The Controversy of Horse Racing

Horse racing is a sport that requires great skill and judgment from the jockeys. It is also an industry rife with controversy. The sport has changed with the advent of technological advances.

The race may be a graded stakes, non-graded stakes, or an allowance race. The race handicapper assigns weight allowances based on past performances.


Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest sports, dating back to 4500 BC when nomadic tribesmen first domesticated horses. It later spread globally with the rise of civilizations. Today, the sport is popular in many countries. It is a thriving industry supported by a betting levy and media rights.

The first recorded horse race was held in 1651 in France as the result of a wager between two noblemen. In Britain, King Charles II introduced the Newmarket Town Plates and established racing as a major center of activity in England. He also established rules by royal decree that required certificates of origin and imposed additional weight on foreign horses. These changes helped to ensure the integrity of the sport and boosted public interest in it.


The rules of horse racing are set by a number of organizations. The first line of regulation is the stewards, who are employed by racetracks and racing commissions to oversee the entire racing meet. They are similar to a sports referee and are responsible for ensuring that all the rules are followed.

The next level of regulation is the condition book, which sets out a schedule for a track during a particular time period. This provides trainers with a framework for their training regiments. If a race is not a good fit for a certain horse, it will be substituted with a different race.

A horse is not eligible to start in a race unless it has completed an approved timed workout. This must be done during hours established by the association.


Horse racing is a multimillion dollar industry. It is also a dangerous sport for the horses. Injuries sustained during races can be fatal to the horses. One of the most common injuries is a fracture to the front knee or fetlock. These fractures are more commonly referred to as bone chips or osteochondral fragments. These fractures can vary in severity and the treatment will be determined by the degree of injury.

The most severe injuries are those to the suspensory ligament, which is a major component of the forelimb. This ligament runs from the back of the knee to the fetlock joint. The limbs of each horse that was humanely euthanized for this type of injury were sent to the ERC where they were radiographed and dissected.


The use of certain drugs to boost the performance of horses is illegal in horse racing. Some of these drugs are banned outright, including growth hormones and anabolic steroids. Others, such as the blood builder erythropoietin are allowed but must be given under strict regulations. The veterinary drug furosemide — more commonly known as Lasix — is used to prevent fluid retention, but it can also help horses lose weight and race faster.

Many of these drugs are now detectable through testing, which uses swabs to determine the equine blood concentration of a medication below which the drug has negligible pharmacological activity. The swabing is part of an effort to prevent the use of medications that would give competitors an unfair advantage and put the health of horses at risk.


Although New York has banned the sale of race horses for slaughter since 2009, former thoroughbreds from other states still end up in a meat pipeline that runs through the state. To catch violators, officers must identify the horses by breed, a task easier for racetrack and rescue staff with microchip readers than for officers pulling over a truck on the roadside.

The slaughter pipeline begins at livestock auctions, where middlemen for foreign-owned slaughter plants purchase healthy horses at discounted prices. These middlemen, referred to as kill buyers, bid against legitimate horse rescues and prospective owners, robbing the horses of a second chance at life. Horses destined for slaughter are often treated with drugs such as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory bute, which is prohibited for use in animals raised for human consumption.