The Dark Side of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse racing is a popular sport around the world that attracts millions of fans. It can be watched on TV or at live races. Many people place bets on their favorite horses to see who will win the race. Some bets are placed on individual horses while others are placed on accumulator bets that pay out if multiple winning bets are placed. There are also different betting types such as betting to win, place, and show.

The hypnotic smoothness of the horses and their riders is mesmerizing to watch, but there are dark sides to the industry. The racing industry is rife with abuse and cruelty, notably inbreeding, overuse of drugs, broken bones, and deaths. These problems have sparked a growing movement to reform the sport.

In the early days of organized racing, stamina was regarded as the key to victory. Horses were bred to be large and powerful, and they had to run long distances to qualify for a race. This meant that a small number of horses were selected to compete in the major events, such as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. These were known as the Triple Crown races, and the winners would receive a coveted stallion’s fee of about $20,000 or more.

As the industry grew, breeders began to focus on speed as the most important factor in success. The industry is replete with tales of horses being pushed to the limits of their endurance, and it was not uncommon for jockeys and trainers to brag about the use of cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries and enhance performance.

The racing industry relies on a high turnover rate of horses, with thousands being forced out as foals, during training, during their racing careers, or upon retirement. This is a major contributor to the cost of running the sport, and it poses serious welfare concerns for the remaining horses.

Among the most dangerous and damaging tools used on racehorses are tongue ties and spurs. A tongue tie is a piece of nylon or elastic tied to the lower part of the horse’s mouth to prevent it from moving freely while running, restricting its movement and causing pain. Spurs, which are attached to the back of riding boots, exert sharp pressure against a horse’s flank area and can cause severe injury. The RSPCA strongly opposes the use of both these items on horse, as they can cause significant discomfort and potentially permanent injury.

Horses are often injected with a drug called Lasix on race day to decrease pulmonary bleeding caused by hard running. The use of this drug, which is noted on the race day form by a boldface L, has been controversial because of its apparent performance-enhancing qualities. Other common medications include a variety of steroids, anti-inflammatories and other substances that can be legal or illegal depending on the jurisdiction in which a race is held. In addition to these substances, some horses are given electric shock devices, or jiggers, which deliver an electric shock and may cause significant pain and distress.