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The Humane Treatment of Horse Racehorses

Horse racing is an ancient sport, with archaeological records of its practice in the world’s first civilizations. It is also a modern pastime for billions of people around the globe. But despite its rich history, many questions remain about the humane treatment of racehorses.

The answer to these questions will likely determine whether horse racing can continue to be a viable industry and how well horses are cared for after they retire from the track. The answer is complex, but begins with a full understanding of the physiology of horses and their ability to run in races.

A horse race is a contest between two or more horses in which the fastest wins. The races are usually held on a dirt or grass course, with a circular track that measures approximately a mile. The horses are saddled and bridled and are ridden by jockeys who use a bit to control the animal’s speed. In addition to the human riders, there are often veterinary staff that monitor the horses’ health and welfare. The horse races are timed, and the stewards and patrol judges, aided by a surveillance system, look for any violations of rules.

In order to bet on a horse race, you can bet to win, place or show. Betting to win means placing your money on a horse to finish first. When you bet to place, you are betting on a horse to finish either second or third. Usually, the payoffs for betting’show’ are much lower than those for bets to win.

The earliest horse races were probably small, closed events for local dignitaries or members of the royal family. By the mid-18th century, however, demand for public racing had grown and new rules were established. The King’s Plates were standardized races for six-year-olds carrying 168 pounds in 4-mile heats, with two wins required to be adjudged the winner. Other races were developed, including dash racing (one heat) for four-year-olds and five-year-olds.

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the popularity of horse racing had exploded throughout Europe and North America. It was accompanied by the development of a sophisticated gambling market. It also became common to bet on horse races via telephone and television, allowing more and more people to participate.

Critics argue that the sport is inhumane and ruins the lives of its athletes. Its equine competitors are drugged, whipped and pushed to the limit of their physical and mental capacities. Those who don’t die of injuries, illness or old age are euthanized and then shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada, where they are subjected to agonizing deaths. The only saving grace for these once-great athletes is a handful of independent, nonprofit horse rescues that network, fundraise and work tirelessly to save them. But even with these efforts, only a small percentage of retired racehorses are saved each year. In the end, a great majority—PETA estimates ten thousand annually—face horrific and unimaginable deaths.