What about the real athletes at Caymanas Park?

By Melissa Talbert May 11, 2020

I remember the days. Individuals weighing all of 80 pounds yelling “go faster” while holding on to me for dear life.

My feelings were ignored because they figured I was strong. The many piggyback rides I’ve given in my life has made me empathetic to the plight of the racehorse.

Recently, stakeholders of horse racing staged a demonstration at Caymanas Park. The demonstration highlighted the uncertainty they face with no idea of when racing will resume. Racing at Caymanas Park had been called off as part of the Government of Jamaica's efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the island.

Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), the company behind all betting on horse racing in Jamaica says it understands the frustrations of the racing fraternity and will reopen Caymanas Park as soon as it’s allowed to do so in a “comprehensive manner”.

I hear the plight of the jockeys who aren't earning and the entire industry that is suffering but the horses might not agree.

Think about it, they go through a lot.

Take British racehorse ‘Humorist’ for example. After winning Britain’s richest horse race in 1921, it was revealed that the horse was suffering from tuberculosis and only had one healthy lung.

Can you imagine training while operating on one good lung? Racehorses have to train. That way their chances of winning races are higher. They have to exercise– sprinting again and again. Horses have to listen to their jockey’s instructions and do as they are told. They are told when to hold back, when to run flat out, when to make their move, and when to give up the ghost. Horses, before COVID-19, had no freedom.

Roughly, 70% of a jockey's training is done on top of a racehorse and though jockeys have strict weight requirements, a horse has to deal with them, heavy equipment, and on occasion, added weight for handicapping purposes.

While the jockey's skill at getting the best out of a horse, reading the race right are unquestionable talents and mean a good jockey can beat a bad one, the real stars of Caymanas Park or any other track are the horses.

Horses are the ones that bets get made on. With more and more off-track betting, as well as a full stadium every weekend, there is increasingly more pressure on horses to do well. Owners and trainers invest time and effort and a great deal of money on horses and expect to be paid back in winnings.

When those winnings don't come, you hear of the ugly side of horse racing. Horses die from substance abuse, clearly not self-inflicted, then there is the practice of 'batterying' a horse. That is where you put an actual battery on the horse and allow raw connections to shock the horse into running harder. Then some horses have to be given Lasix in order to stop them from bleeding through the nose during runs. I'm absolutely sure no horse wants to run until he or she bleeds? Other horses die from respiratory, digestive, multiorgan system disorders and limb injuries. Can you imagine being put to death because you have a limp?

The theory of evolution says that humans are born to die but, how many of us fear death? Similarly, horses were born to run but who says they want to all the time and at the behest of a 100-pound weight on top of it? Racehorses contribute a lot to horse racing making them stakeholders too. The least we can do is consider them.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

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