What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a competition in which a large number of horses are gathered together on a flat surface, and then pushed to a set speed by humans perched on their backs using whips. The sport is unequivocally unnatural, and many horses suffer catastrophic injuries that result in their deaths during races. Despite the claims of racing officials that “the sport is healthy and vibrant,” horseracing’s popularity is declining, due to increased awareness of the industry’s cruel practices and growing concerns over horse welfare.

A jockey is the person who rides a horse in a horse race. A professional jockey is paid a fee to ride in a race and has the skill and judgment to coax a maximum performance from the horse under his or her control. Non-professional jockeys, usually amateurs, may be allowed to ride in some races.

The first horse to cross the finish line is declared the winner. If two or more horses come across the line together making it impossible to determine who came in first, a photo finish is used. In a photo finish, a photograph of the race is studied by stewards to see who crossed the line first and thus won. If the stewards can’t decide the winner, they declare a dead heat in which case half of the money placed on the winning horse is applied to the other horses at full odds.

Races are generally run over distances of 440 yards to more than four miles (6.4 km). Shorter races are known as sprints and are seen as a test of acceleration, while longer races, which are commonly called routes in the United States and “staying races” in Europe, are viewed as a test of stamina.

During the course of a race, it is common for horses to tire. This is often caused by a combination of factors, such as fatigue and injury. A tired horse is more likely to make mistakes, which can be costly in terms of finishing position.

Unlike in nature, where horses instinctively understand self-preservation, racehorses are compelled to sprint—often under the threat of whips—around tracks made of hard-packed dirt at speeds so high that they often sustain severe injuries and even hemorrhage from their lungs. Pushed beyond their limits, they are often administered cocktails of legal and illegal drugs to mask their injuries and enhance their performance. After their careers are over, most horses are shipped to slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico, and Japan, where they are turned into glue, dog food, and other products. While the racing industry tries to hide the cruelty behind its romanticized facade, donations from people who love the sport are critical for improving conditions for these magnificent creatures.