A horse race is a sport in which horses compete against each other and the clock. The first horse to cross a finish line is declared the winner of the race. There are many different kinds of horse races but they all have the same basic rules. The rules are set by a horse racing organization. This organization is responsible for ensuring that all horse races are run fairly and in accordance with the rules. The horse racing organization must also set the terms for prize money.
A human athlete’s goal is to achieve the best possible time in almost every event that they participate in, but in horse racing the jockeys, trainers and owners are more concerned with winning per se rather than the amount of time they take to complete the race. This means that race tactics play a much larger role in horse races than they do in human athletic contests.
It is hard to believe that the horse racing industry clings to its assertion that horses are “born to run and love to compete.” In their natural habitat, these beautiful creatures move with ease and grace over open fields and in the company of other horses. What they are made to do at the track bears no resemblance to their natural lives and is a grueling and brutal process that often results in death, broken limbs and traumatic heart attacks.
The 2008 deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit sparked a national reckoning of the sport’s ethics and integrity. Their deaths, as well as those of countless other horses over the years, were caused by the exorbitant physical stress that is inherent in racing and training. Sadly, little has changed in the industry to stop these equine athletes from dying of exhaustion or sustaining catastrophic injuries.
Despite the fact that there are multiple horse racing organizations and rules, the majority of the races are run according to a similar standard set by the British Horseracing Authority in 1751. Until then, horse races were limited to certain types of horses and were held on specific surfaces. The King’s Plates, for instance, were standardized races for six-year-olds who carried 168 pounds in 4-mile heats.
Fortunately, the horse racing industry relies on donations by fans and other industry folks to keep the sport going. But the money that they give does not cancel out participation in the ongoing, often deadly exploitation of younger running horses. And, even if it did, the money wouldn’t cancel out all of the young foals that are bred to die at the track, either through the unnatural stresses of the game or from the debilitating injuries they sustain on the way there.