The Dangers of Horse Racing

A horse race is a contest between horses on an oval track for organized betting. It is the oldest of all sports, and while it has evolved into a spectacle that involves huge fields of runners and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, its basic concept remains unchanged. The horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner. This is not a sport for the faint of heart, and there are many ways in which it can end in tragedy.

Horse racing has benefited from the onset of modern technology, especially in terms of improving safety measures on and off the track. The use of thermal imaging cameras can detect overheating in post-race horses, MRI scanners, X-rays, and other technologies can detect early signs of health problems, and 3D printing can produce casts, splints, and prosthetics for injured racehorses. However, these technological advancements have also introduced new risks.

There are many reasons to be concerned about the horse racing industry. The most important reason is that it is unequivocally unnatural for a horse to be forced to run and compete at the level required for a horse race. In nature, horses are herd animals who understand the instinct for self-preservation. When horses are forced to race on a track, they are frequently injured in grueling collisions with other horses and the track itself. They can suffer from a variety of conditions, including pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding out of the lungs, and shattered legs. In some cases, a broken neck or a severed spine may result in the death of the animal.

The prestige and money associated with winning a horse race have long fueled the quest for ever-faster horses. After British soldiers returned from desert battle fronts with stories of the astounding speed of their opponents’ horses, breeding programs in Europe were altered to create leaner, faster breeds. These “Thoroughbreds” quickly gained in popularity, and the development of new oval tracks allowed spectators to see more of the action.

The sport has also developed a culture of corruption and dishonesty. For example, in 2008, the trainer of Big Brown, who won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, boasted publicly that his superstar had been given a powerful legal steroid called Lasix, which he claimed was helping him win. When the drug was withheld before the Belmont Stakes, Big Brown finished dead last. The scandal led to the ban of Lasix, and it was ultimately revealed that the trainer had used a banned substance along with numerous other prohibited drugs. The sport is also often subjected to political manipulation. Candidates for elected office have been known to promise large purses and other lucrative rewards to lure horses to races. In the current presidential election cycle, voters have been told that their choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is like a horse race, and it’s up to them to make predictions about who will win. This kind of speculation has the potential to detract from a truly substantive discussion about America’s most pressing issues.