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The Dangers of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse races are a form of athletic competition in which horses, usually racehorses, are pitted against each other over long distances. The winner is the horse that crosses the finish line first. The contest is a form of entertainment that has been practiced in cultures across the world for centuries. Although the sport has evolved from a primitive contest of speed and stamina into a modern spectacle involving enormous sums of money, its basic concept remains unchanged.

Although it is difficult to establish exact dates, archaeological records indicate that horse racing has been in existence for thousands of years. It is recorded in both written accounts and in actual events, including the chariot and bareback (mounted) races that were part of the Greek Olympic Games from 740 to 700 B.C. The sport soon spread to other areas of the world, and its development continues to this day.

Throughout the ages, the popularity of horse racing waxed and waned as it fluctuated with economic prosperity and depression, war and peace. It enjoyed a brief resurgence during the 1970s as great horses such as Secretariat and Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown of American Thoroughbred racing. But this resurgence did not last and, by the first decades of the 21st century, horse racing was in decline.

In recent years, the industry has made a number of improvements in training practices and veterinary care. It has also invested in technologies such as thermal imaging cameras to detect heat stress and MRI scanners to identify early signs of injury. These technological advances have allowed racing to increase safety and improve the health of horses and jockeys.

However, the racehorse is still a violent, dangerous sport in which many horses are injured or killed. Despite the efforts of racehorse owners and trainers to make racing safer, injuries are still commonplace. Horses are forced to run at speeds so fast that they frequently suffer breakdowns or even hemorrhage from their lungs. Many are also subjected to excessive use of drugs in order to achieve their racing goals.

Some horses, such as Eight Belles, are killed because of this abuse. Tragically, because of the lack of industry regulation and a culture of secrecy, it is impossible to determine exactly how many horses are lost each year due to the stresses of the sport.

The horseracing industry cannot continue to hide behind its legions of apologists and ignore the fact that animal rights activists, like those featured in the Times’ article, are not going away. Rather than attempting to shoot the messenger, the industry should focus its resources on advancing horse racing’s safety and welfare measures. That would mean more money for enhanced drug testing and legislative efforts to better regulate trainers and veterinarians. It would also mean an end to the industry’s code of silence that allows horse abuse to continue unabated. It is time for horse racing to tell the truth and set itself free.