First Congressional Hearing Held on Thoroughbred Welfare

Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns addressed the Thoroughbred horse industry

On June 19, a congressional subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Racing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse,” where panel members blasted the horse racing industry for its treatment of Thoroughbreds. The subcommittee cited steroid use in horses, bad breeding practices, inhumane shoeing techniques (toe grabs), and greed as among some of the reasons why the panel is now considering endorsing a central governing body for the sport.

The New York Times quoted Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chaired the congressional hearing, as saying: “The best racehorses in the sport no longer make money for their owners on the race track—they now make money in the breeding shed. The breeders no longer have an incentive to breed horses that are sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of racing, and instead, promote fashionable, but unsound, bloodlines that are known for precocity and speed,” she said.

Rick Dutrow, the outspoken trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, was scheduled to testify at the hearing, but he never made it to Washington. Schakowsky reprimanded Dutrow for his absence. “He never notified anybody on this committee staff,” she said according to The New York Times report. “I hope in the future he will join us and be part of the solution.”

Dutrow has been a central character in the ongoing debate over steroid use in race horses. He publicly acknowledged injecting Big Brown with the anabolic steroid Winstrol, but then later recanted saying he hadn’t injected the Thoroughbred since mid April.

The controversy surrounding Big Brown, and the tragic loss of Eight Belles during the Kentucky Derby, were the impetus behind this first congressional hearing. More hearings are expected.

The racing industry got more bad press earlier this week when news broke that a high number of racing Thoroughbreds are breaking down on the track. According to an Associated Press report, last year the racing industry saw three Thoroughbred deaths a day and 5,000 deaths since 2003. The vast majority of these horses were put down after suffering breakdowns on the track, according to the AP report.

Representative Cliff Stearns, a Republican from Florida who is on the congressional subcommittee, said Congress is ready to rein in the racing industry to protect horses. “This is a wake up call for you,” he said. “There’s abuse in your industry. You know that.”


  1. All I can say is that it is way passed time for someone to step in and do something. Consideration for the horse and the breed has to come first. The absurd greed at the expense of these magnificent creatures is unacceptable under any circumstances. Those who practice it should have to suffer the same as their animals.

  2. I knew it was but I had no idea how bad. I’m glad they’re finally going to have a governing committee and I hope it doesn’t also get corrupted by greed.

  3. this article is very informative !!! also there are things going on with the wild horses in america !!!! where are they???? i know in nevada on a recent trip there went looking for the wild horses that are on the desert !!! when i could not find them i asked where are they they told me they were moved to another state ???? is this true???? they are such a beautiful site to see and now they are gone from nevada, wiLd horses are a symbol of what america is supose to be FREE…. SINCERELY arlene orlando

  4. It’s about time this scandalous industry were looked into! While there’s no doubt in my mind that there are many breeders, trainers, and jockeys who treat their horses well, these are always put at a disadvantage by those who don’t. Penalties were WAY too lax, just as in any other “professional” sport in this country. Perhaps a sea-change is finalyy under way!


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