A horse race is a contest of speed among horses that are either ridden by jockeys or pulled in sulkies by drivers. It is a popular sport in the United States and around the world and has historically been one of the most lucrative forms of gambling. Currently, equine racing faces increasing scrutiny because of the high number of injuries and deaths caused by the sport. Many people criticize horse races for being inhumane and claim that the industry is plagued by illegal drug use, overbreeding, and animal cruelty. However, others maintain that the horse race is a great sport and that it is fundamentally fair.
During the horse race, each player makes wagers on which horse will win. Those who place bets with the highest winnings are awarded prizes, usually in the form of cash. The amount won depends on the total bets placed and the number of horses that finish in the money. In addition to wagers, other factors can influence a race’s outcome, including the type of track, distance of the race, purse size, and the number of starters. A horse’s performance can also be influenced by the position it starts in relative to the inside barrier, its sex, its trainer, and the condition of its health.
The first step in a horse race is the post parade and warm up, which are a series of exercises designed to make the horses more confident and prepared for the start of the race. After the horses have been warmed up, they are led into the starting gate, which consists of small metal stalls where attendants keep hold of them until the gate flies open at the sound of the starting bell. During the race, a jockey must stay on top of a moving horse at all times, which is risky and can lead to lower leg and upper extremity injuries (31).
Once the race begins, horses accelerate rapidly from the gates and reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. At these speeds, the jockey must stay in a low squat on the stirrups and balance on the horse to prevent falling off of them. This can result in spinal injuries, limb injuries, and head trauma. Falling off at high speeds may also cause the jockey to hit his or her head against the fence, rail, or other horses.
While the horse racing industry has made some improvements in recent years, it is still not doing enough to protect the health and welfare of its horses. In order to do so, it would require a profound ideological reckoning on the business and industry level to prioritize the horses’ well-being at every stage of the for-profit enterprise—from breeding through aftercare. This would involve complex and expensive measures to reduce the reliance on drugs, introduce a lifelong tracking system for horses, and implement a more natural equine lifestyle for those who retire from the racetrack. To learn more about the dark side of horse racing, click here to see the extensive work done by PETA on abusive training practices, drug use, the transport of horses for slaughter, and other issues in the industry.