Horse racing has a long, rich history and is considered one of the most popular sports in the world. It has many rules and regulations that must be followed. Some of the most important are that the horses must start at an equal starting distance and that the first horse to have its nose cross the finish line wins the race. There are also a number of things that can disqualify a horse from winning a race, including not following the course given to them.
The sport began in Europe during the Greek Olympic Games in 700 to 40 B.C.E. It involved both four-hitched chariot races and mounted bareback races. The sport continued to grow in popularity and spread to China, Persia, Arabia, and the Middle East. It was in these areas where the sport started to change and develop into its modern form. The Greek philosopher Xenophon wrote a vivid account of the ancient sport.
In the backstretch, a big chestnut colt named Vino Rosso was leading the pack. The crowd was cheering loudly, and the horses were moving with hypnotic smoothness. They were drenched in the last of the afternoon sun, and their coats were pinkish in hue. The pace was fast, but the horses seemed to be able to keep up.
On the far turn, War of Will surged into second place. At the top of the stretch, the leaders were running into the last of the sunlight. The crowd went from cheering to shrieking. The jockeys were urging their mounts on with the whips. But the horses seemed to know it was almost over. They were tiring, but they kept churning forward with huge strides and an energy that was mesmerizing.
In the early years of this century, the death of Eight Belles and that of the subsequent champion Medina Spirit sparked a reckoning of America’s most famous horse race. Their deaths were tragic, but they were not atypical. Horses routinely die from heart attacks, broken legs, and other catastrophic injuries suffered during the exorbitant stress of a horse race.
As the century progressed, technological advances in health and medicine helped improve the safety of racing horses. MRI scanners, X-rays, and endoscopes can pick up signs of a variety of illnesses or injuries that might otherwise be missed. 3D printing can produce casts and splints for injured or wounded horses.
Despite these advances, a lot has remained unchanged in the culture of horse racing. Millions of dollars in purses and breeding fees are paid to a small group of breeders and trainers. They must compete with each other to win races and keep their best runners in training. The for-profit industry must embrace a culture and a justice system that recognizes that horses are entitled to certain fundamental rights, not the least of which is survival in a world that they have created. It is time that horse racing addressed the lack of an adequately funded, industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution for all of its horses who leave the track. Otherwise, they too will hemorrhage into the slaughter pipeline where they are offered a Facebook post and a window of opportunity to be “bailed” before being shipped off for a horrific fate.