The Ins and Outs of the Horse Race

The Ins and Outs of the Horse Race

The sport of horse racing has morphed over the years from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two horses into an elaborate spectacle that can involve fields of runners and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, but its essential feature remains unchanged. The race is won by the horse that crosses the finish line first. The equine athletes that run the races are subjected to the same physical stress and gruesome breakdowns that have always characterized the sport, but the modern racing industry tries to conceal these realities with a veneer of glamour and high-end betting opportunities.

Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing lies a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. Horses are forced to sprint-often under the threat of whips and illegal electric shockers-at speeds so fast that they frequently sustain injuries, including a form of hemorrhage from the lungs called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. They are injected with cocktails of drugs to mask these injuries and enhance their performance.

A horse’s shoulder is one of the two areas on its body that a jockey can strike with a whip during a race. When the shoulder is “laid back,” meaning the angle of the scapula is farther forward than the humerus, the horse’s forelegs can reach further out in front for a smoother rhythmic stride. When the shoulder is pushed forward, the forelegs are unable to extend as far in front, and the result is often an ungainly, erratic lope.

The earliest horse races were match races, with owners providing the purse for each participant and taking bets on who would win. The agreement between the two parties was recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be known as keepers of the match book. One such recorder, at Newmarket in England, published An Historical List of All the Horse-Matches Run (1729).

A horse’s tendons are the tough, flexible structures that attach its muscles to its bones. A horse can develop tendonitis when these tendons become inflamed, which is usually caused by overwork or injury. A common sign of tendonitis is lameness, which is a condition that affects a horse’s gait.

sex allowance: A credit that female horses, based on their age and time of year, receive when they compete against males in a race.

In the midst of the pandemic, horse racing found itself with a new audience. With major sports leagues suspended, TVG, the all-racing channel included in many cable packages, began broadcasting races from Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. The channel also introduced a glossary of racing terms to help viewers navigate the jargon.

The racing industry could create a system that puts the well-being of its animals at the forefront, but it’s not there yet. Instead, there are a series of complicated and expensive steps the industry can take to protect the horses, from caps on the number of times a horse can be sprinted and the number of years it can be bred for, to a better aftercare program and a shift in breeding.