot comment unless you’re vegan to say its cruel that they die during a sport humans created? Of course.. when animals die for human consumption, however this article isn’t talking about that. It’s also not talking about all the other animals that suffer, fighting dogs and bait dogs, puppy farmers, fox hunting, bear baiting, hunting for big cats to skin them, rhinos for their horns. Would you sit and critisize(sp) people for commenting because they have a dog from a breeder rather than a rescue shelter or an ivory key grand piano rather than a plastic electronic keyboard?
      Stop talking out of your arse and let people comment and express how they feel about what barbaric activities go on at the races that the television doesn’t show you.

    • avatar Rachel says:

      So what exactly makes you so entitled?

  15. avatar Anne-Marie Littler says:

    Why can’t we just cherish these graceful, beautiful, serene animals that just by their very nature be treated with respect and dignity – which in a way is how we expect to be treated by others. We’re all on the same planet, can’t we just live in harmony without abusing and exploiting every living beast. We call ourselves humane, but this sickens and saddens me to the core

  16. avatar gail says:

    this is a cruel sport and by the sounds of it english cruelty with these races need to stop and also to stop exporting horses to the middle east where blind freddey knows they mistreat all animals
    The GOV needs to step in and stop this so called sport along with the other blood sports and could possibly start with the royal family
    The horses try their best and should not be subject to Aintrees horrific course and all horses should be drug tested by a reliable vet pre to any race in any country,prizes are high so those in charge could afford to pay for the fees and the vets should not be allowed to increase their costs
    Tabelt should have a saddle thrown over him/her and taken into the slaughter houses to watch and also look at his/her nationality for home grown cruelt

  17. avatar BEV says:


  18. avatar Nisheeth Proshanti says:

    Let’s bring our hands together to put a stop to this. And stop industrialization and abuse of animals. We as human beings are to protect them, not exploit them.

  19. avatar Sandy Shadwell says:

    Look at the card for one race day venue, multiply it by the number of races held elsewhere in the country and then ask “What happens to these horses when their career is over?”

  20. avatar Mrs.Lynn Elson says:

    Ban this cruel and barbaric “sport”. How would the jockeys like being whipped and made to jump over fences. I have no compassion for the jockeys only the horses.

  21. avatar TJ says:

    tabelt is obviously a sick human being to be able to find humour in the suffering of his fellow creature(we are all animals). What denotes intelligence is the capability to experience compassion, statistics show that violent human behaviour is often preceded by a history of animal abuse. Therefore it saddens me to see the atrocities inflicted upon such beautiful creatures can be a source of humour to some sadly lacking humans. Thank you PETA for exposing this awful money making industry that calls itself a sport.

  22. avatar Gareth says:

    Horse Racing must stop ! The only ones who benefit from it are the horse owners and jockeys who make a lot of money at the expense of the horses suffering . Horse are beautiful and intelligent creatures who have rights .

  23. Yer another sick sport involving innocent animals.

  24. avatar Niki says:

    Please do not attend races or bet on horses.
    Please encourage your friends and family to do the same.
    Please donate to animal groups like Peta who are exposing the truth.
    Please seek out cruelty and report it where you can.

  25. avatar Val says:

    Horse Racing is cruel. I can’t be bothered answering sick and cruel people.

  26. avatar dimitri says:

    het is doodzonder wat hun doen met die dieren

  27. avatar Ariadne says:

    Find it extremely confusing how anyone can see this as an entertaining sport and feel the need to spend money on this horrific trade. This sort of ‘sport’ needs to be banned immediately. It is a prime example of cruelty to animals and is being broadcast and celebrated all over the world. Hopefully in the very near fiture it will be banned but for now all we can do is pray for the horses safety who are forced to do this treacherous course today. :(

  28. avatar CAM says:

    The realities of any kind of competitive sport involving horses needs to be communicated through mass media so the general public can make informed decisions about what they watch or support. I would be interested to learn about Polo playing and what the ponies are subjected to, as well as more about horse racing.
    Information and choices are the key.

  29. avatar Sarah says:

    I wonder if the race would still be running all these yrs if the the tally of horse fatalities was jockeys???

  30. Horse racing is not always very nice! Flat racing is by far the worst, dessage is cruel so is showjumping you could even say gymkanna’s are cruel , riding horses is cruel! so what happens then, we would not have any of these beautiful animals to see, as they are very expensive pets! Many ‘pet horses’ are left starving in their fields or stables and mistreated in many many ways. Maybe racing needs to help more horse charities and clean up its act. But banning it does not seem to me to help much. Or maybe we could just put the odd one in a zoo! to look at. I’m sure if you asked a horse it would rather just be left wild in a herd. But that’s not practical either. Should we just shoot the hundreds of thousands of horses we use for sport pleasure and work and ban all horse sports?

  31. avatar Garry says:

    If you would like to try and save a horse please donate to our charity pastures new where we try and save racehorses and rehabilitate them for a better life …mainly to help in equine assisted therapy…the more money we raise the more we save
    Please help us help them

  32. avatar michele wilson says:

    you will never stop racing while you have people like the Queen of England support this with their own horses.

  33. avatar Miriam chidam says:

    Is there a petition we can sign ? Can someone please post a link here? Horse racing is a primitive and cruel injustice to the animals involved. It is heartbreaking that it is still condoned by our Australian laws.

  34. avatar Daniel says:

    This article is one of the most uneducated pieces of crap I’ve ever read and most people on here are jumping on a bandwagon with something they know absolutely nothing about!

  35. avatar shelley says:

    im glad both my boys made it off the track alive and to me, living a very happy life now, and have a home for life

  36. avatar Merill says:

    I neither agree or disagree to horse racing. And before everyone moans at me, ask yourself this. Do you own any leather? More than likely the answer is yes. Well a cow died for that. If racing was banned, you’d put people out of jobs. People who love horses and work with them for a living. So before shouting ban it, think of the wider picture…

  37. avatar Amanda Jackson says:

    Stop this barbaric race and others. To say they run because they like to, rubbish, its inbred to run with the pack. Would they like the prognosis, broken leg, bullet? They make me sick – murderers!

  38. avatar m rennie says:

    Anybody who has worked or ridden horse knowes that the above is absolute fabrication and using singular facts to generalise about the sport. If the horses where drugged as mentioned they would be unable to run. They are prepared as any other athletes with rub downs etc which involves tintures and rubs. More horses are killed by neglect by their human owners than are ever killed in the racing world. As for turning them into dog/cat food those are usually domestic horses as race horse are put to stud or used to train young jockeys. Anyone who has ever worked with horses would know you would need a large violent man with a very heavy crop for the horse to even feel it. In fact if you pay attention today you will see most jockeys bring the crop forward, merely showing it to the horse. Yet again what Ruby Walsh’s said was not quoted in context.
    l support PETA but KNOW THE FACTS before you comment. Horse who fall are quickly assessed with
    dignity behind screens and are humanly treated and euthanized if that is what is unfortunately required.

    l remind you all a horse without a jockey and no crop will continue to run flat out to the finish. Not because they are pack animals or they don’t know any better ( which by the way does a great disservice to such intelligent animals) but because they like it.
    As a last word, if anybody doubts what l have said, just try and get a horse to do something it doesn’t want to do. If you’re successful you’ll be the first human in history to do so.
    Keep up the good work but please don’t debase your cause with convenient half truths.

  39. avatar Paul says:

    I used to live in Tattenham Corner where the derby is run and horses are trained on the gallops. I have seen so many skittish horses that i can honestly say THEY DONT LIKE RACING. So why not bann it as they did smoking in public?????????????

  40. avatar Sam smith says:

    I honestly think that people who support and bet in the grand national know very well what is going on. They just choose to ignore it so they can continue with this barbaric ‘tradition’. Hope they enjoy spending their blood money!

  41. avatar Jay lad! says:

    Anyone got any good tips for the national?

  42. avatar Suzie says:

    As a daughter of a former jockey I know how well all race horses are treated and looked after, all decent trainers never give their horses any illegal drugs. It is a horses instinct to jumpm if it doesn’t want to you can’t make it jump.

  43. avatar Kathryn Disley says:

    stop this Barbaric Race !!!……so outdated and so cruel to such magnificent creatures

  44. avatar Anne Archer says:

    I am not a fan of horse racing or blood sports. I use to enjoy riding and looking after my pony, being around horses creates a peaceful atmosphere, but I would say that there is much more cruelty carried out by people who keep horses when they know nothing about keeping horses healthy and exercised. When hard times happen, these people take it upon themselves to abandon these loyal animals to forage for where they can. Horses are found all over Britain and Ireland in fields with very little grass and the horses literally starve to death. A field full of horses was discovered recently in Ireland and there were carcasses everywhere. It beggars belief that people take no responsibility for their animals, to them, they are a disposable object.

  45. avatar Gabrielle says:

    Horse racing should be banned. It is barbaric and outdated. Racing so many horses at the same time will inevitably cause injury and death. It is true that owners only see horses as their bonus cheque and a commodity instead of the peaceful, loving animals that they are. I only ever went to one horse race and witnessed the horse I chose being shot for coming last with a limp. It traumatised me at the time and still does to think of it. A petition should be started PETA to ban horse racing.

  46. avatar Ergonspirit says:

    Would just like to say I don’t necessarily agree with racing but not all horses are retired to the slaughterhouse my horse is an ex racer an there’s specific competitions for ex racehorses now and many have crazily lovely lives after racing my boy is living proof

  47. avatar Katy Kurle says:

    I don’t think the race should be banned at all, all horses are bred for this purpose and jockeys take their life in their hands whenever they mount a horse for any race. I don’t believe in drugging horses for them to perform better. But if u look at any horse while it’s in a race u can tell they are having the time of their life. Ears pricked, head all alert. Not all horses go to very slaughtered that’s completely wrong, some horses retire to homes,

  48. avatar vicki says:

    I worked in racing for many yeas and our horses were treated like royalty. There is govement legistations on whips so they dont hurt the animals! They kick each other for christs sake trust me that hurts more and at the end of the day….. these half ton animals if they dont wanna race they wont (like no 15 in todays race) we as people can not push them to do anything if the horses dont want to! As for all race horses are drugged quote…… bollox! Have you never had a pain killer after leg day at the gym :-/

  49. avatar tracy pedder says:

    Horses are majestic beautiful creatures but are unfortunately exploited by the racing industry beyond all limitations in order to satisfy human greed.

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