Horse races are a dangerous, violent, for-profit enterprise that involves forcing horses to sprint at speeds so high that they frequently sustain severe injuries and even hemorrhage from their lungs. Behind the romanticized facade of racing, there is a world of drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. The sport of horse racing needs to change, but many who love the horses don’t understand that it must completely transform its business model with the best interests of the animals at its heart.
In flat horse races, a racehorse’s pedigree is one of the factors that determine whether it can participate. The horse must have a sire (father) and dam that are purebred members of the same breed as the racehorse. The horse’s record, which is a cumulative total of its past performances, also plays a role in determining whether it will be eligible to enter a particular race.
The weights assigned to horses in a race are called handicaps. The goal is to make the field as close to equal as possible based on factors like age, distance, sex and time of year. A horse may be rated to race at a level below its normal rating if it has suffered an injury.
A horse can be given medication to enhance its performance or help it recover from a sickness. The drug must be approved by the stewards before it can be used on a horse during a race. The stewards must monitor the horse’s condition throughout the race and can disqualify it from winning if it is not healthy enough to compete in the final furlong.
During a horse race, it is common for horses to collide with each other, especially at the finish line. When two or more horses cross the line together making it impossible to judge which horse won, a photo finish is declared. A photograph is studied by stewards to see which horse crossed the line first and therefore won the race.
Despite the efforts of some horse trainers, the industry is still plagued with poor health and welfare conditions for its horses. This is largely due to the fact that it operates under a patchwork of laws and standards across the dozens of states where horse racing takes place. This is in stark contrast to other major sports leagues, such as the NBA, which has a single set of standards for its athletes and teams.