Q What will happen to these horses if jumps racing is banned? Wont they be sent to the knackery?
A Jumps horses are usually unsuccessful flats gallopers that are at the end of their racing careers who are either re-homed or sent to the knackery. Last year its estimated that nearly 18,000 “excess” thoroughbreds were sent to slaughter. Jumps racing may take 200 – 300 of these a year but half of those don’t ever race and those that do have very short careers (50% have less than 5 starts and only 11% have more than 20 starts). They are then either re-homed or sent to slaughter. Horses that have not been jumped have a higher chance of being re-homed as they do not have injuries that make them unattractive to those looking for horses for other equestrian disciplines.
As to the discussion that Jumps racing gives failed flat horses a second chance. The perccentage of horses employed in jumps racing compared to the percentage that leave the industry every year (never to be seen again) is quite negligable. To further look at the number of horses who play an active part in jumps racing - look on our facts page
Q What about all the jobs that will be lost?
A Jumps racing only makes up 2.7% of all employment within the racing industry. There are no fulltime trainers that have only jumps horses,(for a closer look, refer to our facts page) they have both flats and jumpers or they are classed as hobby trainers with only 1 or 2 horses in work. Well over half of all jumps jockeys need to supplement their incomes in another field, usually that be high weight racing, or by ridingtrackwork, even completely outside the industry. Jumps racing represented only 0.6% of the total Victorian TAB turnover .
Q Why don’t they raise the jumps to slow the pace and make it safer.
A There has been no change in the deathrate since the jumps were lowered. They have made them padded as well, and the 2011 death toll is on par with the 2009 death toll. The UK has large solid steeples and they have had 33 horses die over the 3 day Grand National Carnival in the past 11 years. Bare in mind, the Grand National Carnival is an annual event - with the Grand National Steeplechase being run once a year. The race, in years gone by, has had four fatalities in a single running of the race, not something Australia wants to emulate.
Q What about Pony Clubs? I heard 2 horses died at a Pony Club last year.
A 2 horses died at a Pony Club in Victoria last year. One broke it’s leg show jumping, the other collapsed and died while tethered to a float. This risk of death or injury at a Pony Club is minute in comparison to jumps racing. In SA there are 2000 financial members. In 57 clubs across the state and there have been no recorded fatalities in at least 3 years.
Q What about flats racing? Horses die in that as well.
A Absolutely! Yes they do but again not anywhere near the rate of jumps horses. The death rate of flats horses is approximately 1 in 2150 starters. South Australia had 4 deaths in jumps this season. 1 in 6 races has ended in a fatality. In Victoria, 1 in 15 races ends in fatality. If flats horses were dying at the same rate, we would see in excess of 120 horses killed on the track or 1 – 2 EVERY race meeting.
Q What about towns such as Oakbank and Warrnambool? Wont they suffer if jumps racing is banned?
A The vast majority of patrons that visit the carnivals at Oakbank and Warrnambool are there for the atmosphere and would still attend regardless of whether or not jumps racing was conducted. Our feelings are that they may even draw a larger crowd as there is not the high risk of seeing a horse fatality injured. Warrnambool has had 13 deaths since 2006. Betting trends show that most people bet on the highweight or standard flat races anyway (see betting figures), and jumps racing wouldn't really be missed by the punters. Jumps racing NEVER runs in its own stand alone "carnival" or race meet as such - they are always scheduled amongst multiple flat races, the argument that banning jumps racing would decimate these carnivals and subsequently their economic contribution to the cities they are hosted in, is not valid.
Q I thought horses loved jumping, aren't they bred for it? How come when a horse falls in a race, he gets up and starts running again, jumping the jumps as he goes?
A No. Not really. It is true, horses can be trained to jump, and trained correctly, they jump quite well, this can be witnessed in persuits such as show jumping, cross country, etc - but horses are not actually jumpers by design. Legs too long, bodies too heavy and eyes on the side of their head certainly make it difficult.
What people need to understand about the horse, is it's psychology, and the "herd mentality". Natural horsemen such as Parelli, Monty Roberts, Tom Dorrance etc all talk about this herd mentality. Basically, in its simplest forms, it means "safety in numbers" stick with the herd, do as the herd does and you will be safe. The fact that horses fall and get up to continue jumping does NOT actually mean they are enjoying what they do - they are simply surviving. The herd is still running, they are in full flight or fight mode, their adrenaline is up and disabling their ability to think- therefore, they run after the herd. I would suggest viewing the video on Crying Storm on our video's page, and tell me whether you think Crying Storm enjoyed jumping as he tried to run on a broken leg.
The fact of the matter remains, that as long as horses are put in barriers, and run around a track "as a herd" they will do "as the herd" does. Once you stop thinking like a human, and start thinking like a horse, it will become obvious.