Feeling redundant? Be thankful you’re not an Irish racehorse.

Shergar - One titan of the turf to escape the knacker's yard. (Or did he become the world's most expensive hamburgers? The mystery continues...)

I could have called this – They shoot horses, don’t they? But with friends going through or facing redundancy – or like myself having been made (voluntarily) redundant – I’ve gone a different direction.

I’ve been told I have a tendency – a talent or a failing – to see positive aspects to seemingly dire scenarios. Perhaps this is an example. So without wishing to minimise the pain of redundancy, it’s better than a quick trip to the donkey butcher.

Or perhaps this would work better as a metaphor for Ireland’s current economic ills. In fact, skip the metaphor, it’s a direct result of it.

If you’re an animal lover, look away now. (Though there are a couple of very cute horsies at the bottom.)

There’s a BBC story by Rebecca Morelle about the slaughter of thousands of Irish thoroughbred horses. If you’ve seen these handsome creatures in action, you’ll appreciate ugliness of destroying such beauty.

I suppose it’s always been one of the less talked about nastier sides of the horse racing industry. There are always going to be also-rans who don’t win and cost too much to feed and maintain. And woe betide the horse that breaks a leg on the race course. The loving owners don’t whisk it away for the best veterinary surgery money buy – they put it out of its misery and their expenses out. Well… it’s business.

But behind the studs and large training facilities, there are lots of farms or families with a field out back, or land rented from a neighbour, on which they keep and train a racer or a jumper.  Few will make much money out of it, so I think it’s fair to call it a labour of love, early wet mornings, long drives to small competitions. A few succeed. Equestrians like Co Louth-based Michael McAleese, 2010 Irish Amateur Showjumper of the Year. Satisfaction and plaudits – but little or no cash back.

The BBC story features racehorse trainer Tom Hogan, who is based in Nenagh, County Tipperary. He explains:

Quite a lot of those horses would have been owned by syndicates – basically blocklayers, carpenters, electricians – people involved in the big property boom. And they just disappeared overnight.

Suddenly he was left with horses, but with no money coming in from their owners to pay for them. Some of these horses were exported, others retrained, and a few he kept on himself. Others were put down.

The ISPCA (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is suggesting a mass culls may be necessary. And it wants some form of regulation to prevent such over-breeding happening again.

It’s that Irish bubble of over development again. They can shoot horses, but the rash of half-built, derelict, unsold houses speculatively built across the country will be harder to get rid of.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Feeling redundant? Be thankful you’re not an Irish racehorse.

  1. That is so sad…bred for a market that doesn’t exist now, and they must die?

    I wonder if the same thing will happen to the $1.5 million Red Tibetan Mastiff if the US defaults on their debts to China.

  2. One reason why I’m not a fan of the racing industry. Many are ruined by the training. We had an ex racehorse once. Beautiful dressage boy but get him out in the open and he just wanted to gallop. Many here end up in dressage or eventing but I suspect many are destroyed. A broken down gelding is no use to anyone (I know I have two in the back paddock and poverty really is owning a horse). My brother had a greyhound put down once. Again part of a syndicate and it didn’t run well. The trainer euthanased it even though I’d already offered to rehome it. Horrible woman.

  3. A sad story well told. Perfectly timed too to coincide with St Patrick’s Day and Cheltenham.

    Also, with that last image, you clearly missed your calling as a picture editor.

  4. Tis A Pity This Wasnt Done To Premiership Footballers Instead………

  5. blackwatertown

    @Kinzi – Those mastiffs do look good. But how long will the fad last?
    @Baino – Poverty really is owning a horse. A mate advised another that when his daughter asked for a pony, to just save his cash and get her an expensive sports car instead.
    @Phil – Thank you. Maybe that’ll be my next paying job.
    @Tony – My football mate Andreas suggests that James Milner, and from the sidelines, Alan Green, should be first for the chop. Surely not?

  6. @Poverty really is owning a horse: You are not kidding. My parents told me mine died while I went off to college. It wasn’t until years later that I learned they had sold him. I don’t blame them; it’s very expensive to own and board a horse that is rarely being ridden. (Obviously, they could have handled things better.) So sad…

  7. Pingback: The final shift «

  8. When our two youngest were small I bought a couple horses for them.

    Next thing, I was going from work to the ranch and spending my pay check on feed, vet bills, etc.

  9. Basil Dajani

    Prescient article. 10,000 in a year is a terrible figure and that is a minimum. And then other (or the same) people with a taste for equine flesh eat them in exclusive restaurants. At least the poor beasts didn’t die in vain. And soon we have the great British institution that is the Grand National. Another ritualised slaughter where some years almost 10% of the animals die during the race. Imagine offering Lewis Hamilton those odds for racing in the British Grand Prix?

  10. Tragic waste of beautiful animals and a fine example of the throw-away society we live in. Sometimes seems like money is everything, life is nothing.

  11. Barbara Rodgers

    As a society, at least in this case, we do seem to have our priorities skewed… So sad.

  12. Shirley Tuukanen

    Hi – this is a great blog. Glad I found you.

  13. Nice way of puttin’ it man.

  14. louise mills

    i rescued a racehorse off the side of an irish racetrack, he was waiting for god so to speak, i asked his owner why he was going to be put down and i was told he just wasnt quick enough, i offered 50 pounds for him and the owner accepted as the vets bill to euthanase him would cost him more, i have had this gelding for 2 years now and he is great, the safest horse i have ever owned and has adapted to his new lifestyle of hacking/showjumping/cross country very well, i guess he was one of the lucky ones!

  15. There are a few two-leggeds around that could do with a one way visit to the knacker’s yard.

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