What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a contest of speed or stamina between two horses over a specified distance. While the sport has developed into a spectacular spectacle with large fields of runners and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, it remains a test of human-animal relationships.

The earliest documented record of a horse race dates from the 5th century bc in Asia Minor. By the 9th century bc, chariot races had become a common feature of the Olympic Games, with both bareback (unmounted) and saddled competitions. The modern horse race is based on this chariot racing, but with a more streamlined course and a heavier weight limit to protect the health of the animals.

Modern horse racing is a multi-billion dollar industry that includes thoroughbreds, harness, and quarter horses. The sport has been a staple of entertainment since the beginnings of civilization and continues to be one of the world’s most popular spectator sports. Despite its popularity, the sport has come under heavy scrutiny due to concerns over animal welfare. Horses are often pushed to their limits, resulting in catastrophic heart attacks and broken limbs. Injuries are exacerbated by the intense physical stress and the cocktail of legal and illegal drugs administered to horses in training.

Injuries are a constant threat to the horse race, and as the sport evolves, so does the risk to the animals’ health. A traumatic injury to a horse’s leg, such as a fractured bone or ligament tear, can cause lifelong damage to the animal. The severity of the injuries and the traumatic impact on the animal can also lead to death.

Once they’ve exhausted their competitive abilities, few racehorses are retired to pastures. Many end up in slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico or Japan where they are processed into glue and dog food. The horses who are lucky enough to find a new home as part of a breeding program or in another form of racing, such as endurance, can have a long and productive career.

In politics, the term “horse race journalism” refers to the tendency of news organizations to focus reporting on the top two candidates in a campaign, to the detriment of primary contenders and third-party candidates. This strategy, which is common in horse racing, has been shown to contribute to the cynicism of voters. Perhaps journalists could learn a lesson from horse racing and pay more attention to the dark horse, who can win big when they get the right combination of ingredients. Annie Aguiar is an audience engagement producer in Poynter’s newsroom. Her background is in state issues reporting. She graduated with a degree in public affairs from Michigan State University. She lives in Lansing, Mich. with her husband and two dogs. Follow her on Twitter at @aaguiar.