The tragic finale of Africas top horse race, the Durban July, is still causing controversy. The widely publicised event that saw an end to fan favourite Big City Life by euthanasia after he broke a leg only meters from the finish line continues to fuel finger-pointing and argument.
Whether the trainer made a mistake, or if the winning horse Igugu drifted into Bigs path, the SPCA getting involved - its all highly controversial, comments an independent racehorse owner.
Whatever the cause, the immediate euthanasing of the injured racehorse, via a bullet to the head by the attending veterinarian, has caused heartbreak and anger for many the fans, the owner and the trainer of Big City Life, who was a past winner of the Durban July. The ensuing outbreak of media speculation has sensationalized the matter, making matters very difficult for all parties involved.
Its a risk that happens sometimes in horseracing, says the racehorse-owner. Its a very sensitive issue.
In light of this tragedy, questions have been raised as to what is ethical when it comes to a lamed horse and its possibilities for a future career. Through the death of Big City Life, an ugly but veritable fact of horseracing has been revealed.
The media has been splashed with reasons and explanations, from animal rights groups to horseracing trainers and experts. One side that hasnt been revealed relates to traditional African views on euthanasia of horses, and how the mainly Zulu racehorse grooms in South Africa feel about this sensitive subject.
A racehorse groom named Michael (32yo) found five minutes from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
When asked what he would do if one of his personal workhorses broke a leg, he replied, You have to kill it, otherwise it must be sent to a farm, and lots of people cant afford to pay for the special care the horse will need.
A horse can heal, but then it must go to a farm and be looked after specially. A horse cant run after a broken leg, and horses are supposed to run, Michael explained.
Does this experienced groom feel that it was the right thing to do to put Big City Life down? Its very sad, was his heartfelt answer, but the horse will never run again if it breaks a leg, and it will suffer.
Michael says he knows what its like outside the racecourse, how African grooms like him must deal with lamed horses.
I know people who have had to put horses down. Its the best way, because it takes a lot to care for a horse that broke its leg. It happens sometimes, and its not fair to try make the horse heal and run again. Better to shoot it.
The question should be, if these men - racehorse-grooms and workhorse-owners - believe that it is better to kill the animal for the humanity of it, due to lack of resources to provide the required care for a lamed horse, should those with the resources to do so, do so?
They shoot horses, dont they? Or should this be done? What do you think about this issue?
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