The Dangers of Horse Racing

A horse race is a competition between two or more horses, ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies and their drivers, over a measured distance on a paved track. The goal is to win a prize — traditionally, a sack of grain or a barrel of wine — that is awarded to the winner. Horse races have been held worldwide since ancient times. They have been a prominent feature in many cultures and civilizations, with archaeological evidence of the practice in ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria, Egypt and other parts of the world. In addition, the horse race has played a role in myth and legend, such as the contest between Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology.

Despite its long history, the horse race is still a dangerous sport. According to Patrick Battuello, founder of the activist group Horseracing Wrongs, a significant portion of Thoroughbred racehorses die at the tracks. While fans wear fine clothes and sip mint juleps in the grandstands, the animals are forced to sprint—often under the threat of whips and electric shock devices—at speeds that often cause injuries such as pulmonary hemorrhage or bleeding from the lungs. Other common deaths include broken legs, spinal fractures and shattered limbs in which the skin is sometimes the only thing keeping the limb attached to the rest of the body.

When a horse is injured during a race, its trainer may attempt to use the traditional method of healing called “sweating” by putting the animal in a stall and applying heat to the wounds, tendons, muscles or joints. However, a number of experts believe that this type of treatment is ineffective and should be stopped. Some veterinarians are now using ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging to treat horses that have sustained injuries during a race. They can find and identify the underlying injury more accurately, and then apply the proper treatments to help the horses heal faster and more effectively.

A veterinary exam is required before each race, and the horses must be free of any diseases before they are allowed to race. Each year thousands of horses are put down, either because they can no longer run or are too injured to continue to race. The sport is highly commercialized and the racehorses are not allowed to have any form of social interaction with other horses or with humans, so they are seldom able to develop any kind of bond that would make them feel at home in one place. They are trucked, shipped or flown to the thousands of races that take place each year, all over the country and in other countries around the world.

Before the race, a betor looks at a horse’s coat in the walking ring to see if its color is bright and healthy. A dark and muddy-looking horse is considered unfit to compete, while a vibrantly colored one is likely to win the race. The betting public then places their bets on the horses that they think will finish in the top three or five positions. The money bet on those horses is known as the race’s purse or payout.