A horse race is a sport that involves the use of a horse and jockey competing in close quarters. It is one of the oldest sports on earth and has morphed from primitive contests of speed and stamina into a sophisticated spectacle featuring computerized monitoring equipment and massive sums of money. It has endured a number of ups and downs, whether for socioeconomic status, political gain, morality imposition or just as a stronghold for the pleasure of the game.
The earliest recorded accounts of horse races date back to the Greek Olympic Games in 700 and 40 B.C. However, it is argued that horse racing developed in England during the 9th century. The sport eventually spread to Europe and Asia as people began to wager on the outcome of a race.
Modern racehorses are bred for speed, beauty and stamina. The adolescent animals are thrust into intensive training at 18 months and often raced before they reach full maturity at around age four, the rough equivalent of a first-grade child. This is a recipe for breakdowns, especially since horses’ neck and spine don’t fully fuse until age 6.
For flat horse races (not including steeplechases), pedigrees are a major factor in eligibility for the event. A horse must have a sire and dam that are purebred members of the same breed in order to compete. This requirement, along with a slew of other rules and regulations, ensures that the best horses are competing on equal footing.
The sport has grown to include a wide range of events, from prestigious championships to smaller local and county races. Many of these are handicapped, which means that a horse’s finishing position is determined by the weight it carries. The amount of weight a horse must carry is determined by its sex, age, and race distance. Occasionally, horses are given special weight allowances for past performance or injury.
Horses are subject to a variety of injuries when racing, including pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding out of the lungs), fractured sesamoids (small bones located above and behind the fetlock joint), lacerations and other wounds, and shattered legs. Injuries can be very severe and can result in the animal’s death.
Injuries are also common for humans racing horses, and jockeys are known to suffer serious injuries. A rider can be injured by a fall from the horse, being hit by another jockey, getting kicked or stepped on, or becoming seriously ill. Often, these injuries are exacerbated by the fact that racehorses are forced to run at breakneck speeds on a hard surface. In nature, a horse understands the principle of self-preservation, so if it is injured or in danger, it will stop running and attempt to heal itself. On a racetrack, however, humans perched on their backs compel them with a whip to go on and on at the expense of their health and safety. This is what makes horse racing so compelling to many people, as well as so edgy and dangerous.