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What Is The Environmental Impact Of Horse Racing?

Photo by Elena Rabkina on Unsplash

Horse racing, that age-old sport full of pageantry and excitement, isn't just about fancy hats and betting slips. There's a less talked about contender in this race – the environment.

Why should we care? Well, unless you've been living under a rock (eco-friendly, I hope), the environment is kind of a big deal these days. And like most human activities, horse racing has an impact on our planet.

Even we as spectators can help in reducing horse racing’s environmental impact. So, besides learning horse racing odds explained by TwinSpires, let’s find out some of the ways we can help the industry go green.

But how much of an impact? That's what we're here to explore.

Land Use and Maintenance

First up, let's talk about racetracks. They're huge! A standard track can cover over 150 acres. That's a lot of land not being used for natural habitats or farming. And maintaining these green, pristine tracks?

It takes water. Lots of it.

We're talking about millions of gallons per year for a single track. Plus, there's the use of fertilizers and pesticides to keep that grass looking lush and bug-free. Remember, what goes on the ground can end up in our waterways.

    • A single racetrack: over 150 acres of land.

    • Water usage: millions of gallons yearly.

    • Fertilizers and pesticides: potential waterway pollutants.

Horse Care and Waste Management

Now, let's move over to the stables. Horses, beautiful as they are, produce waste. A lot of it. An average horse can produce 50 pounds of manure... daily!

Multiply that by the number of horses in a single stable, and you've got yourself a manure mountain. Managing this waste is crucial to prevent water contamination and reduce methane emissions. And it's not just about the poop – there's bedding, feed, and the transportation of these materials to consider.

How is horse racing waste managed?

Well, there are several different practices and all depend on the location and tradition of the stable.

But there are three main ways of dealing with horse waste, such as:

Composing: This is one of the most efficient ways of dealing with horse waste. It involves a biological decomposition of organic matter, of course, under controlled conditions just to limit the impact on the environment.

This turns the horse waste into a useful product – natural fertilizer.

Manure Spreading: A more uncontrolled way of spreading horse manure over fields as a natural fertilizer.

Off-Site Removal: Some stables that are in urban and non-agricultural areas are required to collect the horse waste and remove it off-site.

Transportation and Emissions

Think about how these majestic beasts and all their gear get to the racetracks. Trucks, planes, trailers – it's a whole parade of emissions-contributing transport.

The carbon footprint of moving horses, jockeys, trainers, and all the racing paraphernalia across countries, even continents, is not insignificant. And let's not forget the spectators flocking to these events, often traveling long distances.

Horse racing has a big carbon footprint when it comes to transportation and emissions. First of all, horse racing is a global sport where athletes and horses need to travel to different places in a short period. This increases the emissions and therefore the environmental impact on the planet.

For example, the Kentucky Derby 2023 was full of international participants. Even though 16 out of 19 horses were born in Kentucky, most of them don’t live there. Additionally, we had 8 jockeys coming from countries like Puerto Rico, Japan, Peru, Panama, and Venezuela.

All of this has an impact on the environment since one event like the Kentucky Derby will result in huge emissions due to traveling.

Biggest travel emissions in horse racing:

    • Transportation of horses and gear: significant carbon emissions.

    • Spectator travel adds to the environmental toll.

What's Being Done?

So, is the horse racing industry just going to ride off into the sunset, leaving a trail of environmental concerns?

Not quite. There's a growing awareness in the industry about these issues, and steps are being taken.

Some tracks are implementing water recycling systems, using organic fertilizers, and even exploring solar energy. Some horse racing venues and stables are already completely energy independent or create energy for their daily needs through eco sources. The key is balancing tradition with innovation – not an easy task, but definitely not impossible.

Final Words

Let's circle back to the starting question: what's the environmental impact of horse racing? It's clear there are challenges, but there's also a race towards solutions. Can the industry go completely green? That's like asking if a horse can win a race – it depends on a lot of factors.

What's important is the effort to reduce the hoofprint on the environment, and in that race, every little bit counts.

So, there you have it. Horse racing and the environment – it's a complex track, but with the right steps, perhaps we can all enjoy the sport without feeling too guilty about the planet. Now, where did I put my eco-friendly betting slip?


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Tags: #Sustainability #EnvironmentalImpact #EquestrianSports #HorseRacing


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