Horse racing pushes one horse to literal breaking point as his leg snaps during a race

Flying Verse snaps leg and exposes the bone during horse racing at Fakenham Racecourse on 9 May 2023
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This article contains graphic discussion of animal injury.

A jockey at Fakenham Racecourse pushed their horse to breaking point on Tuesday 9 May – literally. Footage from the race showed the horse, Flying Verse, still galloping with bone exposed from his back right leg. It’s a stark image of the brutality of horse racing, and shows why animal rights activists have taken action against the activity.

Horse racing kills

Animal Welfare Watch shared footage from the 16:20 at Fakenham on Tuesday. It shows Flying Verse stumbling as the jockey races him around a bend, his back legs giving out beneath him.

After getting back up, the horse ran a little further and revealed that the lower part of his back right leg had broken and was freely flapping. A flash of white showed that the break had exposed Flying Verse’s bone. He then stops and starts turning in circles, his broken leg flailing, as the other jockeys push their horses onwards.

The humans responsible for Flying Verse would later have killed him, as is standard for racing horses with leg and bone injuries. Animal Welfare Watch said it is “one of the worst” horse racing injuries it had seen. But it was also far from a unique incident.

In fact, as the group explained when sharing the video, Flying Verse was the second horse that race participants killed on Tuesday alone. And it may not have been the last. Animal Welfare Watch shared a video later that day showing a horse collapsing while racing at Ludlow. It speculated that the horse, Might Do Emery, would have been the third that the racing industry killed that day.

Animal Welfare Watch told the Canary:

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People should be outraged by this abuse and wastage – this does not happen in any other equine sport. … Fatalities are expected in racing and this is just totally unacceptable. … Sadly in the UK the government is tacitly complicit as it receives income from the gambling industry – despite gambling being a massive social issue with specially dedicated NHS units for gambling addiction.

Failure to act

9 May was not an exceptional day for horse racing. Animal Aid launched its website Race Horse Death Watch during the 2007 Cheltenham Festival. In the 5,904 days since then, it has recorded 2611 deaths as a result of racing events.

However, Animal Aid states on the website that it believes this number is 30% lower than the true figure. That would place the number closer to 3400.

That number isn’t evenly spread throughout the year, either. The racing season lasts approximately nine months, between March and November.

Animal Welfare Watch told the Canary:

Sadly racehorse fatalities happen almost daily on the UK tracks and the government continually fails to act despite giving the BHA [British Horseracing Authority] a period of time in which to get their house in order back in 2018 – nothing has happened and that is because the BHA are self governing and this needs to change immediately.

‘Broken relationship’

The scale of this killing is part of the reason Animal Rising (formerly Animal Rebellion) has taken action against high-profile horse racing events in recent weeks. The animal rights group first disrupted the Grand National on 15 April. A week later it disrupted the Scottish Grand National. And on 6 May, it disrupted the Coronation Royal Race at Doncaster.

Writing in the Guardian after the first action, Animal Rising organiser Alex Lockwood said the group had taken action because it sees a “broken relationship” between humans and other animals. He added:

The Grand National is emblematic of this uncomfortable and one-sided dominance – that’s why we tried to stop it.

It’s hard to argue with this, given that little has changed with horse racing since a trainer shot horse Wigmore Hall after a race at the side of a track in 2014. Nearly ten years on and we see another spectacularly shocking moment of the industry’s callous attitude towards sentient, caring creatures.

The BHA’s excuse in 2014 was the same as it is today: that trainers and stables provide horses that are forced to race with a very high standard of welfare. But what is that welfare really worth when horses have little choice in their participation? This means that, as Animal Welfare Watch said, “racing fatalities are not accidents”.

Not acceptable

The Canary asked Animal Welfare Watch what it would suggest people do if they are revolted by the image of Flying Verse’s broken leg. It said:

We would ask people to contact the sponsors of racing to express their disgust at support of such suffering and abuse and to boycott these companies. [Tuesday] was one of the most distressing deaths to witness as Flying Verse actually lost his leg – how is that acceptable in the name of sport?

In the end, there’s little moral difference between racing horses and hunting wildlife. Both exploit non-human animals for the gratification of human impulses that other pastimes could satisfy. And as Lockwood explained, this broken relationship has much bigger implications for the biodiversity and climate crises we are all now facing.

Featured image via Animal Welfare Watch/Facebook

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Get involved

  • Animal Welfare Watch provided a quick guide on contacting Snellings, the sponsor of the race that killed Flying Verse.

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