Horse races are events where horses compete for victory over a fixed distance on the flat surface of a racetrack. Each horse is assigned a weight to carry, which will affect the overall performance of the race. There are different types of races, with the most prestigious races offering the biggest purses. Some of the best-known races are the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup in Australia, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England, and the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina.
There are also short races, known as sprints, and long-distance races, which are called routes in the United States and stayers in Europe. Short sprint races require fast acceleration, while long-distance races test a horse’s stamina. The speed at which a horse runs, or pace, can be influenced by its fitness and preparation, as well as the track conditions and weather.
The sport has seen many technological advances in recent years that have improved safety, and health and welfare for the horses. These technologies include thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners and x-rays, 3D printing, and more. The technology can even help to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses in a more timely manner.
However, the industry continues to operate as a for-profit business, with the interests of the horses and their owners largely in conflict. Donations from racing fans and gamblers are essential, but they do not cancel out the industry’s ongoing exploitation of young running horses that are being born into it.
In addition to the physical strain of training and racing, equine welfare is compromised by poor management and breeding practices. Injuries and deaths are frequent, and the majority of horses are discarded after just one or two seasons in racing, with many never reaching their potential as breeding stock. In addition, the industry has no lifelong tracking system for its thoroughbreds and does not assume any liability for what happens to them once they leave the track.
Behind the romanticized façade of horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. While spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, horses are forced to run for their lives, often at speeds that cause gruesome injuries, such as lacerations, hemorrhaging in the lungs, and heart attacks.
The problems with horse racing are systemic and baked into the culture and business model of the industry, which does not put the needs of the horses at the forefront of its operations. Despite the outcry after the tragic deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit, and the shaming of the sport by animal rights groups, there has been no shift in racing’s business model to prioritize the welfare of its horses. The time is now for an evolution that ensures that the interests of the horses are placed at the center of the industry’s operations. It is time to protect them from the horrors that are a routine part of the business of horse racing.