I have been travelling to Hong Kong for work every year for around 8 or 9 years now. I had always wanted to go to the Happy Valley Race Track which is on Hong Kong Island and is surrounded by tall buildings, races are held there most Wednesday nights.
It has taken me until this year to actually make it there, due to one reason or another. Last year I was so excited to go to the race track only to find out that the meeting was not on that night. Oops, how embarrassing!
This year however I finally made it and it is quite the spectacle. There is a big crowd, many restaurants, food stalls and a live band. You would think it is an annual event – but it is virtually every week! With a population of 7 million and the tourist aspect it is very popular.
However…. After all this time of wanting to attend this event, it made me feel a little sick inside. I went to the mounting yard to watch the horses parade around before the first race. I felt the horses fear and saw it in their eyes – some seemed ok and accepting of their part, but others I just wanted to whisk away to the country side.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not about to bash the industry. It supports so many people, from people working in catering, strappers, divot fillers etc etc with the industry contributing something like 6 billion dollars annually to the Australia economy. It’s massive!
What I got to thinking is that there needs to be a push to getting horses better prepared to face the crowd so that there can be less stress and fear in their life.
If there was a minimum standard for the training required for a race horse which included some desensitizing groundwork exercises and a program to follow designed around building confidence in themselves and in humans.
A minimum standard of “Thoroughbred Foundation Training” if you will.
Some may say this may detract from the performance of the horse – taking that edge away? Well I wouldn’t think so. Many of these horses run out of fear, and that fear and nervous energy starts in the mounting yard. Wouldn’t you get more out of a horse if he were confident and just plain excited to gallop? Wouldn’t the horse give more if this were the case?
I am sure there are some progressive trainers out there doing something along these lines.
I sure would like to hear the opinions of others on this topic and if there are some examples of where the mental preparation of a Thoroughbred was taken into account.
Thanks for reading