Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The ugly side of horse racing

Source: google.com via Taryn on Pinterest

One of the best things about living in Kentucky is, by far, getting to take part in the sport of horse racing.  No one does big hats, bourbon and betting better than folks in Kentucky.  It's a privilege to be among this sport, but it can also be devastating at the same time. 

This past weekend we spent a beautiful day at Keeneland tailgating by the fire pit and drinking bourbon and mimosas.  Since my in-laws were in town, we wanted to treat them to a day at the fall meet since it is a staple around Lexington and one of our favorite things to do this time of year. 

The day started off wonderfully...a little cold, but nothing a nice fire can't help with!  We grilled tri-tip steaks and ate and enjoyed the company of those we so rarely see.  After a couple hours of cornhole and tailgating, and watching the first 3 races from outside the track, husband and I decided to go in and place our bets for the next few races. 

While the rest of our gang stayed outside we made our bets for the 4th race based largely on the names of the horses and my intrinsic need to bet at least one long shot in each race.  We settled in to watch the races in the Mezzanine bar...me with my wine and husband with his bourbon (which he snuck in via his boot).  The boy picked the winner in the first race and tripled his first bet...a great start to the day!  I was disappointed to see that my horse, along with one other, did not even finish the race.

We thought nothing more of it and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon among the winners and losers at the race track.  Just before our last race, we finally met up with my brother who had decided to join in the fun of losing money.  He asked us if we had heard what happened after we left our tailgate....we had not heard a thing.

He began to tell us the story, in way to much detail, about an injured horse that had a significant affect on the members of our families.  We left after the next race and rejoined our parents at the tailgates, asking what had happened in their own words. 

I stood with my dad as he told me about the race they had watched right after we left the tailgate.  You see, we always pick a particular spot outside the track where you can stand and watch the horses go by right in front of you.  It's perfect because you can enjoy the beauty of the track without ever having to go inside.  Each time a race would get ready to run, everyone would move toward the fence to watch and cheer. 

But this time was different.  During the 4th race, 2 jockeys had been thrown from their horses....directly in front of my dad and my husband's parents.  One of the horse kept running, sans jockey, but the other horse was hurt....very, very hurt.

The medic van which follows right behind each race was out and tending to the jockeys instantly.  But the horse medics were nowhere to be found.  Our families stood in horror as they watched the remaining horse, confused, scared, and trying to stand on a leg that was no longer attached by any bone...only skin.  Time must have stood still while onlookers held their breaths in sick horror waiting for any sign of a medic for what was once a beautiful thoroughbred.  Without even thinking, my Dad....my hero....jumped over the fence and onto the track to stop the horse from trying to move and to comfort him.  For minutes he stroked him and talked to him until, after what seemed like and eternity, the horse medic finally arrived.  They immediately gave the horse a shot and moved him into the van, without a word to my Dad who was there when they weren't.

I listened as my Dad told this story while I watched my husband comfort his mom as she cried and recounted it for him.  I felt sick.  Literally...sick.  Not only hearing the story of what they were going through while we were inside enjoying ourselves, but watching my dad (who in my 28 years, I have never seen shed a tear) break down and cry telling me about this horse that he comforted in what we have no doubt were some of the last moments of his life.  His injuries, without a doubt, would call for him to be euthanized. 

Even as I sit here and type, I am holding back tears thinking of the recounting of what happened and feeling both relief that I wasn't there to witness for myself and sickness over wishing I was so I could have done something, even just comfort my mother-in-law or my Dad as the events transpired.  All who witnessed it said they will never, ever forget that moment and what they saw. 

I could not be more proud of my dad for what he did for that horse.  I have no idea where the medics for the horse were or why they took so long, but my dad did not hesitate...he jumped over that fence and offered what little comfort he could provide for a beautiful animal which we so take for granted every time we watch them race. 

Source: google.com via Erica on Pinterest

I left the track feeling very grateful for my dad and for my sweet animals at home who provide us with not only companionship, but also a huge dose of joy on a daily basis. 



Optimistic Existentialist said...

GREAT blog!! This opened my eyes up about horse racing. I hope you don’t mind me visiting :-) it’s always good to find other Lexington area bloggers!! keithawynn2011.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Nice post sweety, love you!

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