What's in It for Me?

For the most part, I love my job. I've got three squares a day, dental and health care, all the clothing and shoes I need, and plenty of company. I've followed in my father's footsteps in my work, and I only hope I can be half as successful in my career as he was. I guess my only complaint is the politics. Seems like the people running the show forget about me sometimes...forget that there wouldn't be a show without me. Would it be too much to ask if some small portion of the money I bring into the industry was given back to make my life, and the lives of my peers, a little better? Thanks, I knew you would listen.

Anthropomorphism at its finest? Perhaps. But it points out a fact that our industry is run upon the backs of deaf mutes, to put it in the words of a favored veterinarian friend. We are responsible for their care, their health, their very existence. We dictate where they live, how they live, what they eat, and what they do for a living. We determine whether they are successful or not because we choose their careers.

At a time when many states are fighting desperately to maintain healthy purses to keep owners in the game, there is a continuing influx of other types of gambling to compete for betting dollars. Less betting at the track and through the various simulcasting venues means less money coming in to support the industry. Therefore, many racing states are embracing other forms of gambling to offset these declines on and off the track.

During all of the debates that have raged in state after state, I have yet to hear of a state putting anything from gambling income toward research and health care of horses. Actually, I haven't heard any horse owners, breeders, trainers, or agents asking for any of that income to be put toward making the lives of Thoroughbreds (and through them all horses) any better.

I think we're missing the point.

Yes, the industry has to be financially sound in order to keep the gates open and the races running. Yes, owners have to make enough money to keep their interest, even if they don't always make enough to pay all the bills. Yes, we have to compete against disposable income for entertainment being spent in other gambling venues rather than at the races.

No, we don't have to forget the horses in our quest to keep the business alive and well.

This industry is built upon living, breathing animals. And it is our obligation to make sure that we are seeing to their well-being today, and in the future. How many diseases, disasters, and destructive devices will we force our horses to endure because we won't share our profits with them?

And isn't it more fair that everyone involved in racing should pitch in for equine health care and research? Often today it is only the very wealthy few who are footing the bills that improve the quality of life of our equine laborers. I think everyone should not only share in the wealth of additional gambling dollars, but we should look after the horses with some of that money.

If every state with legalized gambling on horse racing took a small percentage of what looks to be the considerable profits and put it toward equine health care and research, we probably would have already solved many of the woes our horses still face today. Laminitis could be a memory. The flu would be something the human caretakers got when they forgot to get their vaccines. Unwanted racehorses would have a set course on which to travel to another career or lifestyle.

If your state is working to gain relief from gambling competition, don't forget to include some small portion to take care of the horses. If your state already has other forms of gambling to subsidize purses and counteract the effects of riverboat or casino competition, look at the numbers and see if there isn't a way to give a piece of the pie back to the ones who actually earned it--the horses.

Kimberly S. Herbert is editor of The Horse.