As many of you know, horses are a life long love of mine. I maybe a small town country girl, who rides western and loves going to a rodeo, but I also enjoy the excitement of Grand Prix Jumping and Thoroughbred Horse Racing. Two weeks ago, at the end of what is called the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, a tragedy happened.  A beautiful athlete named Eight Belles collapsed due to two broken front legs. Eight Belles was the first Filly to run the Derby in 20 years! If she had won, she would have only been the 4th filly to win in the 134 year history of the Kentucky Derby.

Eight Belles had condylar fractures to both front ankles. Unfortunately this is a very common fracture in racehorses, while racing. But it is rare for it to be so severe, to happen to two legs at the same time, or to happen at the end of a race when the horse is pulling up. A condylar fracture is the when part of the end of a long bone breaks off. In the case of Eight Belles, it was in her front ankles. The red circled area is the location where the fractures occurred. The red circled area on the next image is the location on the joint that the fractures occurred.

Horses are fragile creatures and they are unable to live on only 3 legs, unlike dogs or cats. When a fracture like this occurs, usually the fracture is repaired using screws and plates. But the horse will not be able to put weight on that limb. Because of this, the horse will be in a sling. When a horse is unable to move for long periods of time, the lack of blood flow to and from the limbs will cause laminitis, the condition which lead to Barbaro’s death. Laminitis is when the wall of the hoof detaches it self from the foot. It is extremely painful, and usually develops in the feet that are carrying the load while one leg is injured. Because of this issue, trying to repair two broken legs would have lead to Eight Belles death because of laminitis. Dwayne H. Rodgerson, a surgeon at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, called Eight Belles’s injury – near-simultaneous catastrophic condylar fractures in both forelegs – “very rare.”

To make this even more tragic, PETA called for the suspension of the Jockey Gabriel Saez, suggesting that he should have known that the filly was injured. I have watched the video footage of this race over and over again, the injury did not occur until after she crossed the finish line. She actually made it to the 1/8th mile pole before both legs failed and she fell. That horse was not injured earlier in the race and forced to continue. These types of fractures are very painful and the horse will stop racing to try to reduce the weight on the injured limb. Like usual, PETA has their collective heads so firmly shoved up their Keister, they do not know what is going on. This was just a tragic accident and because of the nature of injury involved it was more humane to euthanize Eight Belles.

I do have many problems with the horse industry, not just horse racing. It is very common to have HIGH level competitions for 3 year old horses. A horse’s skeletal system is not completely done growing until the horse is 4 to 5 years old, depending on the breed. In order to have a horse ready for an invitation to high level competitions, they usually start being ridden at 11 – 14 months old and start competing shortly there after. This leads to a multitude of injuries, due to under developed bones being required to support over developed muscling. Bowed Tendons, Shin splints, hairline fractures in the long leg bones, etc, are just a few of the many problems these horses have to live with. But unfortunately these competitions bring in large amounts of money. Not just to the industry, but to the competitors as well.

When Big Brown won the Derby, he got a blanket of roses, but his owner, trainer, and jockey split a $2 Million pay out. Also at this stage he is worth a lot of money as a breeder. If he was to retire now, his owner could easily collect a couple hundred thousand dollars every time Big Brown covers a mare. And there are people already lining up. Because of the money involved in these high level competitions, there is no foreseeable end. I heard on the news today that a columnist is predicting that the tragedy with Eight Belles was going to lessen the number of spectators for the sport. This is probably true for the TV audiences, but not for those who go to local tracks and off site betting locations for these races. The Kentucky Derby has been racing for 134 years; the first national telecast was in 1952. If the Derby was not televised, it will still run the First Saturday of May.

Now on to this weekend! This weekend is the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown Race, the 133th running of the Preakness Stakes. This is the shortest of the 3 races, being only 1 3/16 mile long. It is my prediction that the beautiful Big Brown will do a repeat performance of 2 weeks ago and run away the winner by 3 lengths!

Go Big Brown!!!!