Horse race is a sport in which horses are trained to run at very high speeds. It has been practiced in civilizations throughout history and is widely regarded as an exciting and thrilling spectator sport. However, behind this romanticized facade is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter.
The sport of horse racing is a dangerous enterprise that requires extensive training, veterinary care and physical demands on the animals. Many of the injuries and fatalities incurred by these majestic creatures are preventable. Horses used in racing are subjected to a grueling physical workout and are forced to sprint – often under the threat of whips or even illegal electric-shocking devices – at such exorbitant speeds that they are frequently injured, sometimes fatally.
A horse race is a sporting event where a jockey rides a horse around a track at a set distance, jumping obstacles (if present) and crossing a finish line to win the competition. There are a variety of races, including handicaps, where weights are assigned to the horses to equalize their chances of winning and stakes races, in which winnings are split among the top four finishers. There are also non-stakes races, such as a photo finish, where a photograph of the finished race is studied by stewards to determine who crossed the line first.
Historically, many people have been drawn to horse racing because of the power and beauty of these majestic beasts and the excitement of betting on their performance. Seabiscuit, for example, was a crowd-pleaser and one of the few horses that fans – both hardcore daily bettors and casual visitors – cheered for by name.
Today, a growing awareness of the dark side of horse racing has fueled some important improvements. But more work needs to be done to maintain and expand these gains while addressing the underlying problems that have turned off many would-be fans.
The industry can start by addressing the lack of an adequately funded, industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution for all retired racehorses. Without such a system, countless horses hemorrhage into the slaughter pipeline where they are often sold to Mexican and Canadian abattoirs for an average ransom of $1,500. Unless they are rescued by the few nonprofit rescues that tirelessly network, fundraise and work to keep them alive, these former stars will ultimately end up at the bottom of an unimaginable hellhole.
In addition, a consistent and rigorous enforcement of national standards is necessary for the long-term viability of the sport. The wildly uneven regulations that exist across the dozens of states that host horse races can result in differing standards for things such as the use of whips, type of medication and penalties for trainers and owners who violate rules. The NBA, for example, has a single rulebook that all players and teams must adhere to. Until the horse racing industry establishes this kind of consistency, more people will turn away from the sport. The only way to ensure that horse racing remains a popular spectator sport is for states to make these reforms a priority and to put the well-being of the horses before the profits of the gambling industry.