What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a sporting event in which a human, usually a jockey riding on a well-trained horse, competes with other people to win a wager. The most popular form of horse racing is a thoroughbred race, which is usually contested over a distance of two to four miles. The sport has long been a major source of entertainment, as well as betting and gambling. The game has undergone many changes over the years, with technological advances influencing safety standards and horse care.

In the 17th century, the first documented horse races took place in France. King Louis XIV (1643-1715) established rules that included standardized races for six-year-olds carrying 168 pounds in 4-mile heats, with winners determined by a two-day test of endurance. The sport grew rapidly after the establishment of these rules.

Modern racehorses are bred and trained to run at top speeds. They are fed and given medications to keep them healthy and performing at their peak. Some horses are prone to bleed from the lungs after hard running, which is why they’re given Lasix or Salix, a diuretic with performance-enhancing properties. Often, a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs are used to mask injuries or enhance performance.

The equine industry is rife with corruption, from the crooks who dangerously drug their horses to the dupes who labor under the false belief that horse racing is broadly fair and honest. Then there are the masses in the middle—honorable souls who realize that the sport is more crooked than it ought to be but don’t do enough to protect the horses.

Despite the progress made in improving horse welfare, there is much more that needs to be done. Increasing awareness of the dark side of racing, including abuses by trainers and the transport of injured and slaughtered horses to foreign slaughterhouses, is driving away new and would-be fans.

A few dedicated individuals and groups network, fundraise, and work tirelessly to help rehabilitate retired racehorses. But they cannot replace the need for an industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution for horses who leave the track. Without this, thousands of former racehorses hemorrhage into the slaughter pipeline where they’re often subjected to gruesome end in Canada and Mexico. In the meantime, young, promising racehorses are pushed to their limits in a sport that offers no guarantee of a happy or safe ending. It’s time to call for a change.