The British Horseracing Regulatory Authority and the Irish Turf Club will defy a large section of public opinion that considers steeplechases and making horses jump over hurdles to be inhumane, when they host a function in late May in London to give awards to horses and their owners who have performed well in the recently concluded Jump Racing season.
This grueling form of horse racing covers more than 3 kilometers and presents extreme challenges for both horses and their jockeys. Only those in top physical and mental condition can take part, let alone win. Hesitation and fatigue are great impediments with prospects of serious injury and even death. Indeed, the relatively high rate of fatalities has led to the sporting public of Australia to phase out Jump Racing altogether. Recent competitions in the UK have had a rash of equine deaths sparking angry protests from promoters of animal rights.
Jump racing can be a visual delight when run by horses which are equal to the challenge and over realistic distances. However, there can be no doubt that flat horse racing is safer because hard facts of events from all over the world establish this clearly. Perhaps jump racing enthusiasts can devise controls on declarations and fewer hurdles over shorter distances, so that they can continue to enjoy their favored form of horse racing without undue risk to the animals.
The May 2006 awards function in London shows no signs of remorse over the controversies of jump racing, with more than 10 categories of prizes for top performers, but no requiems for wasted horses or compensation for their distressed owners.