What is a Horse Race?
A horse race is a contest of speed between horses that are ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies and their drivers. The sport has been around for thousands of years and is considered to be the world’s oldest sporting event. Despite the popularity of the game, horse racing has also been associated with cruelty and animal abuse. However, in recent years, there have been some significant improvements made to the sport.
While horse races have become increasingly sophisticated, their underlying purpose has remained unchanged. The game’s primary aim is to showcase the power and endurance of the horse to potential owners, who may then decide whether or not to buy the animal. This was the case during medieval England when professional riders, known as jockeys, showed off the top speeds of their mounts by racing them on public roads and fields.
In modern horse races, the horses are assigned a weight to carry in order to ensure fairness and competition. This weight can be influenced by several factors including age, sex, track record, training, and more. In addition, there are certain races that are designated as conditions races, which offer the highest purses. These races are generally given extra weight allowances, and female horses are allowed to compete against males in a bid for equality.
The earliest documented instances of horse racing are found in the Olympic games of Ancient Greece between 700 and 40 B.C. Horse races, both four-hitched chariot and mounted bareback races, later spread to other civilizations such as China, Persia, Babylon, Syria, and North Africa where horsemanship was well developed.
Since the early 18th century, races have been standardized and expanded to include more thoroughbreds, which are favored by many spectators. A number of other factors have impacted the sport, such as the development of new drugs and technology that allows for precise measurements of a horse’s performance on a track.
Despite these advancements, the game continues to be plagued by a series of tragedies. For example, a string of 30 horse deaths at Santa Anita in 2019 sparked reforms and led to the creation of databases for tracking equine injuries and fatalities. However, the vast majority of racing deaths are not recorded and do not receive the same level of scrutiny as California and New York’s public databases.
While the industry has made some commendable advances in safety for its horses, it cannot be honest with itself or its constituents if it doesn’t acknowledge that horse racing kills horses. If the sport truly wishes to improve its image, it must address the problem of animal welfare and stop relying on PR campaigns. The most honorable next step would be to create an adequately funded industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution for all horses who leave the track. This will take time, but it is the only way for the industry to truly put the interest of horses above all else. Otherwise, the current situation will continue to hemorrhage ex-racehorses into the slaughter pipeline.