A Review of Horse Racing Safety Measures
A horse race is a competitive event in which horses compete over a set distance. The first to cross the finish line is deemed the winner. Horse races have been held in civilizations around the world since ancient times. They are often considered an art form and play an important part in myth and legend. The sport is popular with spectators who enjoy wagering on the outcome of each race and watching the equine athletes in action.
A major type of horse race is a handicap race, in which the weights that horses must carry during the course of the race are adjusted on the basis of their age, experience and past performance. For example, a two-year-old will compete with less weight than a three-year-old, and fillies will receive allowances that reduce the overall weight they must carry. The goal of these adjustments is to render all of the competing horses as close to equally likely to win.
In recent years, the death of a number of racehorses at Santa Anita Park in California, followed by the discovery of the alleged illegal use of cocaine among jockeys and trainers, has raised questions about the safety of the industry. The horse racing association has announced that it is launching a review of safety measures.
The review will include a series of meetings to be attended by the industry’s top leaders, who have pledged to make changes in the interests of the horses. The association also plans to create a committee of experts to study its policies. The committee will also look at ways of making the sport more attractive to spectators, as well as a way to make it easier for betting to take place.
One of the problems is that horse racing relies on a highly fragmented system of rules and regulations. This makes it difficult for the industry to be held accountable for the horses it creates and profits from in racing and breeding, then dumps into unknown situations where it is no longer profitable. The industry is also not required to track the lifelong health and welfare of these horses.
It is a sad reality that behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing is a dark world of drug abuse, injuries, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. Hundreds of thousands of racehorses bred, broken and then killed each year, as they are forced to sprint at speeds so fast that they can sustain severe, even fatal injuries. If not for the devoted work of independent nonprofit rescue groups and individuals who network, fundraise and work tirelessly to save these animals, many would face an unimaginable hell: Hemorrhaging into the slaughter pipeline, where they are sold to places like Mexico and Canada, and then subjected to brutal, painful lives of degradation before being slaughtered.
The best way to improve the welfare of horses is for horse racing to rethink its whole business model, and shift away from a racetrack-centric, gambling-driven paradigm toward one that prioritizes the horses at every level of decision making, from the breeding shed to the tracks. That would require a profound ideological reckoning at the macro business and industry level, as well as within the minds of men and women who run the races, but it could be the only way to save the sport.