D. Radhakrishnan

Plight of discarded racehorses in Udhagamandalam is really pathetic Plight of discarded racehorses in Udhagamandalam is pathetic

Udhagamandalam: With the 2006 racing season in this hill station nearing its end and the racehorses have been in the process of being taken away to other racing centres, animal rights activists hoped that there would be no additions to the number of discarded or abandoned racehorses here.

Adverting to the plight of such horses in the Nilgiris, the secretary, India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN), Faiz Vohra, told The Hindu here on Thursday that it was high time the practice of selling the horses to the pony wallahs here was put an end to.

The pony wallahs who purchased the racehorses for a song had for long been operating tongas or hiring out the local sturdy and thick haired hill ponies to tourists for a livelihood.

The practice of selling racehorses, which had ceased to serve their purpose on the track, began here about 20 years ago. Claiming that of the 60-odd horses sold or abandoned on the streets of Udhagamandalam, none had survived for more than a year out in the open, she lamented that many had died in pain, alone and frightened usually by the roadside.

Many of the new owners of the racehorses who cannot afford sheds and paddocks leave them out in the open to cope with the elements including rain, mist and frost which were normal in Udhagamandalam for many months a year.

Many of the horses die because of hostile weather. These horses brought up in warm stables with a blanket and clean straw and drinking water are now reduced to foraging in the garbage bins and drinking from drains, she regretted.

Since they lacked the skill to survive in the open among the speeding vehicles, they lived in a constant state of fear. Recently a victim of a hit and run accident here had to be given a lethal injection because its leg was broken and it was in great agony.

The only food for the foraging racehorses was green grass and garbage, including plastic bags, which led to health problems. She hoped that the original owners would find some way in which these animals can spend their last days in peace and good health. Enquiries revealed that without the knowledge of the Turf Authority concerned horses should not be sold particularly in such a manner. However, some persons resorted to this method of getting rid of their horses. Meanwhile, a ponywallah said retired racehorses were their prized possessions and they took special care of them.