What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a sport in which horses compete by running over a course. The first horse to cross a finish line is declared the winner. The race is typically over a distance of two to four miles, though longer races are also run. The most famous flat races, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup, are tests of speed and stamina. Horses are trained to run by their owners, who pay to have them bred and trained for racing. Often, the horses are injected with a diuretic, such as Lasix, to prevent pulmonary bleeding that hard running can cause.

There are many different rules and betting systems for horse races. Some are very complicated, while others are based on ancient traditions and the customs of local regions. Modern wagering is based on pari-mutuel, in which all bettors share the total amount of money placed on the winning horse, minus a percentage for track management. The earliest bets were private and placed on individual horses, but by the 19th century, they had morphed into a public pool known as the pari-mutuel.

The equine industry is currently losing money and fans due to growing awareness of its dark side, which includes abuse during training, drug use, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. Those who witness the death of a well-known racing horse but move on with only a pang of sadness, or ignore the deaths of countless other horses at their farms and in races and are willing to continue to donate to the sport, do not fully understand or appreciate what they are supporting.

As a result, there is hope that change can be made in the way racehorses are treated. However, this will require a profound ideological reckoning at the macro business and industry level as well as within the minds of racehorse owners and trainers. It will need to involve a complete restructuring of the sport, from breeding to aftercare, with a focus on putting the horse before profits and the exploitation that comes with it.

If you would like to know more about the plight of horses in the racing industry, we encourage you to visit PETA’s groundbreaking investigations into training practices for young horses, drug use and the transport of thousands of American racehorses to foreign slaughterhouses. There is no other industry that can rely on donations by people who love the sport while ignoring the ongoing, gruesome exploitation of the animals who are forced to race for their lives.