A horse race is a competitive sport in which horses, guided by jockeys, run over a course that may include obstacles or hurdles. To win a race, a rider must complete the course before any other horses and cross the finish line first. Prize money is awarded to the first, second and third place finishers. Horse racing has a long history and is an important part of many cultures.
As with most industries, sectors and sports, horse racing has benefited from the advances in technology that have characterized the latter half of the 20th century. These innovations have made it easier to monitor horses’ health and safety, especially during races. Thermal imaging cameras can detect overheating, MRI scanners and X-rays can diagnose injuries and maladies, and 3D printing allows for the production of casts, splints, and prosthetics.
Despite these technological advances, horse racing remains a dangerous industry for animals. Horses are routinely pushed beyond their limits by trainers and owners and subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injury and enhance performance. Horses are also at risk of breaking down, being killed or being transported to slaughterhouses abroad, where they are often euthanized without any form of pain relief.
In addition to these safety risks, the animal welfare organization PETA has conducted an in-depth investigation of the sport and found that horses are subjected to inhumane training practices, a lack of transparency about the use of drugs, and other abusive and traumatic conditions. PETA’s groundbreaking investigations have resulted in increased awareness of these issues, and growing public pressure has forced the horse racing industry to make significant improvements in animal care.
Horses are bred to be able to race for long distances and must be trained to run well in the midst of close competition. A thoroughbred race horse is expected to win a large number of races and earn significant amounts of prize money. A stable that breeds horses to race is called a breeding and training farm.
The practice of horse racing began in prehistory, and organized chariot and mounted (or ridden) races were held during the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece between 700-40 bce. It is believed that organized horse racing was practiced by other ancient civilizations, including China, Iran, Egypt, Babylon, and Syria.
During the earliest races, bets were tallied manually. This was time-consuming and inefficient and a significant barrier to expanding the sport’s fan base. However, in 1984, a computerized pari-mutuel system was introduced and horse races were first televised in color, both on- and off-track. These two measures dramatically improved the management of betting and boosted attendance and turnover. Currently, there are more than 200 horse racing tracks in the United States and more than 500 around the world.