A horse race is a competition between a number of horses competing for a prize. It may be run on the flat or over obstacles, such as hurdles. It can be open to any horse or restricted to a specific breed or group of horses. Some people criticize the practice of racing horses, saying it is inhumane and corrupt, and that it should be banned. Others argue that the sport represents the pinnacle of achievement for these animals and that while it needs reform, it is fundamentally sound.
In a horse race, the horses compete under weights (or allowances) determined by official handicap ratings. This system repudiates the traditional notion that the best horses should win, and it is designed to make races as fair as possible for all runners. A horse’s rating is adjusted for age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance. There are also ‘claiming races’ in which horses can be bought for a set price after the race has finished, and their weights may be adjusted to reflect this.
Unlike human athletes, who strive to achieve the best time in every race, jockeys and trainers of racehorses are more concerned with winning the race itself, rather than beating the clock. This can lead to a greater variation in winning times than would otherwise be the case. In addition, the specialized training of racehorses results in different running styles than is typically seen in human sports.
One of the most significant issues in horse racing is the widespread use of illegal drugs to enhance a horse’s performance. In the most extreme cases, a horse will be dosed with cocktails of legal and illegal substances that can mask injuries, reduce bleeding during a race, and increase the intensity of workouts in preparation for the race. Many horses, even when not abused, will bleed from the lungs during a race, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. This bleeding can be reduced by the administration of a drug called Lasix, which is often marketed as a blood-thinning agent with performance-enhancing properties.
The legions of apologists for the horse racing industry love to scoff at PETA and similar activists, but it is a mistake to confuse hostility toward PETA with dismissal of its work. In reality, no one outside the world of racing cares how PETA gets its undercover video of alleged abuse; they simply care about what is in it. In the same way, it is no good for those in the industry to complain about crooked journalism when they do not give their all to fix the problem. In the end, it is up to those who care enough about their horses to take action that will determine whether horse racing remains a legitimate and honest pursuit. There are three categories of people in this regard: the crooks who cheat or allow their agents to cheat, those who are too duped to realize it is wrong, and those who recognize that horse racing is more crooked than it ought to be but still won’t do all they can to change it.