Why 62.5% of the Grand National runners did not finish.

62.5% of horses did not finish the 2021 Grand National and two died. Are we all guilty for allowing this unnecessary suffering to continue.

In memory of The Long Mile & Houx Gris

The 2021 Grand National spectacle and pageant is over with just two deaths and those are anti-horseracing and those that stage the event are both probably breathing a sigh of relief but for different reasons. Those against because only two horses were sacrificed in the carnage to satiate our betting addiction and for the organisers it means the any bad publicity and outrage is kept minimal. Only 15 horses finished or to put it another way, 25 (62.5%) of the field of 40 did not finish. It is a very telling statistic.

Are we putting too much emphasis on how many die?

We are obviously all thankful that only two horses died, but this is still too many. But are we being side tracked by putting too much emphasis on how many die rather than concentrating on the legalities of putting all these horses through such mental and physical suffering, and the unnecessary danger and over exertion just to entertain and feed our entrenched gambling habits.

In this years race, 15 horses pulled up, 4 fell, 4 unseated their rider, and one very sensible horse named Ballyoptic called it quits and refused to jump. This is an increase on last year. Realistically the large number of non-finishers must mean that the course is too punishing for most of the horses and they are either not fit enough or just not up to it. So are we all guilty of condoning this unnecessary suffering and could it be classified as contravening welfare laws? The evidence may be in the statistics.

15 horses were pulled up meaning their riders felt they were suffering and it was cruel to put them through any more punishment. The four that unseated their riders were no doubt too weakened and exhausted and did not jump in the way the rider anticipated. The four who fell were pushed too far risking serious injury and possible fatal consequences. The two that died were definitely pushed beyond their capabilities.

Riderless race horse

Trivial changes to the course will never prevent horse suffering.

Although the racecourse authorities have made changes to the fences, stables, cooling down procedures and god knows what to improve “horse welfare,” everyone knows that the race in its present state will never be safe for the horses or riders unless you remove the fences altogether and shorten the race. At present it is purely an endurance event and more like the Charge of the Light Brigade or ancient Rome’s chariot racing than a civilised sporting event.

In Australia jump racing is increasingly being viewed as outdated and attendances are falling in Victoria and South Australia, the only two states which haven’t banned jump racing. These states are under pressure to follow suit in the wake of the others who banned jumping decades ago. 74 horses were killed in races and many more injured in 2020 in the two states. There is considerable campaigning at the moment, but in the UK there isn’t the same level of interest in stopping it.

To truly do everything to protect the horses and jockey’s welfare would involve removing all the excitement, the spectacle and the pageant for the baying crowd to enjoy. Unfortunately horse racing like football is ingrained into our sporting pysche and is a sport enjoyed by the masses and so will never be banned entirely, but the death rate could easily be banished by banning jumps to the history books.

Related posts:

There From the Start. A book on the war horses and their carers.

Exploring the emotional bond between horses and soldiers in World War One.

Every November 11th. I think of my grandfather Edwin who was a “driver” in the field artillery in World War One and spent four Novembers on the western front during his 42 months continuous service. I was so affected by the horrors he had to endure that I wrote a book about him and the horses he cared for.

My book There From the Start follows his exploits and explores the extraordinary relationship between the men and the war horses. The men were devoted to them, spending most of their working hours with them, and they helped sustain the men’s physical and mental well-being by being their confidants, friends and comrades.

They were in it together and just as the horses and mules did their utmost to help the troops the men reciprocated by doing all they could to ease their hardships. They fought and suffered together, faced the same dangers, often rested, slept and ate together and ultimately died together.

Edwin received serious injuries in early November 1918 when a bomb was dropped on him and his colleagues while they were feeding and grooming the horses a mile behind the front line. It caused carnage, killing and maiming many of the horses and men. I find it impossible to imagine the awful sounds, sights and smells he had to endure, made worse I’m sure by witnessing the suffering of his harmless equine comrades.

Read how the war horses and men survived the hardships and the bond between them.

ISBN: 978-1094956763 RRP. £10.99 150 pages 40 b&w photographs

Special Offer direct from publisher. UK orders Buy Now £11.00 incl. p&p

Buy from Bitzabooks now



Related Article: