A horse race is an event in which one or more horses compete against each other over a set distance on a flat track. The sport has roots in ancient Greek and Roman culture. It later spread throughout the world and has made significant contributions to our culture and history. However, horse racing is a brutal and unnatural activity for animals. The sport’s claim that horses are born to run and love to compete is misleading, at best.
Most horses are raced when their skeletal systems have not fully matured, meaning that they are vulnerable to severe injuries. Moreover, horses are forced to run at breakneck speeds that are not natural to them. These factors contribute to the high rate of fatalities in horse races. Despite these serious risks, the horse industry continues to push horses beyond their limits in order to make money. Moreover, horses are often subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that mask pain and increase performance.
The main purpose of the horse race is to determine the winner by assessing a combination of speed, endurance and other factors. Typically, race results are published shortly after the race has finished. The winning horse will be awarded a trophy and a purse. The prize money varies depending on the race, but can be substantial. In addition, a jockey can win additional prize money by earning the highest finishing position or by riding a particular horse to victory.
The sport was first introduced in North America with the British occupation of New Amsterdam (now New York City) in 1664. The colony’s commanding officer, Colonel Richard Nicolls, established organized racing by laying out a 2-mile (3.2-km) course on Long Island. Until the Civil War, American Thoroughbreds were bred for stamina rather than speed, and races were often held over two turns.
After the Civil War, speed became the focus of the sport. The emergence of dash racing (one heat) allowed a few extra yards to be gained, and riders’ skill and judgment in coaxing an advantage from their mounts became more important. The influx of wealthy Americans also changed the culture of the sport.
Today, the sport is in desperate need of reform to preserve it for the sake of the horses and those who care about them. The most urgent need is for the horse racing industry to decide if it values the horses enough to take serious and expensive steps to protect them. This would involve a complete ideological reckoning at the macro business and industry level, as well as in the minds of individual men and women who work in it.
The donors and gamblers who keep horse racing alive are essential to its survival. However, their donations cannot cancel out participation in the ongoing, and often deadly, exploitation of younger running horses. Let’s not forget the stories of Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, Creative Plan and Laoban, or the thousands more like them who have never been heard from again.