A horse race is a competition in which horses are run on a designated course, jumping any hurdles that may be present. The winner is the first person or team to cross the finish line. Typically, there is a prize for the winner of each race. The sport originated in England and is called Thoroughbred racing, named for the breed of horses used in it. Thoroughbreds are bred specifically for racing and have a very fast metabolism that allows them to perform at high speeds. They also are strong and agile, making them ideal for racing over obstacles.
The practice of horse racing has long been the subject of controversy, with critics accusing it of being inhumane and corrupt. In recent years, many countries have imposed restrictions on the breeding and training of horses for races. Others have banned the sport altogether. However, supporters of horse racing argue that it represents the pinnacle of achievement for the competitors and that it is fundamentally fair.
While some of the earliest races were match contests between two or at most three horses, pressure by the public eventually led to events with larger fields of runners. Then came dash racing, in which a win often hinged on the ability to gain a few feet at a critical point. This was where the rider’s skill and judgment became vital, aided by the knowledge of the track and a good eye for judging the best way to coax advantage from his mount.
Modern opinion polling techniques have prompted journalists to treat election campaigns like horse races, emphasizing the frontrunners’ popularity and momentum. Critics have warned that the horse-race image runs the risk of focusing attention on beauty (some candidates are gorgeous animals) and neglecting differences on issues of substance.
During the race, riders must stay on their horses at all times and follow the prescribed course, including jumping every obstacle (if present). The first person to cross the finish line wins the prize money. Depending upon the type of race, there may also be a prize for second place. Injuries are common in horse racing, and one study estimated that 3 thoroughbreds die each day from injuries sustained during competition.
In business, an overt competition for the top job can motivate employees and provide a useful testing ground for executive candidates. It can also signal that the board has faith in its leadership development processes, as it allows for multiple people to compete vigorously for an important role.
Overt competition for the CEO post is not appropriate for all organizations, however. For example, if the company’s strategy requires extensive collaboration and resource sharing, it may not be a good idea to have several executives vie openly for the position. The board and current CEO should consider whether the culture and organizational structure are conducive to an open competition for the top role. If not, they might consider establishing a system in which promising candidates are groomed for the top job through a series of functional assignments and stretch opportunities before being tested in progressively demanding roles.