A horse race is a competitive event in which horses are ridden and guided by jockeys. They are usually tethered together to a rigging called a fence or a track, and they run for long distances. The first three or four finishers are paid a monetary prize, known as a purse. In some races, the winner receives a special award called the “Triple Crown.”
A major type of horse racing is a handicap race. In these, the weight that a racehorse must carry during the race is adjusted on the basis of its age and its past performance. The youngest and oldest racehorses carry the heaviest weights, while those in between are awarded a reduction in their total weight. In addition, a horse’s gender is taken into account, so that fillies generally carry less weight than stallions.
Horses are bred for this type of sport at very young ages. They begin intensive training at 18 months, and are often raced by the time they are three years old. This is an inherently dangerous thing to do to horses, which are not suited for such an extreme physical stress. One study found that one thoroughbred dies in a race every 22 days, and another estimated that 3 thoroughbreds per day die from catastrophic injuries during races.
Although many horse races are held on a grass course, the majority of races are held on hard tracks made from asphalt or concrete. These surfaces are extremely abrasive, and a horse’s skeletal structure is not designed to cope with such an intense physical exertion. Many injuries suffered by horses in horse races result from the contact with these hard, sharp materials.
One of the most common injuries is a fracture of the fetlock bone, which occurs when a horse’s leg is caught under the girth or between the fetlock and the shoe. This injury is a particularly serious one, because it can result in a broken limb or even death. It is also common for a horse to injure its back, which is caused by the constant flexing of its back and neck in close quarters.
The abrasive nature of these surfaces, coupled with the high levels of adrenaline produced during horse races, can also lead to other health problems, such as ulcers and colic. These problems can lead to a decrease in a horse’s fitness, which in turn can reduce its chances of winning.
In order to maintain its popularity, the racing industry needs to address the issue of animal welfare and ensure that horses are treated humanely. This can start by eliminating the practice of putting unfit animals in races. In addition, the racing industry should consider changing its legal status from a for-profit business to a non-profit organization that recognizes the rights of its animals. It can also make changes to its betting system, which is currently a manual process, and move towards televised racing and computerized pari-mutuel bets. This will enable a more diverse group of fans to embrace the sport, and ultimately save the lives of horses like Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Creative Plan and Laoban.