Horse racing is an exciting and rewarding sport. But, the truth is that it’s also an exploitative industry that exploits the for-profit lives of young running horses. Whether they win or lose, every racehorse has certain fundamental rights. The most important of those is to be treated humanely. Growing awareness of the cruel side of the industry has fueled some improvements. But more must be done to bring the industry closer in line with the rest of society.

During the weeks leading up to the big races, Siena’s central square, the Piazza del Campo, is transformed beyond recognition. A gritty mixture of clay and earth is packed on top of the golden cobbles, compacting it into a smooth surface for the horses to race over, protecting the ancient tiles beneath. Bleachers are assembled for the thousands of fans and barriers erected to block off roads around the circuit. The Piazza is also dotted with stands, where food and drink vendors sell their wares.

A horse’s preparation for a race is often as much about mental and physical fitness as it is about training on the track. To ensure a horse has the best chance of winning, its handlers must carefully plan each step. A good mental game is key, because a horse must be able to overcome any distractions and keep its focus on the task at hand.

Preparation can also include exercises to improve a horse’s jumping ability. For example, a horse may be drilled to jump from one side of the course to another to test its ability to change direction mid-air. Jumping exercises can also help a horse adjust to a new environment or to the conditions of a particular racetrack.

As a horse prepares to race, it must be fitted with blinkers that restrict the animal’s vision on the sides of its head. Its eyes are then covered by a blanket, called a cape, to reduce its chances of injury.

In some races, horses are given a weight to carry for fairness; this is known as handicapping. This can be based on the age of a horse, its sex, its trainer and its training methods. A horse’s stance can also affect its performance. A horse with a high, straight-legged stride is more likely to win compared to a more crouching one. Other factors that affect a horse’s race performance include the ground, its position relative to the inside barrier, its sex and sway (its movement when the horses are in motion).

Posted in Gambling