The Big Lie About Horse Racing

Horse races are competitive contests in which a horse is ridden and guided over a course at speed. The sport of racing has a long and distinguished history, dating back to the times when horses were used as warhorses by ancient civilizations. The sport is considered to be one of the oldest sporting events in existence and has played a role in many cultures around the world, from ancient Greece and Rome to the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Egypt, Babylon, India, and China. It is also a prominent part of mythology, such as the contest between Odin’s steed Hrungnir and the giantess Frigga in Norse mythology.

The Big Lie: Horseracing as a sport

Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing is a world of drugs, whipping, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. While spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, racehorses are running for their lives. According to one study, a horse is injured in at least one out of every 22 races.

These injuries are the result of a sport that requires a horse to run at high speeds and to make sharp turns, often while galloping over a hard track. The stresses on a racehorse’s body are so great that, according to PETA, ten thousand thoroughbreds each year die, either from catastrophic injury or by being put down. And that is a conservative estimate.

To make a profit, trainers have long relied on performance-enhancing drugs to get their horses to run faster. The drugs work by lowering the levels of naturally occurring hormones in a horse’s body. The problem is that the drugs are not always effective, and they can sometimes do more harm than good. It is also possible for horses to become too dependent on the drugs and suffer from side effects such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

The abuse is systematic and widespread, and many people within the industry are culpable. The alleged abuse goes on decade after decade because state regulators are not enforceable, because the industry is self-policing and because the people who develop performance-enhancing drugs are always one step ahead of the authorities who test for them.

The exploitation of horses in the name of profit has always been the norm, and it is not surprising that there is so much corruption in horse racing. The most important thing for the public to remember is that trophies, money and adulation are human-made abstractions that mean little to the animals themselves. They are concerned only with survival, and if they can do that well enough to earn a living, all the better. The mudslinging, name calling and attack ads that characterize modern political contests can easily obscure the real issues at stake, but good journalists know to look for horse racing coverage in the news and in blogs.