Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Eight Belles

I know there is a lot of confusion these days about the Kentucky Derby and Eight Belles, specifically why she was put down on the track. A lady in the nursery asked me about it Sunday, and I heard some mis-information from Michael Savage last night when I was in the car. (I don't usually listen to him, and I don't much care for him, but I listen to talk radio in the car, and he was on.) Since I know a little about horses, I thought I would tackle this subject in case any of my readers don't quite understand the situation.

First of all, let me say that I did not watch the Kentucky Derby, so I did not see Eight Belles euthanized. But I have two good friends whose horses broke their legs, and I was there when one of them was found. Both of those horses were put down because it is not usually feasible to try to repair a broken leg.

Horses need to stand up. That is the way that God created them. They do sleep lying down but only for a few hours at night. Sometimes you will see them lying down sun-bathing on a cool day, but usually they nap while standing up. Yes, God also created them with a mechanism in their back legs that keeps them upright when they nap. Horses will die if they lie down too long because their lungs cannot function very well in a prone position. So, horses cannot be rehabilitated from a broken leg in any other position than an upright one.

What if the horse needs surgery to repair the broken leg before it can be casted? Horses do not undergo anesthesia very well. Honestly, I am not sure if there is a problem with the anesthesia itself, although I think there is. I do know that horses do not wake up well. They struggle and thrash, putting them in jeopardy of splitting open their stitches (a relatively minor concern) or breaking a leg. Places that perform surgery on horses have big padded rooms for horses to wake up in. Some horses hurt themselves badly enough waking up from surgery that they have to be put down.

Okay, let's say that we have a fictional horse who broke his leg, has undergone surgery sucessfully, and woken up without causing any more complications. Now what? As we have said before, the horse needs to stand for his rehabilitation. But he cannot stand forever on three legs. Why not? Aside from the obvious reasons, there is a good chance he will cause some major damage to the opposite leg from the hurt one. Let's say our horse weighs a thousand pounds which is about average weight. When he is healthy, that is 250 pounds per leg when he is standing still. If he is three-legged that is 500 pounds per leg. That's a lot! There are several problems that can develop in the opposite leg, many of which end up with euthanasia.

Do you remember Barbaro from a few years ago? They tried to repair his broken leg (he only had one) because they were hoping for some big money from stud fees. I want to say a million dollars per breeding, but that may be a little high. He came through the sugery sucessfully, but he developed problems in the opposite leg. His owner ended up having to put him down because he just had too many problems going on, and they could not all be fixed.

Eight Belles broke two legs. Like I said, I did not see it, but I imagine she could not even walk. As a filly, there is no hope for stud fees. The rehabilitation, if possible would be horrendous, and for what purpose? Maybe she could be used for breeding, but a mare can only have so many foals in a lifetime compared to a stallion. And two broken legs? I doubt anyone has even tried to fix two broken legs.

Why did they euthanize her on the track? Maybe she couldn't walk well enough even to get on a horse trailer to be carted somewhere else. Probably they were trying to reduce her time of suffering.

Do I think someone did something wrong? No, I do not. But again, I did not see it, and I am not familiar with horse racing. What I know, I gleaned from The Black Stallion series.

I hope that you found this helpful. If you have any more questions, I will try to answer them as best I can.


Angela said...

Wow. I hadn't heard anything about this before, and your blog prompted me to google it and read what happened. That's really sad that she died right after she'd won such a great race. I actually have some friends who were up in Kentucky this weekend and they were supposed to be at this race. I haven't talked to them since they've been back, though.

MyKidsMom said...

You sure know alot about horses! I am rather clueless about them myself (I know they neigh:). I'm actually a little scared of them, they're so big and powerful, and the few times I've been on one, I'm so far from the ground..;)

My 4's meme is posted.

Anonymous said...

1. I think Horseracing is inhumane and should be banned.


2. Michael Weiner (the real name of Savage) is also a complete nutjob and should not be taken seriously about anything except maybe herbs since he is a Herbologist. The horse was taken down not only because there were injuries she can't recover from but also because a horse is in sheer agony in that situation. I might hate horseracing but I also know these owners/trainers do treat these horses like their kids. Aside from forcing them to race, they are treated like gold and would do anything if they could save them. I'd like to see Weiner say to the face of Eight Belles' owner that he thinks they are perpetrating insurance fraud. He'd probably be too injured to even do his radio show from quite some time.

Skip Lockwood

Nikki said...

Mykidsmom, I should know about horses; I have owned at least one since I was fourteen which was a long, long time ago!

Skip, I'm curious as to how you found my blog.

Anonymous said...

I caught what Weiner said about the Derby and thought it was so stupid, so thoughtless, so appealing to the lowest in human nature that I curiously Googled today to see if anyone caught it too, especially in the horse field. Your blog came up.

Like I said, I may be against horseracing but I also have a strong sense of truth and logic. To Weiner accuse Eight Belles' owners of killing the horse because they can get the insurance money infuriated me. This is what passes for civic-minded radio?

Nikki said...

I did not catch much of what Weiner said, but he made me mad with his ignorance. No, it wasn't ignorance; he had made his mind up already and did not want to see the truth.

I hadn't really thought about it before, but horses really shouldn't be raced until they are four years old and their knees close. I never jumped one of my horses until they were four.