Horse racing is a worldwide sport with a rich history of traditions. It is often criticized for its cruel practices and its effect on the animal’s health, but recent advances in technology have made the sport safer than ever.
Whether it’s a flat race, such as those run on the turf in Australia or Europe, or a steeplechase like the one held each year in Japan’s Nakayama Grand Jump, horses are put to the test as they deftly navigate a curved track while jumping over obstacles. Despite the risk, horse races are a beloved pastime for millions of people around the world.
The first recorded accounts of organized horse racing date back to ancient times. Although betting on the outcome of a horse race was not always legal, governments sought to capitalize on this potential honey pot by taxing wagers. The practice was popular and led to a proliferation of tracks throughout the country.
Modern racetracks feature a wide variety of amenities for both the general public and racing fans. Many offer high-end dining options, while others have video poker and slot machines. In addition to these, some have become “racinos,” with a mix of traditional horse racing and other types of gambling. Some are even investing in historical racing machines, a type of slot machine that allows players to select the winners of past horse races.
In spite of these innovations, the horse racing industry faces challenges from several directions. It is losing fans, revenue, and race days, and has come under intense pressure from animal-rights groups that expose abusive training practices, drug use, injuries and breakdowns, and the transport of countless American horses to foreign slaughterhouses. The industry also suffers from declining interest in equestrian sports such as basketball and tennis.
Nevertheless, the veterinary community is working to increase safety and improve equine welfare. Some experts say that a new screening tool could help identify horses at higher risk of injury. And researchers are looking into using 3D printing to make casts and splints for injured horses. Other efforts include developing a faster way to diagnose equine diseases, and expanding the use of drones to monitor horse health and behavior.