A horse race is a sporting event in which a number of horses are competing against each other. The winners of the race are awarded with prize money. In the United States, horse races are held in a variety of venues, including tracks, fairgrounds, and private race clubs. Many of these events have a long history and are based on tradition and culture.
There is also an element of betting, which makes horse racing one of the most popular sports in the world. The sport is regulated in many countries. The rules of horse racing are set by governing bodies, which oversee the training and safety of the animals. Some governing bodies are national, while others are state-based.
The most common type of horse race is a flat race. These are run over a distance of between 440 yards (400 m) and four miles (6 km). Short races are generally referred to as sprints, while longer races are called routes in the US or staying races in Europe. A fast turn of foot is necessary to win these races. However, the heightened physical stress caused by such an exertion can lead to injuries.
While improved medical treatment and technological advances have made racing safer, it has done little to alleviate the plight of the horse. The grueling physical demands of horse racing mean that horses are frequently injured and die during training or performance. Despite this, the industry continues to claim that horses are “born to run and love to compete.”
This is unequivocally untrue. The way horses play and interact in nature bears no resemblance to how they are compelled with whips to race at breakneck speed on a closed, artificial track. In addition, the economics of racing create incentives to push a horse beyond its limits.
In many cases, the exploitation of horses in the race business is enabled by large amounts of taxpayer subsidies, often in the form of casino cash. These subsidies enable racetracks to offer inflated purses and encourage gamblers to place bets. This gives a financial incentive to race owners to run horses that do not have the talent or capacity to run, and it encourages jockeys to try to coax every last yard out of a horse.
These problems will not disappear unless the racing industry changes the way it does business. In a modern society and culture that increasingly recognizes the right of animals to life, peace, and dignity, racing needs to find a way to balance its for-profit enterprise with an ethical commitment to the welfare of the horses it claims to be protecting. It is time to stop the endless cycle of exploitation that killed Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, Creative Plan, and Laoban—and thousands of other racehorses. The future of horse racing depends on it.