Horse Racing Is Not As Simple As It Seems

Horse racing is the sport of betting on the outcome of a race. It has long been a popular activity. Veteran gamblers know that the chances of winning aren’t as clear cut as one might think.

A horse that carries a certain weight will be at a disadvantage in the race. Other factors, such as the post position and the jockey, are also important to consider.


Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world, but it has undergone significant changes over the centuries. From a primitive contest of speed and stamina to a modern event with sophisticated equipment and huge wagers, it has evolved into a global phenomenon.

The birth of modern horse racing can be traced back to 17th-century England. King Charles II introduced the first prize money for a race and organized rules to increase the popularity of the sport.

Prize money and the growing prestige of the sport encouraged breeders to produce faster horses. British soldiers returning from desert battles brought back hot-blooded sires to cross with native cold-bloods, producing a breed known as the Thoroughbred.


Horse racing is a complex sport with many rules. For example, a jockey must adhere to certain weight restrictions and must wear approved safety equipment. The horse that crosses the finish line first wins the race. A riding crop may be used for safety and correction, but it cannot strike another animal or rider. A rider can also be disqualified for giving instructions that would lead to a violation of the rules.

Unlike other sports, horse racing does not have a long-established national governing body. However, a new federal law will create uniform regulations and penalties at thoroughbred tracks throughout the country. Albany Law School Government Lawyer in Residence Bennett Liebman explains the law and its impact.


Behind the romance and glamour of horse racing lies a world of injuries, drugs, and slaughter. But what spectators see in the stands is a village-like tribal society with traditional rituals, customs, and etiquette that foster an exceptionally sociable crowd.

Social racegoers do not come to watch the horses; they come to socialize. They use racing as a backdrop for family-and friend-bonding, mate-selection and courtship, business networking and even to improve their mental health.

Previous research has modelled attendances in team sports, but there has been no comparable study of individual horse-racing events. Our results confirm many of the same factors that influence attendance at other sports: attendances are higher at weekends and in warmer months, and they are sensitive to quality (proxied by prize money). The negative trend in attendance identified here suggests that expansion of the fixture list is unlikely to reverse the secular decline.


The injuries suffered by racehorses are often extreme and are the result of an industry that asks too much of a small animal that is not built for running at high speeds. They are pushed to their limits and given cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that mask injuries, increase performance, and help them to recover more quickly.

Horses begin training or racing while their skeletal systems are still growing and undeveloped, and they are forced to run at high speeds. The injury rate in flat and jump racing is very high, and horses that suffer severe injuries are often euthanized. Identifying risk factors could reduce the number of fatalities and improve the welfare of those that remain.


Several different drugs can be used to help or hinder a horse in the race. For example, NSAIDs are used to mask pain so the horse can run faster. Furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, is a diuretic with performance-enhancing properties. Acepromazine, or elephant juice, is a tranquilizer used in large animals but can also have a stimulating effect.

The FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) has strict medication regulations that separate controlled medications, which are therapeutic but have the potential to enhance performance at certain levels, from banned substances that should not be present in horses at any time. These regulations are based on research that resulted in thresholds and withdrawal times for certain medications.


Even with all the hysteria about horses and racing, trainers still use slaughter as an easy way to dispose of unwanted racehorses. While it is possible for retired and pensioned racehorses to find homes, the lack of land and the cost of keeping them can often mean that they are sent abroad to be killed.

Recently, Animal Aid’s cameras captured a number of former racehorses being slaughtered in a British abattoir. The footage showed that on 26 occasions the horses were killed within sight of each other – a clear breach of slaughter regulations. This includes two horses that were once trained by shamed trainer Gordon Elliott.