Horse racing is an ancient sport and, for a long time, one of the most popular pastimes of the world. Over the years, it has developed from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two horses to an elaborate spectacle involving large fields of runners and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment. However, its essential feature has remained unchanged: the horse that crosses the finish line first is the winner.
A horse race is a competition between two or more horses, run on a track, with obstacles such as fences and hurdles. Competing horses are ridden by jockeys who guide them along the course. They also help the horse jump over any hurdles or fences that are placed in the path of the horses. The race can be any distance, from a few miles to a full marathon.
While the sport has evolved into a global entertainment enterprise, the industry remains plagued by corruption and doping. Horses that test positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PED) can be barred from races and, in some cases, banned for life. In addition, some horses are routinely given illegal medications to increase their endurance and mask pain. Even those that do not test positive are prone to breaking down under the pressure of daily training and competing. The lack of standardized rules in horse racing, which differs between dozens of states that host horse races, fuels these problems.
During the 1600s, breeders developed hot-blooded, fast-paced horses that could carry knights and their armor in medieval warfare. These horses were later crossed with native cold-blooded stock to improve their speed and stamina. The resulting Hobbies were the first racing horses.
The first documented race took place in 1651 in France as the result of a wager between two noblemen. During this period, racing was often based on gambling and the rules of eligibility were loosely defined. King’s Plate races, for example, were run in four-mile heats and a winner had to win two of the heats to be declared the winner.
By the 1860s, racing had evolved into open events with more standardized rules. These newer races allowed horses of all ages and sexes to compete in the same event, while qualifying rules were established based on age, sex, birthplace, and previous race performances.
While the racing industry has made progress in limiting doping, it is still a problem. Random drug testing is in place, but many horse trainers and owners use performance enhancing drugs to give their horses an advantage. These substances can also cause the horses to break down under the pressure of competing and, ultimately, end up at auction or in the slaughter pipeline. Many veterinarians have left the horse racing industry because they are disheartened by watching trainers over-medicate and over-train their horses, which leads to them being broken down and eventually ending up at the slaughterhouse. A lack of uniform standards in horse racing means that the sport is vulnerable to corruption and doping.