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They shoot horses don't they?

July 20, 2017

I enjoyed a great day on Sunday at the races on Carrowniskey strand, in my native place. The scenery is magnificent, the atmosphere buzzing. Watching the horses race on the strand, while the tide is out, against a background of surf and islands is a treat.

As I watched one race the horses started fast and were proceeding nicely in a bunch, and then suddenly a pony went down. The unfortunate animal tried to get up and appeared confused by the lack of control with the broken limb. Her jockey calmed, and eased her down to lying again. This is a common occurrence and probably the most distressing sight in racing.

A broken bone is a relatively minor injury for most humans. So why is it a death sentence for horses? I did a bit of research and came across an article on the subject in "The Guardian" newspaper. The writer interviewed Jenny Hall, who was veterinary services manager at the Olympics. This is what she had to say:

"The problem is because their bones have become lighter, they're very strong to carry their weight, yet they're light enough for them to be able to go fast. So unfortunately when they break they just shatter." She went on to say that it is not just down to the fact that the bones is in tiny pieces, that it won't heal. When the bone breaks you get "plastic deformation".

This means that the bone bends before it breaks and if you put it back together this shape is the "madly bent bone" you would get. Any attempt to heal the bone would result in great pain, distress and complications for the stricken animal, without any guarantee of a good outcome.

Lucky for humans most of our fractures heal well. We are unlikely to listen to Marty Morrissey on the sideline in Croke Park, microphone in hand, with solemn face, as he declares,

"The news is not good on the midfielder... bad fracture... The search for a replacement will start tomorrow"