The Dangers of a Horse Race

A horse race is a sporting event where jockeys and horses compete to cross a finish line first. The winner is awarded a designated sum of money, known as the prize purse. A horse must complete the entire course of a race and jump each hurdle (if present) in order to receive the prize. This is a popular sport for people of all ages to watch and place wagers on. Unlike other team sports, horse racing is a very dangerous sport, and horses are frequently injured or killed.

Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing lies a world of injuries, drug abuse and gruesome breakdowns. The sport forces horses to run-often under the threat of whips and even illegal electric shockers-at speeds so fast that they suffer from a host of problems, including hemorrhage from the lungs. The animals are forced to do so despite being exhausted and dehydrated, and the injuries they sustain can be fatal.

The sport’s abysmal safety record is the result of many factors, but perhaps most importantly it stems from an unwillingness within the industry to police itself. State regulators are largely feckless, and the people who develop performance-enhancing drugs are always one step ahead of officials who try to test for them. In addition, too many still within the sport equate real reform with a loss of revenue, and therefore they willfully ignore any allegations of cruelty.

Following World War II, horse racing was among the most popular spectator sports in America. However, as the popularity of major professional and collegiate team sports rose, horse racing leaders made several strategic mistakes. They decided not to promote the sport on television, and they also failed to adapt to changing demographics. Today, only 1 to 2 percent of Americans list horse racing as their favorite sport.

During the time of Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715), organized horse racing became popular in France, and the first horse races in America took place on Long Island in the 1600s. By the 1800s, races were taking place throughout the country. These events were often shaped by sectional issues, pitting horses from the North against those from the South.

After the deaths of numerous horses at Santa Anita Park, California, in April, the racing industry made dozens of changes to make the sport safer. The changes are a sign that horse racing can be a responsible and ethical sport, but it must do much more to ensure the safety of its athletes. The sport must put its profits and profit margins aside and enact reforms that will make it more humane for horses, jockeys, and track employees. Otherwise, it will continue to lose viewers and be unable to survive in the modern age of information.