Grand National jockey Katie Walsh defends race as concerns over horse deaths mount

 

The horses that take part in the Grand National are treated “better than some children” despite the equine death toll, a leading jockey has claimed ahead of this weekend’s race.

Katie Walsh, 28, who finished third on Seabass last year, rejected complaints from protesters that a combination of a packed field and high fences make Europe’s most wagered race too dangerous for the runners.

Nine animals have died during or been put down after the past 10 Grand Nationals, five times the average death rate for other steeplechases, which are shorter and have lower fences.

Campaigners plan to gather outside Aintree racecourse to protest about the four-mile race on Saturday, arguing that safety changes made this year are inadequate.

In an interview with the Radio Times, Ms Walsh dismissed their protests, saying: “These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you.

“At the end of the day it would be a lot worse if it had been two jockeys who lost their lives. I think everyone should remember that.”

She added that although she did not want any more accidents “these things happen”.

Animal welfare campaigners have long criticised the Grand National but the protests have intensified in recent years because of an increase in deaths.

Of the nine horses that have died in the past 10 Grand Nationals, four have been in the last two years.

Organisers at Aintree have introduced safety changes this year, such as softening the infamous Becher’s Brook, and have also asked jockeys to slow up before the first fence.

Ms Walsh said: “Any changes that make it safer are a good thing, but I hope they leave it at this and don’t change anything else. I hope to God there are no accidents this year, but these things happen, and they are horses at the end of the day.”

She added: “I don’t mean that in a cruel way, but to see [fellow jockey] John Thomas McNamara get a horrible fall at Cheltenham... for the minute he’s gone from the neck down, and that’s a different deal altogether in my eyes.”

Ms Walsh, the highest-placed woman in the race’s 173-year history, said those complaining about cruelty did not understand horseracing. “Anyone who gets up on Christmas Day and mucks out, loves animals,” she said.

“Sure, it’s a dangerous sport. But every night, all over the world, a lot of horses are left out in fields starving. These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you.”

Members of the group Animal Aid will parade an ambulance through Liverpool this week showing the injuries sustained to horses, typically broken legs.

The cosmetics retailer Lush will display a large tombstone in the front window of its Leeds branch.

They say the National remains unreasonably dangerous because of the height and angle of the fences, the length of the race and the large number of competitors, 40.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...

Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine