A horse race is a contest in which horses are pitted against each other in a series of races, usually over long distances. The sport dates back to ancient civilizations and has continued into modern times. It is considered one of the world’s most beautiful and exciting sports, but it also carries serious risks for both horses and jockeys. Many people have lost their lives at the track, including spectators and horse owners and riders. Some horse racing is illegal, and a few countries have banned it entirely. However, a large number of legitimate horse races take place every year.
A thoroughbred is a breed of horse used for racing and breeding. It is generally thought that the breed originated from Arab and Barb horses brought to England in the early 17th century. The term thoroughbred may refer to a male or female horse, or both.
Horses race for a variety of reasons, including for sport, money, or to prove their superiority as sires and broodmares. The earliest horse races were match contests between two, or at most three, horses. Pressure by the public eventually led to events with larger fields of runners. The earliest races were 4-mile (4 km) heats, with two wins needed to be adjudged the winner. As dash racing, or one-heat racing, became the rule, a rider’s skill and judgment in coaxing an advantage from his mount gained importance.
In the United States, individual flat races are run over distances ranging from 440 yards (400 m) to four miles (6 km). Shorter races are called sprints, while longer races are known as routes in the United States and as “staying races” in Europe. Although both types of races require speed and stamina, sprints are generally seen as tests of acceleration, while route races are more often viewed as tests of endurance.
Horse races are often covered in the media, both on television and in newspapers. The race coverage is often framed as a competitive game, with the newspaper’s ownership and size of its circulation having an impact on how it covers a particular election. In a study of print news coverage of elections for governor and senator between 2004 and 2008, Johanna Dunaway and Regina Lawrence found that corporate-owned newspapers were more likely to frame the elections as a competition.
Horses are pushed beyond their limits in order to win, and many of them will bleed from the lungs during a race, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In an attempt to reduce this, many of the horses are given a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs that can mask injuries or improve performance. These medications include diuretics such as Lasix and Salix, and anabolic steroids. While knowledge and awareness of these methods has increased, they are still widespread, and the sport must move to address them if it is to be reformed.