The Kindest Destruction

Death comes in bright colors

In the May 4 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Seth Wickersham looks into the world of the racetrack veterinarian. Click for the full article and feedback.

Death is delivered pink.The lethal liquid that’s injected into the jugular of broken-down racehorses is always colored. That way, a vet can find it quickly. That way, it can’t be mistaken for any other drug.There’s no time for fumbling when a 1,200-pound animal has suffered a catastrophic injury — a broken leg or a fractured ankle. There’s no time for indecision when you’re staring at a shattered jag of bone piercing the skin as if it were tinfoil.


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

 

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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.

But it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or faster or if it’s the method of choice by vets who put a horse’s interests first. It’s not going to happen, not on racetracks, not now. Most of today’s vets are from a generation that, frankly, doesn’t want to shoot any animal, especially not when cameras are rolling. “If you can have a quiet, peaceful death,” Kunz says of lethal injection, “I don’t know if we can do better.”




In the May 4 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Seth Wickersham looks into the world of the racetrack veterinarian. Click on the title link above for the full article and feedback.

Death is delivered pink. The lethal liquid that’s injected into the jugular of broken-down racehorses is always colored. That way, a vet can find it quickly. That way, it can’t be mistaken for any other drug. There’s no time for fumbling when a 1,200-pound animal has suffered a catastrophic injury — a broken leg or a fractured ankle. There’s no time for indecision when you’re staring at a shattered jag of bone piercing the skin as if it were tinfoil.

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.

Death comes in bright colors

Death comes in bright colors

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.

. . .There is constant, unspoken pressure not to scratch horses from competition; some owners yell at trainers who ask vets to look for injuries.

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

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.

But it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or faster or if it’s the method of choice by vets who put a horse’s interests first. It’s not going to happen, not on racetracks, not now. Most of today’s vets are from a generation that, frankly, doesn’t want to shoot any animal, especially not when cameras are rolling. “If you can have a quiet, peaceful death,” Kunz says of lethal injection, “I don’t know if we can do better.”

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One Response to “The Kindest Destruction”

  1. [...] find a number of galleries on my companion Photoshelter site at photos.dramafarmer.com The Kindest Destruction: Human Euthanasia Let’s Make Horse Racing Fun AgainNotable Descendants of ExcellerZenyatta’s Big [...]

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