Horse race is an equestrian sport in which horses are ridden over obstacles to determine the winner. There are several types of horse races, including flat races. Flat races can be either sprints or long-distance races, and are usually run at a distance of over two miles.
The most common type of race is a handicap, in which the field is sorted by a number of factors, including age, sex, and previous performance. Some races are stakes, meaning that the winners will receive a significant amount of money, and others are non-stakes. Races are often organized into a series of heats to determine the final order of finish. In the latter case, a horse will be eliminated if it is unplaced in one of the heats.
Although the horse race industry likes to argue that horses are “born to run and love to compete,” it’s undeniable that running at high speeds on a hard track is an extremely stressful and unnatural activity for a horse. Furthermore, many racehorses are trained while still in the process of growing, resulting in skeletal systems that are unprepared to handle the exorbitant physical stress of racing. Many also suffer from serious injuries, such as fractures and torn ligaments, which can be catastrophic for a horse.
Moreover, many of the most important aspects of a horse’s life are controlled by its owners, who may choose to push it past its limits in order to win races. This is exacerbated by economic realities, as most racehorses cost no more than a used car, and horsemen have an incentive to run their animals even when they are injured or have little chance of winning.
In addition, the majority of horse races are conducted at tracks that rely on taxpayer subsidies in the form of casino cash to pay first through last place. This gives an economic advantage to the few winners, who may be rewarded with a prize that is several times the cost of the average racehorse. This creates a financial incentive to run unsound horses, and it can lead to dangerous training methods such as “pulling up” (i.e., bringing a horse up short of its full speed) or the use of thermocautery (“pin firing”), in which a heated needle is used to increase blood flow and promote healing.
These conditions have created a culture of fear and deception in horse racing, fueled by an unwillingness to face the truth about the cruelty inherent in the sport. Despite this, it’s possible for the horse racing industry to change and develop into a responsible business that treats its animals with respect. Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, Creative Plan, Laoban, and thousands of unknown horses deserve a better future than they’ll get if the industry does nothing. The time to act is now.