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Sunday, September 2, 2012

A lot of hype, hysteria and some facts and reality too.

I used to own and train racehorses, so I have some understanding how the business works. Basically, like anything else, a racehorse is worth something to someone until (like all assets that depreciate) it is not worth anything to anyone anymore and must be discarded or looked after by a good Samaritan. All horses find their level of competition and realistic earning power, and when they do, that is what they are worth. As well, it is all about supply and demand. In that way it is no different than any other business. You have to remember that horse racing is a business, even though the participants aren't things, they are living breathing animals, they are treated as assets and commodities. Simple as that. I got out of it because I didn't like that aspect of it.
When I got out of the business in 2006, for various reasons, I had 3 horses that I could not give away at that time and I had two choices. First, I could send them to slaughter, and they would die. That is what a lot of people do. It is the reality of the business. When they cannot earn and have no value anymore, they are discarded. I didn't do that. When I was first owning horses I had a trainer who had his own farm. He had a horse that did very well for him for 2 or 3 years. He actually raised the horse and then raced him until he had no value at all left as a racehorse. He was treated very well during that time. His son was actually very attached to the horse. When the time came to do something about his now ended value as a racehorse earner, he sent him to slaughter and told his son that he gave him away to a good home. He didn't want to break his heart, but he told it to me like he didn't really care. Such is the life of a horse racing trainer. If you operate in any other way, you likely lose a lot of money. I simply just could not do that.
Second, I could just support them out of my own pocket, knowing there was zero chance of any return of my money. That is exactly what I did. I know most wont, but that is me. Eventually I did find homes for all of them, and hopefully they ended up being good homes so they can live out their days until they die. Do I know if that was the case? No, I don't. But I did the best I could, honorably. That is all you can do.

Recently, in March of 2012, the Ontario Liberal government decided to end a program which had done very well for them and the horse racing industry in the province for approximately 15 years. The Slots-At-Racetracks program brought in a billion dollars a year in tax revenue for the government and provided 60,000 people with jobs and the industry with 400 million dollars a year of purse revenue to race for and disperse.

The reason they ended the program is clear: They are simply crooks. There is no two ways about that. Our Premier, Dalton McGuinty, has a long history of fucked up decisions that only served to line the pockets of his friends and supporters. This is no different. In the case of this blog, that isn't really the point, but it gives it some context.

Despite the success of the Slots-At-Racetracks program, for both the government and the horse industry, did the program need adjusting? Maybe. Probably. That can be debated.
There is some dispute over whether the Slots-At-Racetracks is a subsidy. Is it? Well, in reality, it is not a subsidy to the horse racing industry, in that it is strictly a business arrangement, put in place by legal contract, in which the horse racing industry provided the sites and wherewith all so that the casinos could be housed and for that effort and consideration, they were to be compensated with 20% of the profit from the casino activity, of which the horse racing side would get 10%. However, even though there is no actual subsidy to the industry, it cannot be disputed that the Slots-At-Racetracks money subsidizes the horse racing activity and all the secondary people that provide what is needed to service that industry. The breeders, vets, feed producers, farmers and anyone else who participates is subsidized by the slots money. Without that slot money, the horse races do not currently create enough interest and support to produce the purses and economic activity they do. Does that mean the Slots-At-Racetracks program should have been altered? Maybe. Does that mean it should have been ended abruptly? Absolutely not.
This is where the lives of the horses come into the equation.
How could the Liberals have done this better? Simply, if they understood the cycle of how the business works, then they could have phased this in, with prior notice, over 3 years. If horses stopped being bred, then they would not exist and therefore would not have to die. If trainers and owners knew they would not have racing opportunity in two years, they simply would not replace their stock, would get out of the business, or move, or get new jobs in a different industry.

 Now, in the article posted just above, it is claimed that 13,000 horses could die. That won't happen. As mentioned at the start of the blog, all horses have a level. I would say at least 50% of the horses that are now currently viable will be valuable (albeit, possibly at a lower value than now) to someone somewhere and will be purchased for racing or breeding opportunity in some other region. If a horse was worth $10,000 here in Ontario, he is probably worth 50 to 70 percent of that to someone else somewhere else. He still gets to live and compete another day. The real losers here are the owners and trainers who will lose money and a livelihood they likely worked their lives to create. But, that is just money, and they will get over it. It is terrible and it is a hardship, but it isn't about life and death.
Of the remaining 50%, another 20% will find good homes and live out their lives, just as they would anyway when they were not viable either way. That leaves about 30% who WILL DIE. There is no doubt that will happen. The exact percentage, I don't know. But for sure, there is a percentage that will.
Now, as mentioned earlier, that is part of the business anyway. Racehorses become useless as a commodity and a certain percentage each year get slaughtered because of that. That is terrible. And heartless. And sad. But, it is a fact. That has always been the way, and it will always be the way.
The point remains that in this case it did not have to happen in the way it might actually play out. It wont be 13,000 horses. It wont be 6500 horses. It may be about 2000 or 3000 horses, and for that, the Liberals can be considered pure murderers for that.
As for the people they have harmed, people have options that racehorses and livestock don't. They can vote. They can protest. They can fight. They can take up arms. They can revolt. They can simply accept and move onto a new life.
Horses cant.
Those are the facts. Horses will die that didn't need to die and would not have otherwise died. People will lose jobs who otherwise would not have, but they will find a way to either keep doing the work, or find other work. Dalton McGuinty and his band of crooks will be voted out in the next election and at some point they will be exposed and end up in serious trouble. A horse racing industry that has survived more than 100 years in a region will be vaporized in less than one calender year and possibly never recover.
For sure, while horses will die, so will a viable industry. Neither of those things needed to happen. That is fact.

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