Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monzante: A Few Days In .... What Up?

We're a few days into the Monzante story and more facts, opinions and just-about-everything-else has emerged, or sunk. Like a lot of stories just like this, they meander, narratives change or move, sometimes facts become more clear, other times they get murkier.

So far, as I follow it, and in my opinion, a few themes have been established. In a broad sense, of course.

- I think the death of Monzante, like others before him, will help his brothers and sisters in the long run. Stories like this, which tend to tug at most of us, have a way of changing the way a system operates, incrementally, by speaking to the individual. For example, through moral suasion perhaps another good horse is claimed out of a race like this to be retired. That opens a spot for an everyday horse at a retirement farm. Without being too melodramatic, Monzante's death will - not might - save another horses life.

- The journalism crowd seems to be having an internal discussion about how to report issues like this - timing, the facts, the opinion; the can of worms. I know it's not popular to defend journalists in this day and age, but I think horse racing has some very good ones. When they talk and discuss (sometimes loudly), their craft - and horse racing - is better for it. Since the initial story, I've felt the down-the-middle reporting of the DRF's Matt Hegarty has been excellent (as one example).

- The 'it's my property and I can do what I want with it' horse ownership crowd has been taking it on the chin in the press, on social media, and is in a standing eight count. I shed no tears for them. If they want to treat a horse purchase or sale like they're buying or selling a timeshare or 100 shares of Apple, go do that and get out of horse racing. Racehorses are animals that are bought to race; to be on television, who have fans, have people who watch and bet them, and are a fabric of North American culture. The way they are cared for while they race, and after they race is a vital part of the ecosystem that keeps everyone in racing employed. If you want cattle, buy cattle. Racehorses are not livestock.

- The forwarding of a discussion regarding ownership responsibility is good for everyone. As one micro example, in Canada we are allowed to write farming losses (which racehorse ownership here is) off our incomes, to a max of about $9,000. My stable consists of three people who recently paid for a horse who was needing a home for well over a year. The $200 or so each a month came from the stable as an expense. This expense was written off as a loss, and we all received some income benefit from that at tax time. These losses can be carried forward as well. We're all looking for a home run horse where we will pay oodles of tax on it some time. Taking care of the stable's stock now can make that tax bite less in the future, and it makes everyone feel good to help a horse we own at the same time. It's expensive to care for horses after they race, but it isn't as expensive as one thinks when you look at it from that perspective.

- Dan might've summed up perhaps the most interesting item of the week.
He's probably right. If this happened in 1992, no one would even be talking about it.

Since the story broke I have tried to look at all sides, while staying out of protracted arguments and focusing on the big picture. Whether I have succeeded or not in that is not for me to judge. However, from as dispassionate a position I can muster, I think some good is happening in horse racing land regarding this story. At least I hope so.


Heidi E. Carpenter said...

Another note on the 'it's my property' crowd: the definition of property is constantly changing--it has been for thousands of years and will continue to over the next ???? years. Humans were once considered property (and still are in some third world countries) but in recent history, human voices were finally heard and granted equal rights by law. Unfortunately, since they are relatively less complex than humans and don’t speak our language, animal voices are easily ignored by the morally corrupt/lazy. Here’s hoping that over time, society will realize that there’s much more to animals than their silent, questioning eyes.

Indulto said...

Has the Jockey Club or anyone quantified the problem?

Are actual stats or estimates available re: % of foal crops
1) retired
2) euthanized
3) slaughtered
in U.S., Canada, U.K. France, Hong Kong, Australia?

Caroline said...

Nobody knows Indulto. I've seen several people ask if the Jockey Club has ever tried to survey outcomes, and as far as I know they have not. However, the new Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) which is an accrediting and industry fundraising body did try to survey existing non-profits about numbers of horses actually in retirement and transitioning through the non-profit system. I don't know what they found.

A few years ago, the TOC estimated that 2K TB racehorses "retire" in California each year. Granting agencies like CARMA in California and the TCA nationally that receive grant applications from non-profits with detail on numbers of horses in and out probably have a better feel for this than anyone. I suspect eventually the TAA will have some very decent data on numbers of horses going through the retirement and transitioning system.

Slaughter stats by breed? Very few available. They aren't public (privately owned slaughter plants) and my own experience at auctions suggests that breed specification may well be inaccurate. The few FOIA'd stats from former US slaughter plants in Texas suggested 10-18% of slaughtered horses were thoroughbreds. That includes horses of all ages, not just recent racehorses. So at 140K/year slaughtered, roughly, that would give you a lower bound of about 14K a year. But those data represent such a small sample that it's hard to draw any conclusions. In my own experience (again small sample) at local low end auctions, I think 10-15% thoroughbreds (over the last 6 years) sounds about right.

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