A horse race is a competition in which horses are ridden and guided by jockeys. The goal is to win by crossing the finish line before the other horses in a given time. Usually, the winner receives a substantial sum of money, which is called a purse. Runners up are awarded smaller amounts. The sport has long been a source of intense controversy. In recent years, horse racing has been blighted by safety concerns and doping scandals. Some would-be fans have turned away from the sport, which is traditionally played on dirt or grass courses and characterized by high levels of violence and betting.
A racetrack is a circular track with one or more starting gates, a finish line, and a number of poles that mark distances from the start. Each starting gate is accompanied by a set of padded posts designed to protect the runners from harm. A starter is a person who announces the start of a race and signals the first runner to begin. A jockey is the rider of a horse in a race, and he or she is required to obey instructions from the course’s stewards. If the rider does not follow instructions, he or she may be disqualified.
Many racehorses are bred to run fast and endure great physical stress. They are often pushed beyond their limits, and the industry relies on cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to enhance performance and mask injuries. Many horses suffer from a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, which causes them to bleed from their lungs as they run. Those who are prone to this condition can be sprayed with a drug that reduces the bleeding.
The horses are usually sold to new owners after each race, and the turnover is rapid. A claiming race allows a horse to be purchased and taken away by a new owner immediately after a race. This can be done for a fraction of the horse’s market value. In a two-month period in 2011, over 2,000 horses were callously sold through this process. Some of the horses who are sold this way are so severely injured that they become permanently lame. This is a terrible situation for the horse and its new owners, and most of these horses end up at the slaughterhouse.
In the early 1800s horse races were a huge attraction in America, and the popularity of the sport continued to grow until it became eclipsed by the Civil War and other social conflicts. Union officials encouraged the breeding of thoroughbreds because cavalrymen needed fast horses for battle. By the late 1850s, thoroughbreds had overtaken the older crossbreds in number.