Horse Deaths Put Beloved Race Under Scrutiny
Steeplechase runs today in England
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2013 6:55 AM CDT
In this photo from last year's Grand National, Synchronized, left, falls after a jump. The horse was later euthanized.   (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

(Newser) – Might Britain's beloved Grand National steeplechase—the one made famous in this country by the Elizabeth Taylor movie National Velvet—go the way of the fox hunt? Parliament banned the latter on animal cruelty concerns, and a spate of horse deaths has activists calling for the same fate for the steeplechase, which runs today at Aintree Racecourse, reports the New York Times. In fact, two horses died at the racecourse just this week, one after a fall yesterday and another after a suspected heart attack on Thursday, reports the Guardian.

Consider, too, that a pair of horses—including the favorite, Synchronised—died during last year's Grand National, which has had 18 deaths over 20 years. The horses have to jump 30 fences, some more than five feet high, and critics say the races are not only too physically demanding for the animals, but too stressful as well. A growing body of evidence suggests the horses have what the Times calls a "deep-seated fear" of the fences. Along those lines, the Telegraph thinks both deaths this week ultimately resulted from heart attacks. In short, "the Grand National is on trial," says an official with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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Apr 10, 2013 4:28 AM CDT
Replace horses with kagaroos.
Apr 6, 2013 2:51 PM CDT
They cite a stat that says 18 deaths in 20 years but the Grand National has been around for a lot longer. I'd like to see how many deaths there have been throughout the entire history of the race. I bet the average comes out differently. And the story says two horses died at the course this week NOT in the Grand national (which was run today). Not every race is run like the GN.
Apr 6, 2013 11:23 AM CDT
I have an idea. Put saddles on the riders and have them carry kids around the course. Make them jump fences that are as tall as they are. If the sport can't be carried on without killing the horses, then it's time to revamp the sport or do away with it.