Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Black Bag Vet: ESPN Writer Follows the Races, Pens the Tragic Final Furlong As Seen Through Vet's Eyes

by Fran Jurga | 29 April 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

We're well into Derby Week now and I think the 135th Kentucky Derby will go down in history as the one with the most words written about it. And they're the same words written over and over, just to appear in different places: in newspapers, in magazines, on blogs, on web sites, on Facebook and this year we're also writing them on Twitter, the 2009 phenomenon of internet communication that squashes your message to the world into a 140-character one-liner.

Everyone is racing to be the first to tell you who has scratched (or, in my case, who has cracked) or which jockey has switched horses but no one that I have read seems to be putting much effort into great writing.

No one except someone I found tonight.

I hope Seth Wickersham wins an Eclipse Award for his article in this week's ESPN Magazine. In The Final Furlong, he rides along with veterinarian Lauren Canady as she trails the field in the first race at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He witnesses a catastrophic breakdown immediately.

Wickersham's attention to detail is admirable, as is his historical research into the transition from death by gunshot to death by pink syringe...and why many veterinarians wish that a gunshot was still the way to go.

Veterinarians have been getting a bad rap lately. Most of the vets I know work very hard and do care about horses, and they care very much. The job of the track regulatory vet on a week day at the racetrack is so far from the romantic dream of a high school girl who wants to go to vet school to save all the beautiful horses that it makes a perfect premise for a narrative magazine article during Derby week.

When the idealistic girl grows up and carries a pink syringe between her manicured nails, the story takes on quite an edge.

Unfortunately, it is also true, and a real racehorse died that day.

I don't think that this story is anti-racing. It will take you somewhere at the track that you would otherwise never go and it may help you see the track vets in a new light.

We need more stories like Seth's, and fewer Tweets. A horse's life--or, in this case, death--just doesn't fit into 140 characters.

Click here to read The Final Furlong. It should also be on the newsstands by now, as it is in the May 4 edition of ESPN Magazine.

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