From Fugly: Unlucky horses on Luck
By now, most people have heard about the three horses that died while filming the HBO series “Luck”. The first two were euthanized after breaking their legs during staged races and the third was apparently being walked back to the stables when it reared up and fell back.
The American Humane Association (AHA) has been involved from the beginning. After the death of the second horse, they worked with HBO to implement more strident regulations – including having an additional vet on site and radiographing the legs of each horse being used in production. (Not quite sure what that additional vet was for – I imagine that at that point they just stood around, death syringe in hand, waiting for the next horse to catastrophically injure itself).
The horses being used were between the ages of 5 and 8; not exactly spring chickens in the world of racing, but not ancient either. PETA’s vice president and “equine specialist” Kathy Guillermo, has been quoted objecting to the age of the horses being used in the “races”. Apparently she’s not familiar with the AHA horse specific guidelines that state “no horse under the age of 4 shall participate in horse-racing scenes” (section 8-68 e). I’m not sure why the age of the horses is a point of contention – there are races for older horses. Snarkly’s (aka JG) own OTTB was raced until he was 9! Points like this make me wonder at Kathy’s “equine specialist” title. It’s like saying the celebrities from Friday’s post are “equine specialists” because they supported an equine-specific issue. THAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A SPECIALIST! By the way, here’s Kathy’s bio on PETA’s website – you’ll notice there’s no mention of horses in it.
What they should be focusing on, as opposed to trying to list as many possible issues as they can conjure up in their tiny PETA brains, is the health, particularly soundness, of the horses being used. The necropsies noted the first horse (a 5 year old gelding) as having a lot of damage to his suspensory (couldn’t have felt good to gallop around on that) and having banamine, bute, “Solu-delta-cortef (Prednisolone)” and “Torbugesic (Butorphanol)” in his system. According to a recent article by TheHorse.com, bute and banamine together is a no-no as it can cause renal toxicity.
There are some people who will question as to when the horse was given this cocktail of drugs – and rightfully so. It could very well have been in response to his newly shattered leg, before they determined the best course of action was a humane euthanasia. Except, PETA’s lawyer, in a letter to the president of the Pasadena SPCA (cc’d to the Assistant District Attorney), states the drugs were given prior to the injury occurring. Now, PETA may not be the best source of information, but one would hope that their lawyer is held to the same ethical standards as all others and therefore wouldn’t outright lie – at least not in a printed format that could come back to haunt her.
Unfortunately, what’s done is done. Moving forward we have to ask who’s responsible for the deaths of these horses, just how avoidable were they, and how do we prevent them from happening in the future?
According to section 8-79 of the AHA’s guidelines, they “may inspect the animals and check appropriate documentation, including health certificates and Coggins tests.” Part b. goes on to state that the “animals must be adequately trained, conditioned and prepped”. So were these horses inspected? And what are the AHA’s guidelines for inspections for horses that will be used for racing? Do they have different levels of qualifications for different purposes? Ie. a horse to be used for racing should exhibit a certain level of fitness and soundness before being “hired” for a production, while cowboy/western production will have completely different physical demands. How are they going about testing for soundness? (I wonder what would have happened if they had required radiographs from the beginning on Luck? What would the legs of those two horses looked like?)
Or are the directors and producers of the show to blame? Did they know and (perhaps more importantly) understand the physical limitations of their equine actors? Did they proceed knowing full well they were endangering the horses? All the while with dollar signs dancing before their eyes?
We see examples of it across the world. Horse abuse, particularly in the name of human profit, is a growing commodity. People seem to be dreaming up new ways to exploit and profit from them every day (and yes, I do include PETA-ites in that as well). But how do we stop it? Do we keep fighting the good fight, as we’ve been doing? Or is there a better way? Because it seems to be an uphill battle and I’m worried we’re losing ground.