Horse racing is a sport that involves competing with other horses on horseback. It has been around since ancient times and was practiced in civilizations across the globe, including Egypt, Rome, Babylon, Syria, and Arabia. The sport is widely considered the oldest organized sport in the world. To win a race, the horse and rider must cross the finish line first. The winner is awarded a specified amount of prize money. The sport has a rich history and continues to be an important part of popular culture, such as in the contest between the god Odin’s steeds in Norse mythology.
The vast majority of races are open to the public, with a variety of entry requirements. Eligibility rules are based on factors such as age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance. Prize money is often split among the top three finishers.
There is a strong tradition of betting on horse races. It is a form of gambling and is illegal in some states. Despite this, it remains popular in many parts of the world and is an important source of revenue for some countries. In the United States, a majority of horse race bets are placed on the Triple Crown races: the Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes, and Kentucky Derby.
In recent years, the industry has benefited from technological advances. Horses and jockeys are subject to rigorous security measures, including thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners, and X-ray machines. Medical technology is also advancing, with 3D printers producing casts, splints, and prosthetics for injured horses.
Unfortunately, despite these advances, horse racing remains a dangerous sport for animals. Injuries and fatalities continue to occur, with the most common causes being a breakdown of a hoof or a fractured limb. In addition, horses are routinely pushed beyond their physical limits and given cocktails of legal and illegal drugs to mask injuries and enhance performance.
As a result, the number of fatalities is likely far higher than the 70,000 reported annually by the Jockey Club. Unlike other major sports leagues, the horse racing industry operates under a patchwork set of rules in dozens of different states, with each jurisdiction having its own standards and punishments for trainers and owners who violate them.
Moreover, new would-be fans of horse racing are increasingly turning away because they are turned off by the constant stories of horse deaths and drug scandals. While donations from racing enthusiasts and gamblers are essential to support the sport, they do not cancel out participation in its ongoing, often deadly, exploitation of younger running horses. Until there is an industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution for horses leaving the track, they will continue to hemorrhage into the slaughter pipeline—a hellish hell that can only be prevented by the tireless efforts of independent nonprofit rescue groups and individual advocates.