The Dark Side of a Horse Race

A horse race is a contest of speed between horses that are either ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies and driven by drivers. The races are usually held on dirt or grass courses that range in length from one mile to ten miles. The winner is the first to complete the race in a set time, while the second-place finisher receives a certain amount of money or other prizes. The sport of horse racing has been popular since ancient times.

The horse races are a spectacle that has drawn spectators for centuries, mainly due to the beauty and power of the animals involved. They have also offered hope to the bettors, who could make a good living for a day, a week or, if they were lucky enough, for a lifetime. However, behind the glamorous facade of Thoroughbred horse racing is a dark world of drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter.

Horses are social, plains-ranging animals, yet the sport of horse racing often forces them to live in isolation and close confinement. As a result, stereotypical behaviours that manifest as an expression of frustration, stress or inhibition of natural behaviour are common in racehorses. These include crib-biting (a repetitive oral behaviour in which a horse bites down on its cheek), weaving and head shaking.

Despite the best efforts of trainers, assistant trainers, jockeys, drivers and caretakers, some horses may suffer physical or mental injuries as a result of the sport. A small number of equine athletes may even die. The deaths are caused by a variety of factors, including the physical demands of the sport, insufficient rest and nutrition, inadequate veterinary care and the use of drugs such as sedatives and corticosteroids.

The earliest recorded manual on the care and training of horses dates from 1500 bc in Asia Minor, and both chariot and bareback horse races were included in the Olympics from at least 740 to 700 bc. The current breed of horse used for racing is the Thoroughbred, which originated from stock of Arabian and Barb horses brought to England by Arab traders in the 17th century.

In the United States, organized racing began with the British occupation of New Amsterdam in 1664 and a colonial governor laid out a 2-mile course for a horse race. By the 1860s, dash racing had replaced heat racing and the emphasis was on stamina rather than speed.

When journalists focus primarily on who’s winning or losing instead of policy issues — what’s known as horse race coverage — voters, candidates and the news industry itself suffer, according to research. Corporate-owned and large-chain newspapers are more likely to publish this type of reporting, which is especially prevalent in close elections.