Horse racing is a popular sport in which horses, called thoroughbreds, compete over short distances. Races are typically held in America, Europe, and Australia. In the United States, the Triple Crown is comprised of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. These races are the most prestigious events in Thoroughbred racing and attract large crowds. The sport also features smaller races with less prestige and prize money. A horse race requires speed, agility, and stamina.
The sport of horse racing is regulated in the United States by state-based racing authorities. However, self-regulation leaves significant animal welfare issues unaddressed. Additionally, incentives such as increasing prize money for two-year-old races encourage more rigorous training of immature horses, which can lead to more injuries. The RSPCA advocates the establishment of a fully independent body to oversee all aspects of racing.
Historically, horse racing was an important means of demonstrating the speed and endurance of young horses for potential buyers. These early races were typically over short distances of a quarter, half, or one mile and took place on open fields or roads. The horses were ridden by professional riders, who were known as jockeys. They rode bareback and were often young boys with skill in horsemanship. Both chariot and mounted (mounted) races were held at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece from 740 to 700 bc.
Today, most horses in the United States are raced professionally. Many are bought and sold by syndicates that may include thousands of members. They are trained by trainers, handled by grooms and exercise riders, and ridden by jockeys. They spend the majority of their time traveling from country to country, state to state, and racetrack to racetrack. This lifestyle makes it extremely difficult for a racehorse to develop a strong bond with any human.
Because horses are pushed beyond their physical limits, they frequently suffer from dangerous and debilitating injuries. Typical injuries include bone fractures, lameness, and damage to ligaments or tendons. Some horses will bleed from the lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Often, the horses are given cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that mask the injuries and enhance their performance.
Although many people love to watch horse races, few know that the sport is deeply flawed and that serious reform is necessary. This is largely due to the industry’s resistance to change. The good news is that a growing number of people are demanding change. The first step is to educate the public about the realities of horse racing. Then, we can begin the long journey to a more ethical and sustainable future.