By Roy L Hales
A lot of images come to mind when you hear that someone is an environmental consultant, but horse racing isn’t one of them. Stephen Griffin told me about another side to this industry, when we met at Manson’s Landing Friday Market. When it comes to their animals, the horse racing industry is very environmentally conscious.
The Horse Racing Industry Is Very Environmentally Conscious
“All thoroughbred horses derive from four stallions… It’s very important, if you have a good horse, to keep it in the best condition so they he can race and breed and leave some of his progeny behind … ,” explained Griffin.
“These animals are treated like the lords of the kingdom. Their every need is catered for … both physically and mentally. They give them toys to play with in their stables, so that they don’t get bored. The last thing you want is a bored horse [that] becomes a weaver or bad natured. Stud farms would be very low to use the likes of electric fences, which would be the norm in normal farming … A lot of chemicals aren’t used on these farms anymore because the welfare and breeding cycle of the animal is paramount … A lot of the big studs produce their own food, they would grow all their own hay. They wouldn’t grow it from commercially produced fertilizer, they would grow it from their own composted horse manures and previously used straws …. They are becoming extremely environmentally conscious.”
He added that, ” … A lot of the famous horses are like famous human beings and memorials are put up to them . Like there is a town in Ireland, it’s up in Galway, and in the centre of the town there is a statue to Bobbyjo – the most famous horse reared in that area.”
Consideration For Workers
The consideration showed to these animals extends for their handlers who work in much better conditions and are paid more than other treated .
“If you have a horse worth, to put a monetary term on it $20 million … a stallion can service four mares a day. … You don’t get mares on heat by treating them brutally, you get them on heat by treating them with great care and attention.”
“You can’t have unhappy people taking care of these horses. They have to be in the right frame of mind. They have to be very good at their job, very conscious at their job …. they have to make sure the horse is happy [and] able to do his job.”
Griffin said that one of Ireland’s biggest racehorse owners set up a bursary for children who want to become veterinarians.
Origins of The Steeplechase
The “very first National Hunt Race” was between the towns of Buttevant and Doneraile in county Cork, Ireland, during 1752. They raced from the church steeple in one town to the steeple in the other. (Hence the term (“steeplechase.”)
“They had to cross whatever country came between those two steeples, which meant jumping quite a bit,” said Griffin.
He added that, despite all the history connected to that particular race, “what has been forgotten is which guy actually won it.”
How Well The Animals Are Treated
“I would be proud to say how well the animals are treated and how pleased, as an environmental consultant, that these people always strived to do better…. You never had to find the easier way, it was always the right way for the horse.”
Top photo credit: Sligo races, Ireland by JohnPickenPhoto via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Podcast image: The “Darley Arabian,” a thoroughbred who arrived in England during 1704. (Public Domain)