The History of Horse Racing
Horse racing is a sport in which horses are run at high speeds over varying distances on a dirt or turf surface. The horse with the fastest time wins. The race is conducted under the supervision of stewards who ensure that all rules are followed. Horses are usually ridden by jockeys who sit on them and steer them through the course, jumping any obstacles if present. A horse race is often a grueling event that can cause severe injuries to the horses. In addition to the physical stress of a horse race, it can be extremely emotionally stressful for the horses and their owners.
The sport has been around for a long time and was developed sometime before 1000 B.C.E. Horses were used as warhorses, pulling two-wheeled carts or chariots, but it would take centuries to evolve into a formal competition with rules and regulations.
By the mid-18th century demand for horse races increased and open events were created that allowed horses to compete in a variety of conditions. Eligibility rules were developed based on age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance. Races were also established that were restricted to certain types of horses such as fillies or males.
A major type of horse race is the handicap. In this form of racing, the weights that a horse must carry are adjusted on the basis of its age. For example, a young two-year old has to carry less weight than an older three-year old. Other factors that influence a horse’s ability to win are sex allowances, and in some races, a weight penalty or an advantage is given on the basis of gender.
In modern times, most horses are trained to run short distances such as sprints or middle-distance races. It has been determined that the genetic potential of a horse to perform at a specific distance depends on a combination of genes and the environment. Variation at the MSTN locus, for instance, influences early skeletal muscle development and racing abilities.
As the industry continues to grow and evolve it is important that the welfare of racehorses remains a priority. In the absence of good breeder practices, regulation and transparency, horses like Eight Belles and Medina Spirit will continue to die from the exorbitant physical stresses of a racetrack. The death of a horse in such a horrific way is not only unacceptable but it also shows that the current model is broken.
It is time for the racing industry to evolve and develop a business model that will put the best interests of the horses at the forefront. It is the only way to protect them from the many deaths like Eight Belles, Keepthename, Creative Plan and Laoban that have occurred. Let us not forget the thousands of other horses whose lives have been stolen by an unsustainable, for-profit business model that is unwilling to listen to those who care about their fate.