Horse industry controversy impacts NCFL

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) -- The final leg of the Ocala Breeders Sales company's spring sales kicked off Wednesday.

Its an exciting time for the horse industry-- but there are many concerns.

Hundreds gathered at OBS for the first day of the June sale, in search of their new champion - but for many in the horse industry, it's not just about buying and selling, these animals, they're really a part of the family.

Lynne Boutte is the breeder of Formal Dude, one of the latest horses to be injured and euthanized at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles.

"We don't breed horses to see that happen,” she said.

She added, officials at Santa Anita need to take better care of the race track.

"I think the main problem is the surface at Santa Anita and if they can correct that I think we will help our horses have a longer livelihood,” she said.

People with the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park and does other business in the Ocala area, agrees that more should be done.

"Catastrophic injury rates are down, both in racing and training over the course of this meet. We have a pet scanning machine, first of its kind in horse racing that will be coming to the track soon. 80 percent of catastrophic injuries happen to horses that have pre-existing conditions. The ability to identify those injuries and not allow horses to run on those injuries, that's how you get at solving these problems,” Stefan Friedman with the Stronach Group said.

But it's already had an impact on horsemen in Ocala.

"It's scary that I'm trying to raise my family and forge a living as a middle-aged young man in this business,” Brandon Rice of Ricehorse Stable said.

As the fate of horse racing is yet to be determined, the state of the horse industry could change.

"There's no guarantee. I may have to completely morph my business model and think about alternative ways to operate within the horse world,” Rice added.

But both Boutte and Rice agree, "Horse people love horses, and we're doing this because we love them."

And they will do what they can to protect them.