Loss of American Civility: A Non-Political Reference to our Changing Society: Part Two of Three Part Series The World of Sports - How Does the Horse Feel About It?

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Stephen Arch                      sparch@comcast.net             www.thedailyarch.net@facebook.com

Just a list of some (actually only a few) athletes who have served or are serving prison time for violence against someone less aggressive than they are.  Can you guess which profession is missing?

  • Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots, serving life without parole for first degree murder
  • Mike Danton, St. Louis Blues, served 71/2 years for conspiracy to commit murder
  • Oscar Pistorius, track and field,  awaiting sentencing for conviction of culpable homicide
  • Kevin Allen, Philadelphia Eagles, serving 15 years in prison for sexual assault.
  • Josh Brent, Dallas Cowboys, 180 days in jail and 10 years probation for intoxication manslaughter
  • Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens, entered into a pretrial arrangement of diversion program to avoid prison sentence for assault and battery of his wife
  • Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons, served 23 months in prison for promotion and conspiracy in dog fighting ring
  • Hank Thompson, New York Giants, served 3 years of 10 year prison sentence for armed robbery
  • Tommy Kane, Seattle Seahawks, serving 18 years for manslaughter
  • Dave Meggett, New York Jets, serving 30 years for criminal sexual conduct and burglary
  • Milton Bradley, Seattle Mariners, 2 years and 230 days in prison for spousal battery/assault with a deadly weapon/making criminal threats
  • Lenny Dykstra, New York Mets, 6 years in prison for bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, money laundering, auto theft, indecent exposure
  • Bruno Fernandes de Souza, Brazilian football, serving 22 years in prison for kidnapping, murder, and concealing corpse of his girlfriend
  • Oliver Miller, Minnesota Timberwolves and several other major and minor league basketball teams, served 1 year of 4 year sentence for burglary, robbery, drug possession, sexual assault on a minor
  • Julio Machado, Milwaukee Brewers, served 12 years in prison for murder
  • Daron "Mookie" Blaylock, Atlanta Hawks, served 15 years in prison for vehicular homicide
  • Alan Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers, pardoned after serving 5 years in prison for maiming by mob
  • Tom Payne, Atlanta Hawks, serving 15 years to life for rape (multiple convictions), sodom
  • Mike Tyson, boxing, served 3 years in prison for rape and assault
  • Ruben Patterson, Seattle Supersonics, served 1 year for third degree rape
  • Charles E. Smith, Boston Celtics, served part of 4 1/2 year sentence for vehicular homicide
  • Qyntel Woods, Portland Trailblazers, on probation for animal abuse
  • Tony Ayala, professional boxer, served 16 years of a 35 years sentence for burglary and rape
  • Trevor Berbick, professional boxer, served 5 years for sexual assault
  • James Butler, professional boxer, serving 29 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter and arson
  • Warrington Phillip, cricket, serving life imprisonment for murder
  • Evangelos Goussis, kickboxing, serving life imprisonment for 2 murders, drug trafficking, attempted murder
  • Clifford Etienne, professional boxer, serving 150 years in prison for attempted murder, armed robbery, grand theft auto, and two counts of child kidnapping
  • Dale Crowe, professional boxing, serving 20 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery, and engaging in corrupt acts

At least, however, the above "perpetrators" against human beings are taken off the street and put in jail.  In the following article, the perpetrators are praised for their "skill" and the victims are usually euthanized, which makes it even more of a crime.

  Secretariat - greatest horse of all time - triple crown winner 1973

Secretariat - greatest horse of all time - triple crown winner 1973

Athletes are not role models nor are they special when it comes to violence.  They don't own the patent on murder, abuse, and a variety of "bad" acts.  They ARE, however, a representation of a society that has become more and more violent, a society that is becoming more and more, in my words, less than civil, which is the topic of this article. This society of brutality exists in all sports, even the "sport of kings" - horse racing.

The Jockey's Use of the Crop

It is commonly known that jockeys use crops, called whips or sticks, to "coax" the horses on.

Watch the following video on what a horse race really sounds like and listen to the debate raging against horse racing.  It is enlightening.  It might change your mind on the animals underneath the jockeys' control.

We know that there exists in our society a group of people who do not value animals, even if that animal is capable of bringing wealth and prestige to the owners.  According to an October 29, 2014 study by the Humane Society of the United States:

Race Horses Bear the Brunt of Abuse Caused by Careless Jockeys Who Feel the Need to Whip the Horse to Victory

 

  Even with so much attention to jockeys and riding habits on the horse to which they have been assigned, horse racing has not become safer nor more humane for the horse or the jockey, and most experts agree that it is the jockey's sole responsibility to care for the animal to whom he has been entrusted

Even with so much attention to jockeys and riding habits on the horse to which they have been assigned, horse racing has not become safer nor more humane for the horse or the jockey, and most experts agree that it is the jockey's sole responsibility to care for the animal to whom he has been entrusted

For this article, I am concentrating on a very real and violent side of horse racing, particularly big money events such as the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes.  As a primer, please watch the video below (it's only 3 minutes long), but pay close attention to the first two minutes (and the final stretch of the race) and jockey Victor Espinoza, coaxing American Pharoah on to victory. 

From this vantage point, it's very obvious to the untrained eye to see that jockey Victor Espinoza, who also won the Kentucky derby last year as jockey on California Chrome, whips his horse, American Pharoah (not a misspelling - that is the way the owner spells the horse's name) a total of 32 times in the home stretch of the race.  Thirty two times to encourage his horse to run faster. This is not uncommon in horse racing, and it is even more common in high stakes' races such as the Kentucky Derby, with millions upon millions of dollars literally riding on the horses' performances.  And, each individual horse's performance depends largely not on the horse's instincts to win a race, but on the jockey's ability to urge the horse to victory - to get the most out of the horse, which is trained and watched carefully by the trainer and also the owner (if I can gather from my many viewings of countless horse races over the years).

The following information was taken from the Jockeys Guild 2015 Newsletter pertaining to whipping a horse during a race.  Jockeys trying to police themselves regarding overuse (or use whatsoever, of the crop during racing.

Most of you probably remember the tragedy at the 2008 Kentucky Derby in which a young filly, Eight Belles, was whipped mercilessly in the final stretch, only to break both her front ankles after she crossed the finish line," reads the posting.

It was not just PETA, the radical edge of anti-racing, responding to the Eight Belles breakdown. Coming out of the 2008 Derby, the public's perception of the sport might have been at an all-time low. A consumer research firm employed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association compared racing's image to that of Tylenol in the 1980s and boxing in the 1990s.

The Grayson Jockey Club formed its Thoroughbred Safety Committee on May 8, 2008, just days after the Derby. Issues taken up there already had surfaced in two earlier Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse summits. Three concerns were attacked in this initial phase of the post-Eight Belles crisis: Toe grabs, steroids - and the riding crop.

There was talk of banning the whip, but jockeys had to explain why that wasn't possible. For example, if a horse running full speed decides it would like not to finish negotiating a turn and heads for the outside fence, a polite request from a 110-pound human may not be heeded.

I need to clarify my position on this argument.  I am not a member of PETA, and at times, I feel their tactics go overboard.  I am, however, and animal lover, so much so that I have had dogs and cats in my house since I was a child.  I love animals.  When commercials air on television about abused dogs and cats,  I either turn the television off, change the channel, or leave the room.  I cannot bear to look into the eyes of an abused creature. (In this article, I could show many photos of abused animals, but I shall spare you and myself from the pain that it would cause.  The one photo above is enough, I feel).

As you have read in my past articles, and in Part One of this Civility in Our Society series, I have made it clear that I am 100 percent against violence and abuse toward any animal or person, regardless of their "situation," and, to be very clear, I am extremely sensitive to the abuse of any defenseless creature, human or not, who cannot stand up for itself/himself/herself and is abused at the hands of a "superior" force. 

 

  Typical crop used at Kentucky Derby by Victor Espinoza, mostly referred to not as a whip but as a stick

Typical crop used at Kentucky Derby by Victor Espinoza, mostly referred to not as a whip but as a stick

While I was watching this year's Kentucky Derby, as I have done for years (as well as the Preakness and The Belmont Stakes), for some reason, I noticed Victor Espinoza's ride to the finish line urging the spectacularly beautiful and powerful American Pharoah to the finish line.  I noticed very clearly that Espinoza was using his whip (actually the proper name is a "crop" which usually consists of a long shaft of fiberglass or cane or which is covered in leather, fabric, or similar material). Espinoza, while obviously urging American Pharoah to the finish line by pushing forward intensely on the horses neck, was using his crop a multitude of times on the horses hind quarters (one of only two places a jockey is permitted, under current horse racing guidelines) to use the crop because of the amount of muscle and fat at the horses backside.  The other place the crop is permitted to be used is on the horse's neck, a more sensitive part of the horse's body because the horse has less physical padding on this area.  Beating a horse on his hind quarters seems cruel enough, but if you eve see a jockey using his crop on the neck of a horse, it really does hurt the horse, regardless of the "adrenaline rush" the horse is experiencing.  Imagine a basketball coach chasing a basketball player down the court hitting him with a leather stick.  Funny thought - but same thing, isn't it?

  Jockey Espinoza using the crop, or stick, on American Pharoah at the Kentucky Derby

Jockey Espinoza using the crop, or stick, on American Pharoah at the Kentucky Derby

Watching the replay multiple times,  I counted 25 strokes by Espinoza in the home stretch of the race as the horse pulled away for the championship.  Obviously, it was difficult to count because of the speed of the race.  I later read in my research that Espinoza actually "urged" American Pharoah on 32 times during this stretch.  
 

Admittedly knowing nothing about horse racing, I became curious about this tactic in this particular sport, thinking to myself "this can't be the best thing for the horse, can it" over in my mind.  So, I automatically started combing the Internet on stories regarding the use of the crop on horses in these kinds of races. It turns out that not only is this (Espinoza's tactic) frowned upon by the "caring" horse racing community, but I was able to learn that Mr. Espinoza is no innocent when it comes to the excessive use of the crop on his horses.  

Many other people who do know about horse racing and Espinoza's actions did notice.  In a recent article published in the Courier-Journal written by Jonathan Litner (May 7, 2015), the following information was released:

Asked Thursday of Victor Espinoza's now well-publicized 32 whips of Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah in the stretch of Saturday's race, trainer Bob Baffert offered some context to his jockey's tactics.

  American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert celebrating win at Kentucky Derby

American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert celebrating win at Kentucky Derby

"I never noticed it during the race, and after I read something (Wednesday), I went back and looked at it," Baffert said on a National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference. "First of all, the whips they use now are so light. He was just keeping him busy.

"The horse wasn't responding when he was turning for home. It looked like it took a lot to just keep him busy and focused."

Espinoza won his third Derby as a result and Baffert his fourth.

The jockey's 32 cracks came under added scrutiny this week even as Kentucky chief steward Barbara Borden told The Courier-Journal that "we watched it many, many times prior to making it official, and that wasn't anything that got our attention." Borden said officials will review Espinonza's ride again.

How trainer Bob Baffert couldn't have noticed is baffling to me.  In fact, Espinoza was accused of using the crop multiple times on California Chrome, the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby, so much so at the Belmont Stakes that the following appeared in June 8, 2014 article entitled

Horse Racing Wrongs:  California Chrome Mercilessly Whipped While Injured at the 2014 Belmont Stakes  

An open question to Art Sherman, Perry Martin, Steve Coburn, the 100,000 fans in attendance, the millions more watching around the world, indeed, all who were seduced by NBC’s shameful coverage: How to explain, justify, defend this?

  Espinoza and California Chrome at 2014 Belmont Stakes.  Espinoza was accused openly of whipping the horse multiple times as he rode to victory and became under scrutiny by racing officials

Espinoza and California Chrome at 2014 Belmont Stakes.  Espinoza was accused openly of whipping the horse multiple times as he rode to victory and became under scrutiny by racing officials

(T)he 3-year-old California Chrome received roughly 20 hard lashes within 15 seconds. Said celebrated jockey Victor Espinoza: “I noticed something as soon as he came out of the gate. He was not the same. By the 5/8ths pole he was just empty.” So, he beat him – mercilessly, while the horse ran on an open wound (below). In truth, Mr. Espinoza should be arrested for animal cruelty under Section 353 of NY’s Ag and Markets Law: “A person who overdrives, overloads, tortures or cruelly beats…any animal, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another…is guilty of a class A misdemeanor…” Anything, racing apologists?

  California Chromes front hoof after Belmont Stakes, obviously injured during the race

California Chromes front hoof after Belmont Stakes, obviously injured during the race

The use of the whip has barbaric implications.  Horses can't talk.  They are trained.  The horses you see running in races are the horses that don't usually just shut down when they are whipped.  They tolerate it, or do they?   How can anyone be sure.  My research showed that horses who don't like to be beaten by the crop usually stop in their tracks and won't race. Those are the "smart" horses; yet, those horses make no money for the owners, trainers, and jockeys.

It turns out that Espinoza is a "fierce competitor" (I use that term quite sarcastically - to me, a competitor is someone who "honors" the rules of fair competition) who, in the eyes of many experts with a close and direct knowledge of the horse racing world, comes very close (in many eyes does indeed cross the line) to abusing his horses to urge them on to win a race.

As reported in Horsetalk.con.nz (February 2008):

"The better riders only use the whip as a last resort. They don't punish their horses at all." Asked if NZTR was comfortable with its present regulations regarding the use of the whip, Mr Tolley replied: "Our whip rules have been in for some time and all the agencies who concern themselves with animal cruelty are more than happy with the rules as we apply them."

Tolley said that the rules for the use of the whip are simple: "The guidelines are that you can hit the horse with the whip up to six times and then you must relieve the horse for six strides (giving it time to respond) before it can be whipped again."

If the horse starts going backwards all whipping must cease ... "you cannot flog a dead horse, so to speak." He also pointed out that you can only continue to whip the horse if it is improving or sustaining its run.

But when a horse is whipped excessively, the stipendiary stewards will go back through race footage, frame-by-frame and count the strikes. If the jockey has struck the horse more than six times then they'll be warned and if they still don't heed the guidelines next time then they're likely to wear a three-day suspension.

"The ones that can't count have got three days away from the races to learn to count."

According to a recent PETA report:

At a 2008 race, the horse named Appeal to the City suffered hemorrhaging around her eye when jockey Jeremy Rose “engaged in extreme misuse of the whip ….” There are few penalties for  extreme whipping in the U.S., even though jockeys in other countries face severe penalties for hurting horses in this way. One U.K. jockey was banned from racing for five days for excessive use of a whip after his horse required oxygen after a race.

PETA has long called for a ban on whips, and there are signs that the industry is bowing to the pressure. In 2009, following persistent pressure from PETA, several prominent tracks, including Churchill Downs, replaced hard leather whips with softer air-cushioned whips. While whips should be banned altogether, the softer crops do not sting or leave welts and cuts on horses as traditional hard leather whips do.

Whipped to death for the Win

And, again, from

Horseracing Wrongs:  Another Dead Horse and Busy Whips

The CHRB has confirmed the death of Sunny One at Golden Gate. Apparently, the 5-year-old was found dead in his stall on November 29th, just two days after finishing 2nd in a GG race. His trainer was Alex Sywak, his owner, Ingrid Sywak.

Other notes from the week:

Wednesday at Charles Town (8th), Beau American “was always outrun in the four path, remained under incessant urging throughout the length of the stretch and was vanned off.” “Incessant urging.”

Thursday at Finger Lakes (6th), Speedy Getaway “was whipped to the late stages for the win.” “Whipped for the win.”

Friday at Finger Lakes (7th), Dreamboat “was kept to pressure for the win.” “Kept to pressure for the win.”

Saturday at Laurel (8th), Eighttofasttocatch “pulled away [for win] under relentless right handed encouragement.” “Relentless right handed encouragement.”

Is this what horsemen mean by love to run, born to compete?

And finally, this from Friday’s 2nd at Laurel: Keep Me Informed “was pulled up soon past the three quarter pole then walked off on his own courage.” This is horseracing.

Finally, states such as New York are adapting strict rules that govern the use of the stick on horses and other states are soon to follow suit.

On May 8 – five days after Eight Belles’ horrific demise – The Jockey Club announced that a newly formed Thoroughbred Safety Committee would investigate current practices and suggest changes to improve the safety and integrity of racing.

On June 17 the committee recommended banning steroids from training and racing, terminating toe grabs, and altering the construction and use of the whip by the end of 2008.

 whipp

whipp

“Steroids, toe grabs, and whip issues were all first identified at our Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summits,” Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of the Thoroughbred Safety Committee, said. “After closely examining each of them in detail and talking to many individuals with expertise in each area over the past several weeks, we feel strongly that these recommendations and actions will enhance the health and safety of both our equine and human athletes and further ensure the integrity of our sport. Numerous industry organizations have already expressed strong support for these recommendations, and we look forward to collaborating with them to get these changes implemented.”

Within six weeks, the industry began to endorse the committee’s proposals. In July, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission unanimously approved a ban on toe grabs, as did Keeneland and Turfway Park, while Penn National Gaming adopted all three of the committee’s suggestions.

And in the case of American Pharoah, a movement is underway to prevent the travesty that took place at Belmont last year and the Kentucky Derby this year:

Chief steward Barbara Borden said Wednesday that the Churchill Downs stewards intend to further scrutinize replays of the Kentucky Derby in response to questions about jockey Victor Espinoza having used his whip 32 times in urging American Pharoah to victory.

Only time will tell when and if the "Sport of Kings" (nicknamed so because only the very wealthy dabble in high stakes racing) changes the rules and allows all horses to run (which I am sure they enjoy) without the threat of being whipped, even when injured, in order to bring in millions of dollars to the owners.

 

NEXT UP:  PART THREE OF THREE PART SERIES ON AMERICAN CIVILITY


LOSS OF AMERICAN CIVILITY:  A NON-POLITICAL REFERENCE TO OUR CHANGING SOCIETY: THEDAILYARCH.NET TOP 50 MOST RECENT UNCIVILIZED ACTS IN OUR SOCIETY