Home > Bits and Pieces > Eight Belles not worth enough?

Eight Belles not worth enough?

May 4, 2008

I may be treading in hot water here but … two years ago a colt named Barbaro broke a leg and was put into surgery while a nation apparently wept (here is what I said then). Yesterday I watched a filly named Eight Belles fracture two legs and be unceremoniously killed on the track (Grrl has a good post on that). She was worth less, I guess.

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  1. May 4, 2008 at 1:42 am

    actually, if barbaro had suffered the same fractures that eight belles suffered today, he would have been killed on the track, too. i did some digging and found that eight belles suffered condylar fractures of both front legs, a dislocated left ankle and an additional sesamoid fracture of the right front ankle. to put this into pespective; the racehorse ruffian, suffered a fractured sesamoid, underwent surgery and then died after she came to because she bashed the cast off her leg. (equine medicine has advanced since then and likely, we could have kept her alive through her recovery from surgery, but could we have saved her? it’s difficult to know).

  2. John Lynch
    May 4, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Grrl,
    I understand what you’re saying, but I still cant help feel that the perceived difference between a colt and filly had a little to do with what happened on the track.

  3. Barn Owl
    May 4, 2008 at 7:43 am

    The Churchill Downs track veterinarian stated that Eight Belles “didn’t have a front leg to stand on”, to be splinted and loaded into the ambulance. Horses carry about 65% of their weight on the front legs, and so an otherwise identical fracture in even one front leg is more devastating than a fracture in a hind leg (as happened with Barbaro). Watch how a horse that has been happily rolling or taking a snooze stands up some time, and you’ll understand why a horse with two fractured front legs couldn’t get up.
    Also, just in terms of profit, a colt *is* worth more than a filly, in the context of Thoroughbred racing. Look at all the fuss over War Emblem’s disinterest in mares-if he behaved like a typical Derby-winning stallion, he’d be covering 100 mares or more each year, at $100,000 a pop (so to speak). Most of the 50 or so offspring that War Emblem sired several years ago have done well on the track. A mare could not produce as many offspring as War Emblem, a lackluster breeder, has so far. Also, if Eight Belles could have been rescued, it’s unlikely that she would have been able to withstand the weight of a stallion for breeding, much less to hold up in the later stages of pregnancy and delivery. For US Thoroughbred racing (Jockey Club registration), foals must be produced by live cover. I believe that’s true for the UK as well.

  4. mlf
    May 4, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I do not believe that horses should be put in such meaningless danger to begin with. And to be bred for such danger is, in my opinion, inhumane.

  5. May 4, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Well, yes. I mean, if they could have Barbaro to walk again, he could have been bred. 60 possible foals a year for fifteen years (conservative estimates) versus Eight Belles 1 a year for the same time (optimistic estimate)… It really is a no-brainer.
    That said, the injuries were different. But Eight Belles’s owners might not have cared to spend the kind of money Barbaro’s did had her life been savable.

  6. TheOtherOne
    May 5, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Actually, Ridger, I don’t think that Barbaro not walking again would have prevented them from collecting and storing quite a bit of sperm to sell during the months they kept him alive. I had assumed that was part of the difference in treatment . . .

  7. Barn Owl
    May 5, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Actually, Ridger, I don’t think that Barbaro not walking again would have prevented them from collecting and storing quite a bit of sperm to sell during the months they kept him alive.
    Thoroughbred foals destined for racing in the US must be produced by live cover (not by artificial insemination), as I mentioned above. Since Barbaro was bred and trained for flat-racing, and had done nothing else in his short life, his semen/genome was only worth anything in the context of producing more racehorses, necessarily by standing on his hindlegs and mating with a mare. If I wanted a Thoroughbred polo or hunter-jumper prospect (for which the live cover dictate doesn’t apply), I would breed my mare to a stallion proven to produce good polo ponies or hunter-jumpers, not to racehorse stallion.
    All of which is on top of the physiological difficulties of keeping a horse alive and relatively pain-free when it can’t walk or bear weight on all four legs….
    As an aside, I also heard a dumb thing being said by an ESPN reporter. Apparently, because the lower limbs of horses have no muscles, the limbs are unable to pump blood back to the heart. Someone needs to take intro biology again, methinks
    In the context of horses, “lower limbs” or “lower legs” typically refers to the cannon/splint bones and phalanges, distal to the carpals (“knees”) or tarsals (“hocks”). With that terminology, then it *is* correct to say that there are no muscles in the lower legs: tendons-yes, ligaments-yes, but skeletal muscles-no. AFAIK, there aren’t interosseous muscles or lumbricals between the equine metacarpals or metatarsals-unlike the situation in our hands and feet. We also have a lot of muscles between carpals and metacarpals, and tarsals and metatarsals (and/or phalanges).
    Hmmm, what’s one of the big risk factors for deep vein thrombosis in humans? Muscular inactivity, resulting in reduced venous flow rate, maybe? The situation for equine lower legs and hooves is compounded by the lack of valves in the veins from mid-pastern and below, such that proper circulation and venous return are dependent on movement and the elastic properties of hoof structures, as the horse walks. One of the commenters in the older thread mentioned this point as well.

  8. May 6, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Glad to see that some of the folks who know equine medicine corrected the impression she was killed because she’s a filly and thus not worth as much. If a horse can’t stand, it can’t survive. It would have been insanely cruel to try to keep her alive – she would have spent her last few hours or days of life in agony, and despite what some readers here think about the racing industry, it’s not that cruel.

  9. May 6, 2008 at 6:14 am

    Not to harp on the subject, but this might reassure you: Ruffian was a filly, and they tried to save her life after a catastrophic injury despite a 10% chance of survival.
    It’s really not about gender.

  10. karen
    May 14, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Eight Belles was worth more dead than alive. does any one know what Eight Bells was insured for. i have asked on other boards, and all i have gotten are nasty answers.

  11. Penny
    May 24, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    FIX the DAM track! It’s too hard and outdated It’s time for a change. Eight Bells tragity should not have happened.

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