A horse race is a contest between horses and jockeys, or riders. It involves a series of contests in which horses are asked to run at high speeds. This puts the animals in danger of falling or sustaining injuries, especially those to their bones and hooves. Injuries can be fatal, such as the cardiovascular collapses that often kill racing horses, or they may lead to developmental disorders like pulmonary hemorrhage. The harrowing speed of horse races also makes them difficult for humans to observe, and this can make them unpopular among the general public.
In the earliest times, horse races were match races between two or at most three horses, with the owners providing the purse and accepting a simple wager on the winner. Agreements between the parties were recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be known as keepers of the match book. These were the origins of what would become today’s race records.
By the 19th century, the racing industry began to expand, and it became more common for race fans to cheer a specific horse in each event. This was particularly true in major races, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup. Many of these race fans became so loyal to their favorite horses that they even gave them names. Seabiscuit is perhaps the most famous of all these horses, and his name is a part of American folklore.
The high speeds and intense competition in horse racing make it a dangerous sport for both the horses and their human riders. The horses are at risk of injury from falls and the jarring contact with the track itself. The pounding of the horses’ legs can break their bones, and fractures to the hooves are not uncommon. The animals are prone to infections from the dirt and debris on the tracks, as well as injuries from being kicked by other horses and by the rider’s whip.
The death rate in horse racing is high, but the industry has made significant efforts to improve safety. In 2020 Congress passed legislation requiring national standards for horse racing, and these have started to be implemented. In addition to improving safety standards, the industry has worked to increase awareness and educate the public about the risks of horse racing. The sport is also beginning to use synthetic surfaces that are more environmentally friendly. As a result, the death rate in horse racing has begun to decline, but there is still a long way to go.