They don’t shoot horses anymore. They used to, back when horse racing mattered, back when it grabbed America like football does now, when a day at the track meant dressing for church, with men in suits and women in hats, back when it was more about horses and less about money — less about us.
Left to do the killing are the track vets, the people who pride themselves on being the strongest advocates for the horses, the people who don’t give a damn about the money. “We police the sport,” Canady says. It’s often a thankless job.
That’s why these vets picked this career — because they love horses enough to suffer for them, because they understand that death is sometimes better than life. They know that a broken bone is often a death sentence for an animal whose internal organs, including digestive and circulatory systems, are dependent on continued mobility.
The good, the bad and the ugly. See a pdf article about equine fractures
For hundreds of years, there was no argument about the best way to kill a horse. Those injured in
the chariot races of ancient Greece and Rome were presumably stabbed. With the introduction of the musket around the 15th century, killing an injured horse with a gun became accepted practice.
It was quick, cheap and easy — never mind that bullets often ricocheted out of the horse’s head or that men might make the mistake of shooting the animal between the eyes.