Carnival brings out activists

November 11, 2017

Horses have had a huge impact on journalist Tara Whitsed's life yet she disagrees with horseracing protestors.

It’s that time of the year again.

When the self-righteous, social media users spend just one month — heck even just a couple of weeks — shouting down the horror that is the equine industry.

That’s right, the Spring Racing Carnival brings with it a band of ‘vegan animal-lovers’ who see the horse-racing industry as being all whips, broken bones, euthanasia and drunken punters.

And it’s that time of the year again, when I cannot stand scrolling through my Facebook news feed, having their opinions rammed down my throat.

What I would really love to know, is why these people are not concerned about equine industry welfare during the other 11 months of the year?

What is it about the Spring Carnival, namely the Melbourne Cup, that brings with it hatred for an industry that has existed in this country for longer than our beloved Australian Rules.

Why is it okay for burley footballers to receive concussion after concussion, broken limb after broken limb while doing a sport they love, but it is not okay for horses to tumble and hurt themselves while travelling at top speeds?

Yes, these animals cannot speak for themselves. Yes the industry does result in animal deaths. And yes, horses cannot turn around to their trainer and say ‘I hate this crap — put me in a paddock now’.

But what these people do not seem to understand is the uncanny ability for an owner to be able to read its beloved animal’s body language and temperament.

Because there seems to be a common thread in those who jump up and down about the industry being inherently cruel.

These people have often never sat their little vegan bottoms on a saddle and have certainly never experienced the unbelievable bond that exists between a horse and rider.

For as long as I can remember, horse riding and the equine industry have been a part of my life.

My father used to earn his keep thanks to the many horses that carried him around while chasing after runaway farm cattle.

As a toddler I was towed around on my Shetland pony.

And as a teenager, spending my weekends competing in horse competitions, my confidence and self-belief soared.

The equine industry and owning horses, for me, has only ever brought with it huge amounts of joy.

I love horses sometimes more than I love people. But yet I still don’t think horse racing is cruel.

In fact all of the people I know who have had any involvement with horse riding or the equine industry do not think it is cruel.

The problem is the people who complain about the horse racing industry only see what they want to see.

They don’t care to spend a day at a training facility to see how well-cared for these beautiful animals are.

They don’t engage with jockeys to find out how they actually ride their horses to victory.

And they don’t know what it looks like to see a horse thoroughly enjoying themselves in what would be considered the most primal form of testing a horse’s athletic ability.

I would urge these people to go and enlighten themselves to other parts of the equine industry that don’t receive air time on prime time television.

Perhaps they would be shocked to watch a fiery polocrosse match where the horses’ tails and legs must be strapped up due to the contact between riders.

No I’m not talking about the ritzy polo loved by royals — I’m talking about an intense mix of this sport and lacrosse which sees riders and horses injured regularly.

I would urge these people to get to a cross country course and watch a rider take their horse around a paddock at top speeds, jumping objects that cannot be moved.

There are so many other aspects of the equine industry that present dangers to both horse and rider, but if we coddled ourselves in cotton wool at the thought of every sport that presented dangers, where would we be?

And now that the Spring Carnival has wrapped up again for another year, I suppose it’s time to say goodbye to the people who think they know what is best for horses and the equine industry, until they come out of their caves when the roses begin to bloom at Flemington next year.

Tara Whitsed is a journalist at The News

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