Horse racing is a sport where a jockey on top of a horse uses a whip to guide the animal as it runs around a race track and jumps any hurdles or fences along the way. A win in a horse race is determined by the first horse to cross the finish line. The winning horse is crowned champion and awarded a sum of money. There are many different rules and regulations that govern horse races. These include the use of whips, the type of medication a horse can receive, and the types of track conditions a horse will encounter. Before a horse race begins, the horses are placed in their starting stalls or lined up behind a gate. Once the gate opens, the horses begin to run.
The sport of horse racing has been impacted by a series of technological advances. These advancements have contributed to better safety measures for both horses and jockeys. In addition, veterinary technology has improved to allow trainers and veterinarians to treat horses more quickly and effectively. Thermal imaging cameras can detect a horse’s heat loss post-race, while MRI scanners and X-rays can quickly pick up on minor or major injuries and illnesses. 3D printing has been used to produce casts, splints and prosthetics for injured or ailing horses.
Despite these improvements, horse racing remains a dangerous and exploitive sport for horses. Injuries and breakdowns are common, drug abuse is widespread, and gruesome slaughters occur regularly. Nevertheless, a handful of nonprofit horse rescues and volunteers network, fundraise and work tirelessly to save former racing horses from their eventual fates. Sadly, without an industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution that addresses these issues head on, horses continue to hemorrhage into the slaughter pipeline, oftentimes ending their lives in Mexico and Canada where they are killed for meat consumption.
As America prepares to celebrate the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby, the death of eight-year-old Eight Belles has reminded many of the dark side of the horse racing industry. Despite the tragedy, many race fans have brushed off the criticism of animal rights activists and continued to support the sport. Sadly, it is likely that the exploitation of horses will never end.
Unlike other major sports leagues in the United States, horse racing has a patchwork set of rules and standards that vary by state. For example, a jockey may only be allowed to use a whip under one jurisdiction, but another will not permit this. In addition, the punishments for horse trainers and owners who violate these rules can also differ by jurisdiction. These disparities can contribute to the systematic abuse of racehorses, who are vulnerable to both over-training and over-medication.