MysticL, I don't think it's so much to get the drugs out of their system, but to allow them to 'let down' and learn to be 'real' horses. They are kept in such a tightly controlled environment and pumped full of what is essentially rocket fuel, that it can take months for them to adjust to a more relaxed lifestyle. They need to get that crazy energy out of their system, and get used to being on lower energy feeds with a higher roughage percentage.
There is always going to be the BAD and the GOOD in ANY horse sport, that's just the way it is. I honestly do not think it is bad, yeah the horses might get started a year to young, but they get the best care ever. I'm no going to be against something where you know and see that the horses are put FIRST.
They are put first, but with respect to keeping them in shape to run well. Who cares what happens after. Then they break down like my boy did because theyve been run so hard on joints that arent mature. Hugo was broken down by 7 years old, you can't tell me that that is a horse that was put first. He was raced until he was too unsound to run anymore. At least his owners cared enough to sell him on and not dog him, though they did fail to mention at the time of purchase that he'd broken down. He trotted up sound in the PPE, it does make me wonder...
Oh for sure Kayty, the let down part and becoming a real horse is very important. I'm going through it with mine at the moment. But the drug part is not true and I find the misconception gives the industry an even worse name. And for the record I am not a huge advocate of the racing world! Perhaps we use the term "drug" too loosely. I've heard lots of people say they are getting all the drugs out their horse's system. I always believed the doping story until I met the woman who does the testing after every race. She assisted me in finding my OTTB. She showed me what they do, how they get the sample etc. I was sincerely impressed that it was all so carefully done.
As someone who has been involved in the racing industry I would say that racing in the USA leaves a lot to be desired.
For a start the going on a lot of the tracks leaves a lot to be desired. Racing on dirt can mean racing on sludge or hard going or, worse still very uneven going.
Secondly, horses in the US can and do race when on drugs because as long as it is declared. A horse that needs bute to run is not sound therefore should not be running. Lasix for a bleeder also means the horse is not 'right' so should not be stressed.
If a horse is given pain killers to hide a lameness or even the fact that a horse is just sore, and it races then whatever is causing that problem is under a lot more stress and the horse, with the effort of racing, will have more major problems.
In the UK there are nowhere near the deaths on the track flat racing. A lot of this is due to the fact that the horses are raced a lot less, they generally run on grass and are trained very differently. There are going to be fatalities and injuries but they are far less this side of the pond than that.
I would like to see two major things, the first that America falls into line with the banning of all drugs when a horse is racing (means withdrawal several days/weeks before a race) and limit the number of races a horse under the age of four can run in during a season.
Surfaces should also be looked into, there are far better ones than dirt.