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The Problems With a Horse Race

A horse race is a contest of speed between Thoroughbred horses (raced with a jockey astride) and Standardbreds (raced pulled by a driver). It’s a spectator sport and one with an ancient lineage, dating back to 1665. The sport is based on rules governing the weights and distances of races and the types of horses who can compete. The horse industry has a long history of disregarding the best interests of its animals, and the problems with racing are systemic.

Until very recently, most horse races were match events between two or three horses. The early King’s Plates were standardized races for six-year-olds that lasted four miles in heats, and the winner was determined by winning two of them. By the 1860s, a single race called a dash became the norm for these matches.

The number of races has also increased, and the stakes money has grown. As a result, there are more opportunities for owners and trainers to win money. The sport has also democratized, as many more people can afford to own a share of a horse by joining syndicates. These syndicates divvy up shares in horse partnerships, often for as little as $100 a year.

As the number of races has expanded, so have the problems with horse welfare. More horses are being injured and killed during training and in races, and the industry is failing to meet basic humane standards. This is not just an issue for the for-profit business; it’s also a moral issue. The deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit have sparked a reckoning in the racing world about what the sport should stand for.

When it comes to equine welfare, there’s an old saying: “You can only give a racehorse so much.” That’s true, but it’s also misleading. Even if we give each horse all the veterinary care and food it needs, there’s nothing that can save some horses from the exorbitant physical stress of a race and its subsequent injuries.

The death of a horse in front of a crowd is a public trauma. It’s a tragedy that erodes confidence in the sport and, ultimately, can lead to fewer people attending racetracks. It’s a big reason why many people have stopped betting, and it’s something the industry needs to think about.

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