Horse racing is one of the oldest and most primitive sports, but it has developed into a massive business involving immense sums of money, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment and vast fields of runners. The sport’s essential feature remains the same: the horse that crosses the finish line first is the winner. Despite that simple premise, there is still much controversy about the best way to promote and monitor horse races. A major cause of controversy is alleged horse abuse and illegal drug use on the racetrack. The use of these drugs is not only inhumane, but it also increases the likelihood of a horse’s injury. A serious injury can leave a horse lame, resulting in permanent pain and suffering. Injured horses are often sold to new owners without disclosing their injuries. This allows the new owner to continue to race them and to use illegal drugs to boost their performance. Injured horses eventually end up at auction and in the slaughter pipeline.
A horse must be a certain age and sex to be eligible for a particular race. A horse that is too young or too old may not be able to compete in the race, even though it might have the ability to win. The sport has also developed rules to equalize the chances of each entrant, called handicapping. Handicapping uses a variety of methods to give each horse a fair chance of winning by assigning weights that are based on a horse’s previous performance.
During a race, the jockey (rider) steers the horse through turns by applying pressure with his/her hands and legs. The jockey must be careful to avoid putting too much pressure on the horse, which could cause it to fall or become injured. The jockey must also be aware of other riders and obstacles in the race.
In addition to riding the horses, a jockey is required to be able to communicate with them and lead them in the right direction. A jockey who fails to do so can be disqualified from a race. A rider’s responsibilities are regulated by the stewards and riders’ unions.
A race is usually held over two miles, although shorter races of five to twelve furlongs are more common. Short races are referred to as sprints and longer distances as routes or staying races. A sprint requires rapid acceleration, while a route or staying race tests a horse’s speed and stamina. Some races are considered “handicaps” if they feature weights assigned to the horses by the racing secretary designed to give each a chance of winning. A handicap race is usually broadcast on television and can be wagered on by phone or internet.