What is a Horse Race?
A horse race is a contest of speed or stamina between two horses ridden by jockeys. It is one of the oldest sports, originating in ancient times as a primitive contest between two animals and evolving over centuries into an elaborate entertainment spectacle with thousands of participants, electronic monitoring equipment and vast sums of money. The basic principle of a horse race has never changed: the fastest horse wins.
Some people criticize the sport as inhumane, arguing that racing can be dangerous for both horses and humans, that the animals are overbred and pushed to extreme limits, and that the solitary confinement of racehorses is stressful. Others believe that the sport demonstrates amazing feats of endurance and skill, and that it provides a unique opportunity for human athletes to test their mettle.
A horse’s performance can be influenced by its weight, age, position, training and other factors. Generally, a horse of similar ability is assigned the same amount of weight to carry, though allowances are sometimes made for gender, age and racing surface. A horse’s position in a race can also have an impact on its chances of winning.
The term racehorse refers to a type of thoroughbred horse that is trained to compete in running races. A thoroughbred horse is a breed that was developed in Europe during the early part of the 20th century for athletic competition. It is the fastest breed of horse in the world and requires a high level of fitness.
A thoroughbred horse that is a top competitor in running races is called a champion. The champion is awarded a prize, known as a stallion cup, after winning a particular race. The stallion cup is considered the most important award in the world of horse racing.
Historically, racing was conducted on a dirt track, but now most races are held on synthetic surfaces such as Polytrack or Pro-Panel. The most common race distances are a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half. Some races are run around a single turn, while others are route races that require the horses to make several turns.
The roaring (laryngeal hemiplegia) that is heard in the background during a horse race is caused by the temporary paralysis of the nerves that control the muscles that elevate the arytenoid cartilages, thereby opening the larynx. The condition occurs most frequently in older racehorses and is usually the result of injury or illness. The roaring sounds like a whistling and is most prevalent on the left side of the horse.
The practice of drugging a horse to improve its performance has become commonplace in horse racing. A cocktail of legal and illegal drugs is used to mask injuries, prevent pulmonary bleeding, boost energy levels and enhance performance. Although many racehorses are able to achieve their peak at age five, the escalating cost of breeding fees, training and sales prices has meant that many horses are raced much earlier than they would otherwise be. Moreover, according to PETA, the vast majority of American racehorses are euthanized after a career in which they were abused, overbred and pushed to their limits.