Behind the Melbourne Cup & Horse Racing

Behind the Melbourne Cup & Horse Racing
November 5, 2015 Elizabeth Brown

The ‘Race That Stops the Nation’ is all the talk after a female jockey wins the race for the 1st time in history!


Not everyone is celebrating, as news gets around that one of the horses was rushed to a veterinary hospital in this years Melbourne Cup race. Nine News Australia reports that in Australia alone 127 race horses have died on tracks since last years Melbourne Cup, and 2 riders have been killed this year on tracks in non-race incidents!

Now that the dust has settled from the 2015 Melbourne Cup in Australia, lets find out more about what happens behind the scenes in the horse racing industry.

It is important to realise that although Australia has quite strict animal welfare laws in general, race horses are bred and trained all over the world, and countries have different welfare laws and regulations.


  • Baby horses (foals) are taken from their mothers at around 6 months old
  • Female horses (mares) and male horses (stallions) are forced to mate in unnatural cycles that are too often
  • Breeding mares are pregnant for a majority of their lives and are often put to sleep once they are no longer required for breeding
  • The race horse breeding industry makes a lot of money but there is no benefit for the horses
  • Deformed foals in some cases are operated on or put to sleep
  • Foals who should still be with their mothers are auctioned off to the highest bidder to be forced into a life of training and racing


  • Foals begin training as soon as they are taken away from their mother
  • They will be ‘broken’ which involves cruel techniques to ensure the horse will follow commands
  • When training begins the horses bodies are still young and growing, and they can suffer from terrible injuries such as strained tendons, pulled ligaments and even bone fractures
  • Some trainers go to desperate measures and even use illegal cruel training methods
  • When not training, race horses spend most of their lives in stables and are not socialised with other horses


  • Race horses are looked after very well while they’re making money for their owners/trainers etc. but when they are no longer profitable everything changes
  • Injured race horses will sometimes be drugged so that they can endure racing while injured
  • Horses are raced from as young as 2 – 3 years of age
  • Race horses usually race for up to 3 years
  • Horses can suffer injuries such as broken legs in races and are often put to sleep
  • Jockeys can also be injured, but lucky for them they are not euthanised!
  • Jockeys have been killed during horse racing incidents on and off the track
  • Horses are whipped during races to make them run faster, and although they are big strong animals don’t be fooled into believing that the whip doesn’t hurt
  • Horses race in all elements and have been seen to suffer and even die due to heat stress



  • Many ex-race horses are disposed of when no longer profitable
  • Some lucky retired race horses will be adopted by individuals or horse rescue organisations and are able to live out their days happily
  • The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses reports that “Younger horses will generally be killed for human consumption in one of Australia’s 2 horse abattoirs located in Caboolture, Queensland and Peterborough, South Australia. Older horses generally end up as dog meat.”

For further information please visit The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

Elizabeth Brown