Why must horses retire at 15?
Why is 15 the age standardbreds must retire in the USA? This is a rule that has been on the books for over 60 years. Common sense tells me, but apparently not the USTA, that advancements in veterinary medicine, nutrition, breeding, training, shoeing, as well as track conditions must have extended the career span of a trotter or pacer in all that time. Shouldn’t the horse be the one to decide when it’s time to hang it up? In my opinion, if there wasn’t an expiration date on a horse’s career, you would see more aged horses racing well past the end of their 14th year. Without a clock ticking, trainers and owners would manage the older horse differently. The way it is now, if an older horse develops a physical issue, it is not given the proper amount of time to remedy the issue, as time in most cases is not an available option due to this ridiculous and antiquated rule. Hence, most older horses are raced into the ground and then discarded. If the rule did not exist, a horse would be given the time it needed, as it would still be of value. Also, the industry faces a perception of animal abuse by many factions. Wouldn’t it be of benefit to show the world that our sport is not compromising to a horse’s health by racing older horses? This would distance us in perception from the horrific rate of catastrophic injuries that occur in thoroughbred and quarter horse racing. I challenge you to pick up a racing form and find a 10 or 11 year old thoroughbred that is still racing. There certainly are not many. In my opinion, if a horse is healthy and sound, age is irrelevant. If this rule is abolished, over time you will see older horses careers being extended at a racetrack near you and not in someone’s backyard stumbling over an old washing machine and Chevy truck bumper because let’s face the dirty truth, there aren’t enough good homes out there for our retired horses. By extending their career, it may alleviate to a point the daunting task of finding a new home for these beautiful animals. How else can striking this rule benefit our sport? I am sure everyone is aware of the current racehorse shortage that seems to be growing on a daily basis. Forcing healthy and sound racehorses to retire seems extremely counterproductive in light of this shortage. I come from the horse jumping industry and I can tell you, most jumpers don’t peak until 17 or 18 years of age.
— Mike Campbell / Milford, PA
Agreeing with Pandolfo
I again have to agree with Bob (Pandolfo) when it comes to the outside posts on half-mile tracks (full story here) and his suggestion of moving the start back not just for stake races and should be seriously implemented. Now when it comes to racing in the old wooden shaft race bikes, again it’s an idea that needs to be looked at. For elimination and finals, the track should stipulate all eliminations and finals will be raced with the wooden shaft sulky and combined with the start moved back it should negate both inside post bias and the open draw problem, I also believe that the track should bear the cost of the wooden shaft bikes. In my opinion, the movement towards speed has, and always will be about the money and directly linked to the breeders, they want the fastest stallions standing at their facility, the buyers who put up the most hope to win substantially, and the better the black type in the book can reap the rewards after racing. The manufactures of these new speed bikes are only too happy to oblige the breeders and purchasers, and with every win and a new race mark means continued success for their business. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned racing, and that’s because every aspect falls under the racing shingle but the actual racing is so far removed from the business and the money it’s why the sport is in trouble. It reminds me of the Great Depression everyone trying to be first in line for a job or to eat, forget about tomorrow, let’s worry about today first. It’s only an opinion from someone who has been through it all and was vocal along the way and after 50 years, still no one is listening and nothing has changed.
— Bob Adams / London, ON