What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a contest in which the best-trained and most athletic of horses compete to be the first across a finish line. The sport has roots in Arabian and Barb horses brought to England in the 17th century, but organized racing in America began with the British occupation of New Amsterdam in 1664. Races were run in the streets of that city, and prize money was awarded to the winners.

In a typical race, a field of twelve or more horses is paced closely together over a two-mile or longer track. The first to cross the finish line is declared the winner. The winner can have an advantage based on the number of turns in the course, the distance from the starting gate, sex (female horses run against males are given weight allowances), and age, among other factors. The oldest horses are often favored because of their strength and stamina.

To increase the chances of winning, a trainer will often select a horse with a good pedigree, but also consider its race record and physical condition. The horse must be able to handle the demands of competition and recover from any injuries. The most common injury is a bone bruise or stress fracture, which results from jarring impact with another horse or a fence. Other common injuries include a cut or scrape, a sore back, and laminitis, in which the hooves of the horse become overloaded and inflamed.

The last major injury that can affect a horse is a sesamoid fracture, which occurs in the small bones called the medial and lateral sesamoids located above and behind the fetlock joint. This type of fracture can be a simple chip or a spiral that circles the bone. The injury can lead to infection and the horse may be forced to retire from the sport.

The vast majority of the people in the horse racing industry are kind and well-meaning. But this category of horsemen and women, who see wrong but refuse to give their all for reform, must change if horse racing is to survive and thrive. For horseracing to succeed, it must be a sport that recognizes that all animals have certain fundamental rights and respects them. The right to be free from abuse and fear is essential, as is the right to a long life. Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, Creative Plan, and Laoban all lost those rights. So, too, will thousands of future runners if the sport does not make serious changes now. It’s up to the horseracing industry to make those changes and ensure that they stick. Donations from industry folks and gamblers are essential on behalf of the horses, but they do not cancel out participation in ongoing, often deadly, exploitation. It’s time for real reform. It’s the only way that horse racing will be able to survive in a world with changing attitudes about animal welfare and an increasingly demanding legal system.