Horse races are exciting events with a huge audience that gathers around a large ring to watch the horses fight to the finish line. Each horse is equipped with a jockey and has a whip to encourage it or lash other riders as it races down the muddy track toward the finish line. The winners are awarded with purses, which can be very high in the case of the best horses. The horses race for a minute and a half in ruthless competition.
Horse racing is a sport with a dark side. Despite some progress, it still suffers from systemic problems that cause equine welfare issues like overbreeding, drugs and abuse, injuries and deaths. It is a for-profit business that does not place the best interest of the horse at the forefront and is often admonished by animal rights advocates for putting profits before safety.
The horse racing industry can make significant improvements in a number of areas, including creating an adequately funded wraparound aftercare solution for all ex-racehorses. This can be achieved by addressing a few key points, such as creating an independent equine welfare authority that is not linked to the for-profit industry; adopting and enforcing minimum standards for racetracks and training facilities; and providing a public accounting of all the deaths and injuries that occur.
This will require a commitment by horsemen and women to stand up for the integrity of their sport and stop tolerating crooks in the industry who dangerously drug their horses and other acts of cruelty. It will also require an end to the division of people into those who are naive and hopeless about how much the game is rigged and those in the middle, who know it is more crooked than it should be but don’t do everything they can to fix it.
A new type of research could help horses perform better in horse races by analyzing each one’s individual aerobic capacity. Scientists have developed a model that calculates how far each horse can improve from its lowest to its highest speed figure during a race. The model could be used to determine the right starting time, pacing strategy and racing distance for each individual horse. It could even be used to develop a horse-training app, the researchers say.
The researchers found that the majority of horses have their fastest speed figures earned at age three and then decline by 12.1 points during their four-year-old year. The best speed figures are earned by two-year-olds and horses at their peak age for the specific race distance.
The study is published in PLOS ONE. The researchers say their findings suggest that jockeys should not hold back their horses at the start, because it will lead them to tire out too early and leave them exhausted at the finish line. Instead, they should try to get them off to a fast start so they can burst into a sprint at the halfway point.