Horse race is a form of sports in which horses are ridden and guided by jockeys to compete for a prize. The sport began sometime before 1000 B.C.E., when Greeks created a game involving horses attached to two-wheeled carts or chariots. It became a formal sport of competition in 664 B.C.E., when Greek athletes appeared on top of the horses and were called jockeys.
As the sport developed, rules were introduced based on age, sex, birthplace and previous performance of the horses. A number of different races were established, including handicap races in which the weights that competitors carry are adjusted according to their ages. Various allowances and weight penalties are also provided on the basis of a horse’s gender, such as a gelding carrying less weight than a mare.
In the United States, Thoroughbred horse racing is regulated by state and federal laws, and the American Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) has begun enforcing some of these new standards. But, despite the best efforts of HISA and the trainers and racetracks they oversee, serious problems remain. Many would-be fans have been turned off by the scandals over safety and doping, while others simply can’t afford to gamble on horse races anymore.
Those who do continue to follow the sport are generally older, and it is not unusual for an entire horse race to be made up of riders over 60. This demographic decline is partly due to the fact that more people are turning to online gambling and betting, which offers a better deal on average than traditional horse races. But the loss of younger people is also a result of the continuing scandals over horse races and their safety record.
The most famous horse race in the world is the Grand National in England, held annually in April. The course, a mile and a quarter long, is made up of thirty fences, which have to be cleared to win the prize money. Unlike many modern fences, these are all built of wood and have no metal bars. The Grand National fences are steep and often have ditches at the bottom, which were added to slow runners on approach and protect the horses from injury.
Despite the many dangers, most runners survive the race without any serious injuries. Nevertheless, the deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit prompted a reckoning of the sport’s ethics and integrity. The death of another horse, War Admiral, earlier this year further sparked controversy and calls for reform. Whether or not the new rules will have the desired effect remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: horses are routinely dying from the exorbitant physical stress of the sport. This is not something that should happen to any animal, let alone a majestic creature like a horse. The equine industry needs to make serious changes if it is going to thrive in the future.