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Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I thought it was so sad. I was really rooting for her, since she was a filly and a filly hasn't won in, what, 20 years?

For those of you who don't know, she finished 2nd and ran her heart out, then broke both her ankles on her front legs and had to be put down on the track.

That was just heartbreaking. I actually started crying when they said they had to euthanize her. She was a gorgeous horse with so much potential. RIP Eight Bells.

(mods, if this is the wrong forum please move it. I wasn't sure if it should go here, Breaking Mews, Cats and other animals, or RB)
post #2 of 17
Knowing absolutely nothing about horses, but knowing a LOT about human orthopedic surgery....why do they euthanize horses when they break their legs? It doesn't make sense to me....but then again...I know NOTHING about horses, except that they are beautiful!
post #3 of 17
Kelli, I feel the same way. The only reason I can think of is that they no longer care about a horse that can't run again, and that makes me sick. Of course, if she'd been male, they might have saved her for stud... but a female wouldn't be nearly so prolific (read "profitable") as a breeder.

Having said that, let me acknowledge that the horse was in terrible pain: as I understand it, these were compound fractures. But that still doesn't explain why she couldn't have been anesthetized, repaired, and fitted with a front-end "wheelchair" until she healed.

She was so beautiful.
post #4 of 17
In the case of Eight Bells, they euthanized her because she didn't have a good front leg to stand on while they got the other one healed up. I'm sure the owners, trainers, and jockey would have much preferred to save her, if they could. Look at what they spent to try to save Barbaro.

All that said, I don't have any use for horse racing. I saw all the horse races I ever needed to see by the time I was 12, since my stepfather ran photos for the local newspaper in Denver.
post #5 of 17
How odd....we've never euthanized any human patient (and I've seen many!) with compound fractures. And I know that human patients with compound fractures are in a lot of pain too. Hmmmmm. I just don't get it. I'd really like a knowledgeable horse person to explain the reasoning to me. I wonder if it has something to do with weight bearing while healing. I don't think (but I'm not sure) that horses can function when laying down (something to do with their digestive system, maybe.) For most fractures, they need to be non-weight bearing while healing. I guessing that would be difficult for an animal that must remain standing (ie: weight bearing.) I'm just about as "horse stupid" as they come.
post #6 of 17
It all makes me physically sick as well. I cried when I saw the photographs of that poor beautiful horse lying on the track. Absolutely heartbreaking. The severity of injuries that I have seen in horse racing over the past 10 years or so really concern me. Are they doping these horses with steriods to make them stronger - which, of course, also make their joints weaker? Or are they running horses with injuries before they are fully healed? These ideas have just been buzzing around in my head since yesterday and I could be way off base here. Wouldn't be the first time, mind you.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
I actually wondered that too. Apparently, from one interview I heard, the main reason was because with both her FRONT legs broken, she couldn't recover because there was nothing to support her. It it had been one 1 leg, or a front and back leg they could have supported her with a sling until they were healed, but with 2 front legs not being able to hold her weight, the sling would have suffocated her, broken her ribs, or caused internal damage.
post #8 of 17
Speaking as someone who HAS had a horse breakdown in a race, I assure you they DO NOT take this decision lightly. Our horse had to be PTS on the track she could not have lived with the break...it is SO rare for a horse to come back from that kind of injury and I don't mean to be put back in a race, but just to live their everyday life, it's almost impossible, their nature is to run whether in a race or in a field.

RIP Eight Belles Keep in mind she died doing what she LOVED and what she was bred to do and she beat a lot of BOYS
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pookie-poo View Post
Knowing absolutely nothing about horses, but knowing a LOT about human orthopedic surgery....why do they euthanize horses when they break their legs? It doesn't make sense to me....but then again...I know NOTHING about horses, except that they are beautiful!
I know nothing about horses either, and they are beautiful

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolPetunia View Post
Kelli, I feel the same way. The only reason I can think of is that they no longer care about a horse that can't run again, and that makes me sick. Of course, if she'd been male, they might have saved her for stud... but a female wouldn't be nearly so prolific (read "profitable") as a breeder.

Having said that, let me acknowledge that the horse was in terrible pain: as I understand it, these were compound fractures. But that still doesn't explain why she couldn't have been anesthetized, repaired, and fitted with a front-end "wheelchair" until she healed.

She was so beautiful.
I don't think it is because they don't care if they can run again or not, I think they do what is best for the horse, and she was beautiful

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrblanche View Post
In the case of Eight Bells, they euthanized her because she didn't have a good front leg to stand on while they got the other one healed up. I'm sure the owners, trainers, and jockey would have much preferred to save her, if they could. Look at what they spent to try to save Barbaro.

All that said, I don't have any use for horse racing. I saw all the horse races I ever needed to see by the time I was 12, since my stepfather ran photos for the local newspaper in Denver.
I NEVER watch horse racing, I happen to think it is cruel, I also think racing dogs is cruel too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pookie-poo View Post
How odd....we've never euthanized any human patient (and I've seen many!) with compound fractures. And I know that human patients with compound fractures are in a lot of pain too. Hmmmmm. I just don't get it. I'd really like a knowledgeable horse person to explain the reasoning to me. I wonder if it has something to do with weight bearing while healing. I don't think (but I'm not sure) that horses can function when laying down (something to do with their digestive system, maybe.) For most fractures, they need to be non-weight bearing while healing. I guessing that would be difficult for an animal that must remain standing (ie: weight bearing.) I'm just about as "horse stupid" as they come.
I think it has something to do with that, I think they need to be able to stand, and I think it had something to do with both of her front legs being broken.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carley View Post
It all makes me physically sick as well. I cried when I saw the photographs of that poor beautiful horse lying on the track. Absolutely heartbreaking. The severity of injuries that I have seen in horse racing over the past 10 years or so really concern me. Are they doping these horses with steriods to make them stronger - which, of course, also make their joints weaker? Or are they running horses with injuries before they are fully healed? These ideas have just been buzzing around in my head since yesterday and I could be way off base here. Wouldn't be the first time, mind you.
I didn't see the photographs of Eight Belles, nor do I plan too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by calico2222 View Post
I actually wondered that too. Apparently, from one interview I heard, the main reason was because with both her FRONT legs broken, she couldn't recover because there was nothing to support her. It it had been one 1 leg, or a front and back leg they could have supported her with a sling until they were healed, but with 2 front legs not being able to hold her weight, the sling would have suffocated her, broken her ribs, or caused internal damage.
I think that was the reason, but I am not sure. I just don't think they would have put her down if there was any way they could have saved her.
post #10 of 17
I found an explanation here about why horses are usually put down after breaking a leg. The horse's size makes it almost impossible to keep the leg immobile enough to heal. Eight Bells breaking both front legs meant that she could never have a healthy life again.

I read in the newspaper this morning that it seems to be a breeding issue as to why she broke her legs. She descended from a horse called Native Dancer. In fact, Barbaro and 75% of all thoroughbreds descend from this line also. Native Dancer had heavily muscled legs and a herky-jerky running style and over breeding from this line has led to a diminished gene pool and horses which have a propensity for feet problems.
post #11 of 17
I am a big horse racing fan so I, of course, watched the Derby I was rooting for her and when she went down at the end of the race, I knew she was going to be PTS. When a horse lays flat like that, it is a really bad sign. They are prey animals and to expose themselves like that is not normal for them. I imagine that the link that katachtig posted was a good explanation, but really if you think about it, a horse weighs about 1200 pounds. That's a lot of weight for those spindly little legs to be carrying around- especially a 3 year old that has not fully finished developing yet. I almost started crying when I saw her go down like that yesterday.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by katachtig View Post
I found an explanation here about why horses are usually put down after breaking a leg. The horse's size makes it almost impossible to keep the leg immobile enough to heal. Eight Bells breaking both front legs meant that she could never have a healthy life again.

I read in the newspaper this morning that it seems to be a breeding issue as to why she broke her legs. She descended from a horse called Native Dancer. In fact, Barbaro and 75% of all thoroughbreds descend from this line also. Native Dancer had heavily muscled legs and a herky-jerky running style and over breeding from this line has led to a diminished gene pool and horses which have a propensity for feet problems.
Thanks for the link! It does explain that the biggest problem is immobilizing the horse and allowing for the injured leg to be non-weight bearing, as I suspected. Wow, what a heartbreaking injury, and even more heartbreaking solution (euthanasia.)

I find it totally unconscionable that horses are being inbred enough to have this trait.
post #13 of 17
Horses legs are hard to mend. You can't have the horse laying down with a cast - they have to be put in a sling to support them. With both ankles broke it would be next to impossible to fix her up even in a sling for the couple of months to heal.

I know with Ruffian I thought "why didn't they just put her in a sling to fix the one broken leg?" After reading her story I knew. She was such a fighter and had so much heart that after she was in a cast, she tried to walk; faught the sling so much she reinjured the leg again. It was a very hard decision to make in putting her down, but they knew she would never stand the healing time it would take.

I was hoping it would work, cause I wanted them to breed Ruffian to Secretariat for a "super horse"
post #14 of 17
If it helps, bear in mind that Eight Belles was not in pain. This happened as she was slowing after the race, like IMMEDIATELY after running 40 miles an hour amongst 19 other horses crowding for position. She was still on an adrenaline high. When she broke her ankles, she most likely didn't feel it, and she was put down immediately so adrenaline didn't have time to fade and pain to kick in.

There are problems with the sport, mostly centered around breeding. Eight Belles in point, her sire is Unbridled Song. Hardly any of his foals made it past 7 races (Eight Belles was running her 10th race). They eventually sprain an ankle, break a cannon bone, pop a splint, get quarter cracks or foot bruises, and before you can say "and they're off!", the horse is off to the breeding shed, retired because he "has nothing further to prove." Which is a joke, btw. A win in one stakes race. Apparantly that's all it takes before a classy horse gets shipped off to breed more unsound horses. "Veterans" these days haven't run more than 10 races, when in the past, they'd run 10 in one year (and in the old days, like from the 60's and earlier, they'd run the 10 races, maybe 20, in a short span and then take a rest. They'd run a race, rest for 3 days, run another race, rest for 2 days, run another, rest for 5 days, run another, and so on and so forth until winter and they'd spend the next season or two just frolicking in the fields and growing). There's a theory going around, that I agree with, that the reason horses these days are so unsound is because they don't actually WORK. They do nothing but train, and then race every 2-3 months. It doesn't strengthen the horse; on the contrary, it weakens the bones because they're not being used. It certainly does fit when you think back on the horses of old.

On the plus side, I can't think of a single racing fan who doesn't love Curlin, because he's now 4 and he's STILL racing. He just won the Dubai World Cup a couple of months ago, and most owners would have retired him after he finished 2nd in the Belmont last year. And even more would have retired him after his win in the Dubai World Cup (it's THE international place to be for dirt horses), but nope, he's slated to run in the Stephen Foster in a couple of months, and he's going to continue running this year. We need more horses like him in the sport. And when he eventually retires, he'll be an asset to the breed, as he'll add in some longevity and soundness. Horses like Unbridled Song and Storm Cat and AP Indy should be banned from the breeding shed. But even though their foals race so little in so short a time before getting injured (and being whisked to safety to breed more unsound foals), their foals show absolute brilliance, so people just keep breeding to these stallions.

In the Ruffian: Burning From The Start book, there was a quote that's soooo true. It says that fast horses always get hurt. The slow ones don't run hard enough to do themselves any harm. On that Ruffian note, her trainer, Frank Whitely, died on Friday at the age of 93. He was one of the great trainers, and not because of the great horses he trained. It was the WAY he trained them. Grass and oats. He didn't rely on drugs, only used the vet's assistance when necessary, stuck with one farrier who had proven his worth, iced his horses legs every day (even though they weren't hurt), etc. He was one of the great ones, and even though he's been retired for a long time, we've lost a great trainer.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pookie-poo View Post
I find it totally unconscionable that horses are being inbred enough to have this trait.
Amen. I watched because I just love to see horses run, but I think it will be my last race... the more I learn, the more I feel that it really is animal abuse.

And it also bothers me that it's such a big business, with "owner groups" and big foreign corporations and many millions of dollars involved.

And while I know the trainer and the jockey play huge roles, I don't like hearing people say they won the race. The horse won the race!
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aussie_Dog View Post
If it helps, bear in mind that Eight Belles was not in pain. This happened as she was slowing after the race, like IMMEDIATELY after running 40 miles an hour amongst 19 other horses crowding for position. She was still on an adrenaline high. When she broke her ankles, she most likely didn't feel it, and she was put down immediately so adrenaline didn't have time to fade and pain to kick in.

There are problems with the sport, mostly centered around breeding. Eight Belles in point, her sire is Unbridled Song. Hardly any of his foals made it past 7 races (Eight Belles was running her 10th race). They eventually sprain an ankle, break a cannon bone, pop a splint, get quarter cracks or foot bruises, and before you can say "and they're off!", the horse is off to the breeding shed, retired because he "has nothing further to prove." Which is a joke, btw. A win in one stakes race. Apparantly that's all it takes before a classy horse gets shipped off to breed more unsound horses. "Veterans" these days haven't run more than 10 races, when in the past, they'd run 10 in one year (and in the old days, like from the 60's and earlier, they'd run the 10 races, maybe 20, in a short span and then take a rest. They'd run a race, rest for 3 days, run another race, rest for 2 days, run another, rest for 5 days, run another, and so on and so forth until winter and they'd spend the next season or two just frolicking in the fields and growing). There's a theory going around, that I agree with, that the reason horses these days are so unsound is because they don't actually WORK. They do nothing but train, and then race every 2-3 months. It doesn't strengthen the horse; on the contrary, it weakens the bones because they're not being used. It certainly does fit when you think back on the horses of old.

On the plus side, I can't think of a single racing fan who doesn't love Curlin, because he's now 4 and he's STILL racing. He just won the Dubai World Cup a couple of months ago, and most owners would have retired him after he finished 2nd in the Belmont last year. And even more would have retired him after his win in the Dubai World Cup (it's THE international place to be for dirt horses), but nope, he's slated to run in the Stephen Foster in a couple of months, and he's going to continue running this year. We need more horses like him in the sport. And when he eventually retires, he'll be an asset to the breed, as he'll add in some longevity and soundness. Horses like Unbridled Song and Storm Cat and AP Indy should be banned from the breeding shed. But even though their foals race so little in so short a time before getting injured (and being whisked to safety to breed more unsound foals), their foals show absolute brilliance, so people just keep breeding to these stallions.

In the Ruffian: Burning From The Start book, there was a quote that's soooo true. It says that fast horses always get hurt. The slow ones don't run hard enough to do themselves any harm. On that Ruffian note, her trainer, Frank Whitely, died on Friday at the age of 93. He was one of the great trainers, and not because of the great horses he trained. It was the WAY he trained them. Grass and oats. He didn't rely on drugs, only used the vet's assistance when necessary, stuck with one farrier who had proven his worth, iced his horses legs every day (even though they weren't hurt), etc. He was one of the great ones, and even though he's been retired for a long time, we've lost a great trainer.

Thanks for your insight, Aussie -- great post.
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolPetunia View Post
Amen. I watched because I just love to see horses run, but I think it will be my last race... the more I learn, the more I feel that it really is animal abuse.

And it also bothers me that it's such a big business, with "owner groups" and big foreign corporations and many millions of dollars involved.

And while I know the trainer and the jockey play huge roles, I don't like hearing people say they won the race. The horse won the race!
haha, that's just the media being politically correct. Horse people themselves will refer to Big Brown winning the Derby, or Secretariat winning the Belmont. The jocks are justified in being referred to as having won a race, though, IMO. They don't just sit there and guide the horse around, they make lightning-quick decisions and make sense of the chaos going on around them. They're 115lb midgets holding back 1200 pounds of horse who wants to get to the front of the pack and has it's own mind. They're hanging on to reins, mane, whip and they're literally perched on the saddle and having wind blasted at them at better than 40mph, and they have to get around the track without dropping anything (including themselves). It's a difficult sport and jockeys are probably the greatest athletes there are (a former jockey, Gary Stevens ["George Woolf" in the movie Seabiscuit, lol] once admitted that he thinks boxers are higher up). A good jockey can be the only thing that gets the horse under the wire first. Though we all find it amusing when a horse dumps his/her jockey at the start of the race and then continues the race by himself. It's even more amusing when said horse actually finishes first (unfortunately, since he crossed the wire without his jockey, he's automatically disqualified). On that note, here's a video of Gander, a top stakes horse, who tripped coming out of the gate in a race and lost his rider. The outrider couldn't catch him in time, so he decided to complete the race. And he won. He's the grey horse, very easy to spot. The video quality is a little lacking, though. http://youtube.com/watch?v=UN2bG90Qxdc
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