A horse race is a competition in which horses are ridden and guided by jockeys. The fastest horse wins, and the jockey earns a prize, usually money. The winner of a horse race is the first to cross a finish line and the distance specified by the rules of the race, while jumping all obstacles (if present). The rules for horse racing vary widely across countries and can be very complex.
The sport of horse races has a long history, beginning with the British occupation of New York City in 1664. Colonel Richard Nicolls established organized racing by laying out a course on the plains of Long Island. From the onset, racing was primarily match races between two horses over several four-mile heats. Stamina was the benchmark of equestrian excellence until after the Civil War, when speed became the new goal.
Many people who work in the horse-racing industry are dedicated to winning and are obsessed with their job; they can spend up to seven days a week training, riding, cleaning stables and watching horse races. Their jobs are physically and emotionally demanding, and the work often results in injuries and breakdowns. Some are also exposed to illegal drugs used to enhance performance. They are at the heart of a system that is increasingly under attack by animal rights activists and is losing fans, revenue, race days and entries.
Horses are trained to run on hard tracks at high speeds, and their skeletal systems are not fully mature. Many begin training at the age of two, and even three-year-olds are not skeletally ready to handle this type of strenuous activity. The stress of racing can lead to serious injuries and breakdowns, such as pulmonary hemorrhage. Despite improved medical treatment and technological advances, horse racing is still a dangerous industry for its animals.
During the race, horses are pushed beyond their physical limits and are subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. Injuries, breakdowns and the deaths of many horses are commonplace in the racing industry. Despite the glamorous façade of Thoroughbred racing, behind the scenes lies a world of abuse, drug use and slaughter. This is the hidden side of horse racing, and the reason why animal rights activists are taking a stand against it.