Thank you for bringing national attention to the plight of thoroughbreds in the North American racing industry (Breaking Point, Nov. 1). I emphasize North American because there are far fewer fatal breakdowns in Europe. There are several reasons for this, namely the conditions under which these athletes are trained. Typically, European thoroughbreds are trained over undulating terrain, on grass or other types of forgiving footing, around both left- and righthand curves, using two to three times the amount of warmup-warm-down and conditioning work that their North American counterparts receive. Training in North America involves taking a horse out for 20 or 30 minutes over a nonforgiving surface, on the level and always counterclockwise. The result is a lack of total conditioning and, because of the counterclockwise-only approach, the increased likelihood of trauma to the inside foreleg.
As a pari-mutuels clerk and backstretch worker at the Maryland racetracks, I can attest that the problem with drugs and horses has become almost epidemic. It is commonplace to hear of certain trainers euphemistically referred to as "needlemen" or of horses as being "plugged in." The fact is that most racing authorities are either unwilling or unable to pursue comprehensive drug testing and then hand out penalties that are severe enough to prevent further abuse. Until this happens, the needlemen will continue to laugh, the horses will continue to suffer and horse racing will continue its downward spiral.
WILLIAM T. SHOOK
New Market, Md.
You seemed to blame breakdowns mainly on drugs. In actuality, the majority of breakdowns can be linked to the practice of racing immature animals in stressful situations. A 2- or 3-year-old horse is not fully developed, and the stress applied under racing conditions is bound to result in disaster.
ROBERT C. MILLER
You wrote about a possible connection between drug use and the tragic accident involving our fine gelding Prairie Bayou at the Belmont Stakes this year. In the races leading to the Triple Crown events, Prairie Bayou never received any medication. Never in his life was Prairie Bayou administered corticosteroids, nor did he receive any other treatment of that nature.
JOHN E. ANTHONY
President, Loblolly Stable
Lake Hamilton, Ark.
The numbers generated by my research on thoroughbred breakdowns were misrepresented in your article. You presented the figure of 840 horse-racing fatalities for 1992 as a tabulation, but this is not the case. The number is actually an estimate, an extrapolation based on a preliminary analysis of limited data collected from 28 racetracks.
JULIA H. WILSON, D.V.M.
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Medicine
Monon Bell Classic
John Garrity wrote the definitive piece on the 100th meeting of the Wabash and DePauw football teams (And down the Road..., Nov. 22). Ever since I shadowed my older brother during his football recruiting trip to Wabash, and despite having my own four-year football career with the Little Giants, I have struggled to find the right words to describe the annual Monon Bell Classic.
I believe that all similarly inarticulate Wabash and DePauw alumni owe Garrity a debt of gratitude for writing the consummate story and describing the indescribable.
WILLIAM F. KENNEDY JR.
As a Wabash College alumnus now living three blocks from Notre Dame Stadium, I just enjoyed one of the greatest weekends ever. The atmosphere in South Bend surrounding the Notre Dame-Florida State game was almost surreal.
But it only approached the pitch generated by a typical Monon Bell game. When we beat DePauw in 1985, I had the great privilege of helping to carry the bell out of the stadium and back to its proper home in Crawfordsville. I can assure you that there have been few trips as joyous as that one.
What a surprise, then, to find the victories by my alma mater as well as my adopted alma mater featured in the same issue. Both articles were superb, truly capturing the spirit of the contests. Thank you for an issue I will cherish.
As the sisters of jockey Ron Hansen (above), who has been missing since the early-morning hours of Oct. 2, we appreciated your article by Richard Hoffer (Vanishing Point, Oct. 25). However, we would have much preferred that you had used a photograph of Ron rather than artwork. A photo might better enable someone to recognize Ron—and help us find him.
Hyde Park, Utah
•Hansen was last seen in San Mateo, Calif.—ED.
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