A horse race is a contest between horses over a set distance. It is one of the oldest and most universal sports. Its essential feature has never changed: the horse that crosses the finish line first wins the race. The race can take place over a flat or an oval course and may have hurdles. It is normally governed by rules regulated by a national horse racing authority. Several horse races are held every day, and many are broadcast around the world.
Although the sport of horse racing has evolved into a spectacle involving enormous fields of runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment and immense sums of money, its basic concept remains unchanged. A contest of speed or stamina between two horses is the key to success. Horse races have been recorded in ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria and Arabia. They have also played an important role in myth and legend, such as the contest between the god Odin and his steed Hrungnir in Norse mythology.
The modern sport of horse racing has a number of different rulebooks and the methods used to regulate it vary slightly between countries. However, the majority of rules are based on the original rule book drafted by the British Horseracing Authority.
Horse racing is a dangerous sport for both horses and people. Injuries are common and can range from the minor to the fatal. Injuries can include broken bones, head trauma and a variety of internal problems, including pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding from the lungs.
A horse’s natural instinct is self-preservation. Injured horses usually stop running and rest in order to recover. But on a racetrack, humans perched on their backs compel horses to continue running at breakneck speeds with a whip that can cause severe injuries. The result is that horses are often pushed beyond their physical limits, which leads to catastrophic and often fatal injuries.
In addition to the physical hazards of the sport, there are also a number of psychological and emotional issues associated with horse racing. For example, many racehorses are forced to run for the sake of their owners, who may be tempted to cheat in order to win the race. This can lead to a vicious cycle of corruption in the sport, with horsemen taking advantage of owners by using illegal drugs to enhance the performance of their animals.
Another issue in horse racing is the high turnover of ownership. Most Thoroughbreds are sold multiple times during their racing careers. This is largely due to the fact that most races, called claiming races, allow for a horse to be purchased and taken away by its new owner immediately after it finishes the race. In a single two-month period in 2011, over 2,000 horses were callously sold through claiming races.
Some races are designed to test only a horse’s speed or stamina, while others are a combination of both. In the former category are such prestigious events as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Melbourne Cup, and the Japan Cup. In the latter category are such classic American races as the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Cup.