What Is a Horse Race?
A horse race is a competition in which horses compete for a prize. Horses are bred to race, and those that win the most races receive the highest purses. A horse’s success depends on its physical condition, and it is subjected to a great deal of stress during the course of its racing career. As a result, horses often suffer from a variety of illnesses and injuries, including heart attacks, broken limbs, and even death.
The most famous horse races, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Melbourne Cup, and the Japan Cup, are all held over distances that require both speed and stamina. But the majority of horse races, which account for the bulk of horse racing activity worldwide, are held over distances between a mile and two miles. This shorter range of distances is characterized as flat racing, and it requires less speed than steeplechase races.
Flat racing is also less likely to exacerbate injuries caused by hard surfaces, but it can still be dangerous. Many horses will bleed from their lungs during the race, a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. The lungs are sensitive and do not have the ability to regenerate, so horses will continue to bleed after the race unless they are administered medication such as Lasix or Salix, which are legal drugs used to decrease bleeding in horses.
The sport is based on the principle of equity, and in order to keep races fair, each horse is assigned a certain amount of weight, or handicap, which it must carry throughout the race. The weight a horse must carry is determined by the class of the race, with allowances made for younger horses and female horses racing against male horses.
In addition to the handicap, there are other factors that can affect a horse’s performance, such as its starting position in the race, the length of its stride, its training, and its jockey. Some of these factors can be controlled, and some cannot.
A steward: An individual who investigates alleged foul play during the running of a race. A steward is not a stipendiary judge, and does not take a decision from a jury.
Hand ride: A jockey using only his hands to urge a horse on. This is not a whipping, although it is still an illegal practice.
Post parade: The process of the horses parading from the paddock to the starting gate before the race.
Patrol judge(s): Officials who observe the progress of a race from various vantage points around the track.
The deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit sparked a long overdue reckoning of the ethics and integrity of horse racing. Donations from the industry and its fans are essential for the welfare of horses, but they do not cancel out the ongoing exploitation of young racing hopefuls. Until that changes, the racing world will remain a place where horses are routinely pushed beyond their limits and left to die.