While horse racing seems like a glamorous sport where spectators wear fancy hats and sip mint juleps, behind the romanticized facade is a world of drug abuse, injuries and gruesome breakdowns. The sport is also rife with corruption and money-grubbing. The sport is often referred to as “the millionaires’ game,” and in the 1930s impoverished state governments turned to horse racing as a way to boost their coffers, luring investors with promises of high profits. In return for legalizing betting on races, one state after another exacted steep taxes on racing revenues—a deal that was mutually beneficial to private investors and tax collectors.
Today, horse races are governed by national and international organizations with rules that can vary slightly. However, most of the rules are very similar with many being based on the British Horseracing Authority’s original rulebook.
The governing body of horse racing in the United States is known as The Jockey Club. This group oversees a series of standards that must be followed by racetracks and horses to keep the sport clean. They have recently implemented a system to track the drug use and injury rates of horses. These new systems are designed to make sure that all of the horses in a race are healthy and free from any illegal drugs.
A horse race is a competition where a jockey and his or her mount attempt to complete a circuit of the track, jumping every obstacle or hurdle (if present) in the process. The first horse to have its nose cross the finish line is declared the winner. The winner receives a prize amount that can be a percentage of the total purse or a set sum of cash. The rest of the prize money is split amongst all of the horses that finish the race.
In order to prepare horses for a race, most trainers and jockeys will do drills with them. This includes starting the horse out on laps at its slowest trot speed and gradually increasing the pace each time until the horse can run at full speed for a distance. This type of training helps the horse get used to running fast and also improves the horse’s overall fitness level.
Other training techniques include lunges and long canters. The RSPCA strongly opposes both of these methods because they can cause pain and discomfort to the horses. Some trainers may also use tongue ties, which are pieces of elastic that tie the horse’s tongue to the lower jaw to restrict movement and prevent it from biting during the race. They also often use spurs, which are metal attachments on the back of riding boots that apply sharp pressure to the horse’s sides and flanks.
While a lot of research is being done to improve the safety and welfare of horses in the sport, there are still many accidents that happen. The most recent spate of horse deaths occurred at Santa Anita in 2019, and led to several safety reforms that are being rolled out nationally. In the wake of these reforms, many experts believe that horseracing is safer than it was a few years ago.