Five Reasons Why Aintree Is Not So Grand

Posted by 4 years ago | Permalink | Comments (32)

Horses jump a fence at AintreeAt last year’s Grand National, two horses, Synchronised and According To Pete, died on the track following gut-wrenching falls. Although race officials hurried to cover up the carnage with green tarpaulin, it was too late to hide the shocking deaths from the TV crews and the horrified spectators.

Given the length and danger of the course at Aintree, along with the reckless speeds enforced by the jockeys, it’s inevitable that horses will get hurt in this deadly race.

Behind the scenes, the racing industry has thousands more victims – thoroughbred horses who don’t make the grade or are past their prime. Even if they don’t succumb to fatal injuries on the track, only a lucky few ex-champions are rewarded with happy retirements in green pastures at the end of their racing days. The rest end up forgotten and neglected or are sent to the abattoir and killed.

Here are five reasons why it’s the horses who always pay the ultimate price:

  1. Fatal injuries are commonplace. Broken necks, backs and legs are commonplace at the Grand National, and yet the race goes on. Bred out of greed for speed, the thoroughbreds forced to take part are accidents waiting to happen: their legs are too long and fragile for the jumps, and they’re whipped and pushed literally to the breaking point. Every year, we see exhausted animals crash face-first into the ground and careen into one another on this deliberately punishing and hazardous course. Synchronised and According To Pete were last year’s victims, and 36 horses are known to have lost their lives at the race over the last 50 years.
  2. Becher’s Brook is dangerous. Known as the world’s most dangerous jump, Becher’s Brook predictably claimed the life of another vulnerable horse last year. Why not just dig holes on the course for the animals to trip on and stumble into while they’re at it? The stubborn refusal of the British Horseracing Authority and Aintree Racecourse to remove the deadly jump proves yet again that their primary focus is always on supplying a thrilling and dangerous sight for race-goers and the TV audience. The Grand National is a national disgrace that is grand only if you are not a horse or a caring human being.
  3. It’s impossible to improve the racecourse. The minor changes that have been made to Aintree Racecourse in recent years are mere token gestures. Animal-protection groups have long pointed out that the number of runners in a race has an impact on injuries and deaths, yet the organisers of the Grand National have actually increased the number of horses to 40 – it was below 29 until 2000. Recent changes to fences have not reduced fatalities, and the changes made to this year’s race are also unlikely to prevent the deaths of more beautiful animals.
  4. Horses are raced too young. Horses are raced too young, too often and on hard surfaces that practically guarantee breakdowns, and the Grand National is the worst offender. Appallingly, an estimated 38 per cent of the 400 horses who die every year on British racecourses do so during or just after a race. (The others die in the days and weeks that follow.) The ones who survive to the end of their racing days are simply discarded like used betting slips – cast off to be killed, butchered and sold off piece by piece.
  5. The focus is on money, not welfare. Owners of horses in the Grand National often mistake their love of money and glory for a love of the horses. To the rest of us, exposing horses to the dangers of this barbaric ritual makes it clear where their priorities lie. Veterinary treatment will be paid for as long as horses are racing and making money. However, if a horse sustains a fracture which is likely to involve many months of treatment, a decision is often made to destroy the horse because it would be more cost-effective. As long as people continue to bet on the Grand National, horses will continue to die.

Image: Paolo Camera / CC BY 2.0


  • mary p commented on April 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    this race is barbaric and should of been banned years ago, too many horses die, the same applies to any horse race though, but this is particularly bad.

  • Robert Davidson commented on April 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Enough is enough. Stop this barbaric race.

  • Nicola Allan commented on April 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    This race disgusts me and saddens me greatly. That such beautiful animals die needlessly each year is unforgivable. It needs to stop. Xx

  • Dawn hollis commented on April 5, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    BAN THIS DISGUSTING CRUEL SPORT. all in the name of money greedy trainers.

  • Romany Donald commented on April 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Stop this disgrace now! I saw the poster advertising the Grand National as the new ‘extreme sport’ and it made me furious. The poor horses didn’t get asked if they wanted to be thrashed and forced over jumps that are way too high. Every year there are accidents and fatalities. We should be ashamed.

    • alicia commented on April 11, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Ive been brought up around horses and have had many of my own yet i dont agree with what you are all saying. I really do not agree with any type of animal cruelty, but the grand national isn’t in any way a type of animal cruelty. Yes horses have died during the race which is extremely sad but are you all seriously stupid? That happens daily! it happens in cross country, in eventing, it happens in someones private field! Its only made to be more of a big deal during the national because its a massive event. Majority of them die because of a broken leg which cannot be helped, if a horse breaks a leg its got to be put down as there nothing that can be done, its not as easy as a dog breaking their leg. Many horses break their legs every day just in their fields so stop acting as if it only happens in the national. Its such a sad thing but it is life. Also anyone who says they dont enjoy it, if they really didn’t enjoy it why would they carry on racing and jumping if the rider has dismounted? They’re bred to race, its not cruel, they do enjoy it, they’re treated well as you do actually see when they’re having the ice cold water thrown over them to cool them down and relax their muscles, the amazing grooming they get pre race ad after the race, the food, the gorgeous stables, their rugs and the amount of praise they get no matter what place they come in. And for all these people saying about them getting whipped and that being a horrible thing, if you actually look properly the whip doesn’t touch them. So stop arguing a point you clearly can’t back up with certified proof, you clearly dont know a thing about horses or the amount of amazing care they get and how a horse dying, yes it is so sad and i wish they never did as i love my horses and any for that fact but it is life, its what happens and it can’t be helped.

      • Anne commented on June 23, 2016 at 1:35 pm

        Hi Alicia,

        Unfortunately there’s nothing ‘natural’ about horses breaking their legs when they’re made to jump over extremely high fences at breakneck speeds. And every year, jockeys are found guilty of overuse of the whip in order to try and get over the finish line faster. As for the ‘good treatment’ of race horses, this generally only lasts as long as they’re able to race and make a profit for their owners. Ex-racehorses are often sent to be slaughtered for cheap meat, abandoned or neglected.

  • Ann commented on April 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Hate the fact that you love ,feed your Animal,then give it a death sentence just towin bloody money,why???

  • julie lock commented on April 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I wonder if as many ‘jockeys’ died in this race, as horses do, would this barbaric race still be held? I think not!

  • Maureen Martin commented on April 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Don’t like horse racing at all but the Grand National really makes my stomach turn!!

  • marie commented on April 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Why doesn’t £1 of every bet placed be automatically be put into the racehorse retirement medical fund. That way the people who bet on the horses (causing them to be bred), are at the same time paying for their retirement (e.g. up to 35th Birthday).

    Also, unless the vets are experienced at and willing to mend broken legs of the horses, then they should not be allowed to work on British Racecourses. The Grand National should not allow the owner to decide to ‘put my horse down if he has a broken leg’. This should be the decision of the vet. And if we pay the vets out of the medical fund then I expect them to learn how to mend broken legs.
    Owners should not be allowed to put down or sell horses just because they are injured/ not good.

    • Dan commented on April 10, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      Just to point out to you that horses aren’t like humans, fixing a broken leg on a horse is not simple, so it’s not fair to blame the vets here and that they should ‘learn how to mend legs.’ To allow a horse to try and mend its leg will subject to horse to the almost definate outcome of acquiring severe laminitis in the other leg trying to support the extra weight, where the pedal bone literally pierces through the hoof and is pretty much fatal to a horse. A horse can not lay down for long periods of time, the weight of their bodies crushes their internal organs so the horse cannot simply be made to rest to not put weight to stand to avoid laminitis developing in its legs. Without a working foreleg a horse is going to suffer a lot until the inevitable happens. There is a small chance of a successful mend, but the chance is so small that you’re essentionally condemning the horse to a long cruel death if they aren’t humanely euthanised right there and then after a break. Every vet knows this, and most owners will be aware of this, and so the vets are simple trying to help them by ending their pain. Plus vets don’t have any power over the animals they treat even if they wanted to help because they don’t own the animal, it’s the owners decision. So it’s unfair to slam the vets here, the owner is entirely to blame.

  • Veronica commented on April 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    A horse has died this year at Aintree already and Saturdays big race isn’t untill tomorrow. This race is cruel and should be banned. I used to have a flutter on a horse years ago before i knew any better but never ever again, it is not fair on the horses. Please everyone if you don’t back on the National then this cruel race should end. I am also horrified that not many of the racing horses enjoy ahappy retirement at the end of their racing days.

  • Margaret Smithers Walker commented on April 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    All hurdles and steeplechases should be banned. They are a cruel vile excuse for so called sport x

  • Caroline prater commented on April 6, 2013 at 6:38 am

    This is a terrible sport, it’s sick to be honest, too many horses get injured/killed every year, this should not be happening to such poor innocent animals, find something else to do with your spare time, these animals don’t have a choice in life but you do and what for just to make a few pounds !!!! Theses horses aren’t even treated properly 🙁

  • fi oakes commented on April 6, 2013 at 9:38 am

    This race makes me ashamed of my city.and people just refuse to see the barbarity of it while there’s still money to be made. Every year I have to explain to people why the whole sorry thing should be banned and no I don’t want to go in your friggin sweepstake

  • Alice commented on April 6, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Veronica, of course they don’t enjoy a retirement. They are killed as they can’t make any more money for cruel people.

  • Jean Mannion commented on April 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    The RSPCA should step in and do something. What are they there for? This is just downright barbaric. Riding and whipping a lovely animal to its death for what? Money again.

  • Brien Comerford commented on April 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    For hundreds of years mankind was totally reliant on horses for transportation and survival. We have not rewarded them. Instead. many equines are sluaghtered for food and exploited by the dangerous and deadly racing industry.

  • mr right commented on April 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    horse meat is tasty and wholesome,better than cat or dog. horses are entertaining. hopefully they survive a race, thats what all the trainers want but it doesnt always happen. if you dont like it, continue to send out charity money to other countries and let your own rot away. cameron clegg and osbourne clearly have a friend in you people LOL

  • Maz Low commented on April 7, 2013 at 6:03 am

    This needs to be banned. Stop exploiting animals!!!

  • Mrs Elliott commented on April 11, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    the public need to be made more aware what actually happens to these used beautiful creatures and realise they are only used for monetary gain. its a disgrace. and as for the pompus idiots who decide what should be on the course. . . . well we all know where they need to go !

  • Vivian Rees commented on April 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    The issues surrounding the grand national and other horse racing events are surrounded by very large influences from big business and money making fraternities such as bookies and the media, eg. television and radio. Until these groups are encountered head-on and their money making manipulation of horses is overcome, then they will continue to excuse their activities and in fact, laugh at their critics. There is now a need for a sustained and prolonged assault on these inhuman and barbaric acts.

  • Kathleen Oyediran commented on April 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Totally shocking. Human greed is responsible for all animal suffering. Disgusting. Jockeys have a choice – the horses don’t. How do these people sleep at night? Ban it now in the name of human decency – if there is any left in horse-racing circles!

    • Wowzers commented on July 26, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      No matter what peta says, only SOME animal suffering is caused by humans: peta should stop forgetting that wild animals slaughter each other!

  • Carla commented on February 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Unfortunately I have seen first hand TB’s coming of the truck straight from the track for re-training. Lucky ones I guess! The one’s that didn’t make the grade though went straight back on the truck to go to the slaughter house, this was hidden. The Polocrosse yard where I worked wasn’t much better than the racing industry itself, with most horses being dumped when they where no longer viable for riding.

  • Kathy Lloyd commented on May 29, 2015 at 3:10 am

    It’s inhumane and it terrifies me!!!!

  • A commented on January 16, 2017 at 4:23 am

    So what can we all do to help put an end to this race? Any suggestions of organizations that we can join, media platforms, etc?

    • Kelli commented on January 16, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Hi, you can join the conversation by tweeting your reaction to the horse deaths with the hashtag #YouBetTheyDie, and help spread the word about the cruelty of horse racing on Facebook by sharing this story.

      You can also sign our petition here, to boycott the Grand National and any sporting event that profits from cruelty to animals. Thanks

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