Safe enough?: Horses racing at Cheltenham in January   Picture: Shutterstock

The opening day of Cheltenham Festival was witness to two equine deaths on Tuesday, as accidents at two different hurdles caused havoc for riders.

Six-year-old Mossback was “humanely put down” after sustaining a shoulder injury, following a fall at the 18th hurdle in the National Hunt Chase. Just 30 minutes later a second animal lost its life, Report To Base, who fell at the ninth in the Close Brothers Novice’ Chase yesterday and was fatally injured.

By “humanely put down”, I do of course mean destroyed through the use of a bolt gun to the head, only minutes after falling over in a race they are forced to participate in.

So as a developed and progressive society, why are we allowing these tragedies to be repeated so frequently and in such a normalized way?

The festival is a meeting in the National Hunt Racing calendar, the official name given to the sport of horse racing in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and features some of the best British and Irish-trained horses. It originates back to 1860, with only the Grand National offering a higher amount of prize money to its riders.

However since March 2007, a total of 33 horses have died as a result of competing at the festival according to animal rights organisation Animal Aid.


Speaking about their Horse Racing Campaign, the animal rights organisation said: “We want to see an end to all commercial racing, because it is an intrinsically cruel and exploitative industry that sends around 1,000 horses each year to be slaughtered.

“We believe the way forward is to encourage the public to withdraw their support for racing, rather than to look to the government to enforce a unilateral racing ban.”

We need to ask ourselves what we gain and achieve from promoting and supporting the ‘sport’ of horse racing. How can we, as a civilised society, continue to bet on the lives of innocent animals, when it’s anything but a sport for them.