The horse race is a sport of purebred Thoroughbred horses. It is a popular spectator sport in the United States and other countries. In a horse race, a jockey rides a horse around a course and competes against other riders to be the first to cross the finish line. Horse races can be classified as amateur, graded, handicapped or invitational. The winner of a horse race wins a prize, which is typically a sum of money.
The modern history of horse racing began with the arrival of European settlers in the United States, who developed an interest in a sport involving the use of horseback as a means of transportation and for recreation. After the Civil War, thoroughbred racing developed into an industry and became one of America’s major spectator sports. In the years following World War II, however, it lost market share to collegiate and professional team sports.
Currently, horse racing is struggling to maintain its relevance in a country and culture that have come to recognize that animals deserve certain fundamental rights. As long as it continues to ignore the demands of this new paradigm, it will continue to lose market share to other forms of gambling and to a variety of other sports.
Horse races are typically run on oval-shaped courses, with hurdles (if present) and a finishing line. The number of horses in a race varies according to the type of race. Some races are handicapped, in which the weights that the horses must carry during a race are adjusted based on the age of the horse and other factors. In North American racing, horses are also given allowances or handicaps based on their gender and the grade of previous races.
When a horse crosses the finish line, a photo is taken to determine the winner. If no one can be determined to have won, a dead heat is declared. A horse’s race record, which includes a listing of past victories and defeats, is also compiled and used to determine the winning horse.
Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing, there is a reality of drugs, injuries and gruesome breakdowns. These horses are forced to sprint—often under the threat of whips and illegal electric-shocking devices—at speeds so fast that they regularly sustain serious injuries, hemorrhage from their lungs and often break down or die. Then they are sold, bought and traded, forever bouncing around the world. There is no lifelong tracking system for the horses that leave the track, and the industry can profit from them in racing and breeding but cannot bear responsibility for what happens to them in their subsequent lives. The result is an inescapable cycle of abuse, in which the horse is treated like a product. It is time for this sport to face reality and take steps toward meaningful reform. Otherwise, it will be left on the margins of society.