Day: September 22, 2023

The Dangers of Horse Racing

Horse racing is a sport in which horses compete against each other and their jockeys (riders). There are flat races, which involve long distances, and steeplechases, which are much shorter. The speed and stamina of a racehorse are crucial factors in the outcome of a race, and can be influenced by a number of factors such as its age and weight, its position in the starting gates, the track’s ‘going’, tactics employed by the riders, and training. Since the time when the first horse was timed, horse racing has improved significantly; this improvement is largely due to common factors such as improved nutrition, and to more esoteric factors such as a change in the genetic ability of the species (Harris 1998). The sport also faces criticism for its treatment of its animals. Racing horses are pushed to extreme limits of physical ability, leading to injury and, often, death. Many horses are subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs designed to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. Many of these horses will bleed from the lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage; in order to decrease this bleeding, the horses are given Lasix and Salix, two diuretics with performance-enhancing qualities. In addition, the horses are often raced before they are fully mature, leading to developmental disorders including bucked shins and cracked leg bones. Many of these horses are discarded after they no longer have any economic value, and are shipped off to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada. These horses would otherwise face an uncertain fate if not for the efforts of a handful of independent nonprofit horse rescue groups and individuals who network, fundraise, and work tirelessly to save them. As the public becomes more aware of these issues, the popularity of horse racing is declining. Some racetracks have begun to address these problems, by adopting new standards for the training of horses, limiting the number of horses allowed to run in a single day, and requiring all horses to be tested for prohibited drugs. In 2020 Congress passed legislation requiring the application of these safety standards throughout the country, and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority began enforcing them in July 2022. Those who watch and wager on the races and do not speak out against these practices are contributing to their decline.

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