A horse race is a competition between two or more horses and their jockeys where the goal is to cross the finish line before any of the other competing horse-and-rider combinations. It is not uncommon for races to have several heats before the winner is determined. While horse racing has a wide appeal, it is not without its problems and controversy.
To win a race, a jockey must navigate a course that includes jumps or fences and arrive over the finishing line before any of the other participating horses and riders. This requires both skill and courage. In the past, the sport was lauded for its athleticism and daring. Today, however, many people are concerned that the horses are treated badly. In addition, a significant amount of money is spent on horses that are not successful. In order to win, a jockey must maneuver his or her horse into a position to gain an advantage over the competition and then use the whip to propel it toward the finish line.
Horses are bred, trained, and fed to run quickly, and they have a natural urge to do so. They are pushed by trainers to go faster and further than their bodies can handle, even in the face of extreme pain and stress. As a result, horses often break down. The most common causes of death in the sport include heart failure and pulmonary hemorrhage, which are both caused by an overload of stress on the body, and broken legs, often with skin barely holding the bone together.
In addition to the physical stresses, the psychological and emotional trauma of racehorses can have long-lasting effects. Some horses lose their desire to run, others become withdrawn or aggressive, and some are mentally unbalanced and prone to self-mutilation.
The cruelty in horse racing is a complex issue. There are crooks who dangerously drug or otherwise abuse their animals, there are dupes who labor under the fantasy that the sport is generally fair and honest, and there are masses in between. While the masses do not engage in illegal behavior, they often do not speak out or take steps to change the industry.
Despite the fact that most horses cost no more than a used car, many of the world’s most famous races—including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Caulfield and Sydney cups in Australia, the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England—are sponsored by commercial firms. This creates a huge incentive for those companies to win as much money as possible by bringing in the best horses, which often means pushing them past their limits. The result is a number of deaths every year that could be avoided. The true toll, though, will never be known due to a lack of transparency and willingness by the industry to address its problems. If the racing industry wants to survive, it will have to embrace a business model that puts the welfare of its horses at its core.