A horse race is a competition between two or more horses that is run over a distance of one mile or more. The first horse to cross the finish line wins the race, and winning times vary based on a variety of factors such as the starting gate position, the track conditions (called “going”), and tactics employed by jockeys and trainers. In the United States, the sport is heavily regulated, but the rules differ widely among the many jurisdictions that host races. The sport has also been plagued by corruption and illegal activities involving drugs and the abuse of horses.
The equine athletes pushed beyond their physical limits to win races are often drugged with cocktails of legal and illegal substances designed to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. The result is gruesome breakdowns, a form of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding from the lungs), and even death. To combat this, most horses are given a diuretic called Lasix, which increases urine output and causes dehydration, but it is not effective in the long term. In addition, a number of the veterinary drugs used in racing have been shown to be potentially dangerous.
In the early days of organized racing, match races dominated, with the winner taking the entire purse (a simple wager). In time, however, second and third prizes came to be offered as well. The agreements for these wagers were recorded by disinterested parties, who became known as keepers of the match books.
Although the earliest racing records were recorded in manuscript, by the middle of the 18th century, books of match results began to be published. One notable work was An Historical List of All the Horse-Matches Run (1729).
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has endorsed a resolution condemning unregulated horse racing as it poses serious health and welfare concerns for horses. The practice of racing in places that are not licensed and inspected by state and regulatory authorities is not only illegal, but it may expose the horses to greater risk of injury and infectious disease and allow the use of illegal medications and training techniques.
In the modern era, horse racing is largely a multimillion-dollar industry in which many horses are bred, raised, and trained to compete in races. The equine athletes are subject to a wide array of medical procedures, including bloodwork and x-rays. Injuries are common and can range from minor cuts to fractures, dislocations, and paralysis. The racetrack environment is hazardous to the horses as it presents an array of potential hazards such as sharp turns, slick surfaces, and uneven footing. In addition, the horses are typically pushed to speeds that can cause them severe musculoskeletal problems as well as a variety of behavioral issues.