A horse race is a sport in which horses compete for prize money. The sport is one of the world’s oldest, and archeological records indicate that it has been a feature of human societies since ancient times. In addition to being a popular spectator sport, horse racing also provides a source of income for trainers and owners, as well as for jockeys and other horse racing professionals.
Before a race begins, the competing horses are positioned in stalls or behind a starting gate. Once the gates open, the horses are allowed to begin running the course, which may include any hurdles or fences that are present. Throughout the race, the jockeys help guide their horses along the track and over any obstacles. The goal is to cross the finish line before the other competitors and win a share of the prize money.
Horses used in races are usually bred specifically for the sport, and they must have a specific pedigree in order to participate. This includes having a sire and dam that are purebred individuals of the same breed as the horse. If a horse is unable to produce purebred offspring, it will be deemed ineligible for racing and must find another profession.
When horses are competing in a race, they are often pushed far beyond their limits. As a result, they will frequently suffer injuries and even death due to the extreme physical stress of running at such high speeds. Countless horses—fittingly referred to as “bleeders” in the industry—will experience exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, which is a condition in which blood is drawn from the lungs during exercise. In an attempt to mask the occurrence of this condition, many horses are given cocktail of legal and illegal drugs that can both mask injuries and artificially enhance performance.
In addition to the aforementioned risks, horses in training are also subjected to a regimen of harsh and invasive physical examinations and treatments. In a typical day, horses in training may be subjected to having their teeth trimmed, receiving x-rays and an ultra-sound of their joints and muscles, and being injected with a variety of medications. The gruesome breakdowns and deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit at the 2008 Kentucky Derby, and other horses since then, have led to the introduction of new safety standards in the industry.
Despite the efforts to make horse races safer for animals, horses are still regularly killed in the sport. While the exact number cannot be known, a number in the thousands of horses will die each year due to the excessive physical stress and exploitation brought upon them by the sport of horse racing. Despite these tragic and avoidable deaths, the industry remains resistant to any change.