What is a Horse Race?
Horse races are a sport where horses run at high speeds while jockeys try to stay atop them. The race is won when one of the horses crosses the finish line first. The sport of horse racing has undergone major changes in recent years with many new technological advances that have greatly improved the safety of horses and jockeys. These advancements include thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners, X-rays, and 3D printing of casts, splints and prosthetics.
These technologies have also made it possible for racehorses to be bred, trained and sold for much more money than ever before. This has lead to a huge increase in the number of horses competing in races. The most famous of these races are the Triple Crown series. This consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Other countries have similar series of elite races.
The race begins with a post parade and warm-up period where the horses are put into the starting gate, which is a small metal stall. Attendants take hold of the horses and keep them calm until the bell sounds at the start of the race. This is a dangerous moment where the horses often kick and buck. Jockeys try to remain atop the horses using stirrups, but if the horse stops abruptly the jockey can be thrown off the mount and injured (28).
After the clubhouse turn (the first turn of a race that starts on the frontstretch) the speed of the race increases. This is when jockeys try to go “all out.” The speed increases as the horse rounds the final turn. The pounding of the horse’s hooves as they fly down the track at this speed can cause damage to the back feet and legs of the horse, especially if the horse hits the dirt or gravel (11).
A jockey can encourage the horse by hand riding (or urging). This is done by putting one’s hand up and down the neck of the horse. The rider may also use his/her leg to steer the horse in a certain direction.
At the finish line, if it is difficult to determine which horse finished first, a photo finish is declared. A photograph of the finish is studied by stewards to determine which horse crossed the finish line first.
The sport of horse racing needs a profound ideological reckoning in order to prioritize the well-being of the horses that it uses. This would involve a complete restructuring of the industry from the breeding shed through to aftercare that includes caps on the number of times a horse can be run and integrating a more natural and equine-friendly lifestyle for the animals. This will require a huge amount of work and resources on the part of independent, nonprofit horse rescues, but it is the only way to truly improve the lives of racehorses. The alternative is the current horror of ex-racehorses hemorrhaging into the slaughter pipeline. This occurs while spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps.