Horse racing, also known as Thoroughbred horse racing or simply racing, is an event where horses are ridden by jockeys and compete with other horses in racetracks. It is a popular sport around the world and is often referred to as the ‘Sport of Kings’ because it was once a favorite pastime of the British aristocracy. Today, horse racing is a multi-billion dollar business in which millions of dollars are won and lost every day.
In addition to betting, there are other reasons people go to the races, including the entertainment value of watching the horses run. This is a highly competitive sport where horses are bred and trained for the sole purpose of competing. This is a very dangerous and stressful sport for the horses, who are forced to run at exorbitant speeds, often sustaining injuries and breakdowns. This is not to mention the long journeys to and from the track, which can result in stress and even death.
To win a race, a horse and rider must cross the finish line before any of the other competitors. Races can be sprints, where the horse is accelerated quickly to speed up to the finish line, or longer distances, known as routes or stays, which test the horse’s stamina. If two or more horses cross the finish line at exactly the same time, a photo finish may be used to decide the winner.
Since the deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit, growing awareness of the dark side of horse racing has prompted some improvements, but more needs to be done. Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing is a reality of broken bones, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and the slaughter of countless American-bred horses in foreign slaughterhouses.
The horse industry is unique in that it does not have a central authority to regulate and enforce its rules, as is the case with major sports leagues like the NBA. Instead, a patchwork of rules exists across the dozens of states that host horse races. This can include different standards for the use of whips in a race or even the types of medication horses can be given. The consequences for violating these rules vary from state to state.
The racetrack industry should be structured in such a way that the best interests of the horses are always put first. This will require a profound ideological reckoning on the macro business and industry level, as well as in the minds of men and women who work with and care for these magnificent animals. Ultimately, this would look like a restructuring of the entire industry from breeding through aftercare, to a system that prioritizes the health, safety and welfare of horses throughout their lives, whether they are in training or in retirement. This would mean caps on how many times a horse is run, limits on the number of years a horse can be in racing, and a return to more natural and equine-friendly lifestyles for all racehorses.