The Dark Side of the Horse Race Industry

The Dark Side of the Horse Race Industry

Horse races are an exhilarating and popular spectator sport. The thunder of a fast-paced Standardbred horse pulling its jockey to victory is breathtaking and enthralling. Yet while this form of racing has long been a part of our culture and history, it is a for-profit enterprise that exploits the lives of horses and does not put their welfare as its top priority.

A horse race is a competition between two or more horses in which the goal is to win a wager by being the first across the finish line. While many people enjoy watching horse races for fun, others place bets on their favorite equine athletes and may even win big. There are several things that horse racers and industry insiders need to know about the dark side of the industry.

In 2022, a record amount of money was placed on races in North America with a combined revenue of over $12 billion, up from $6.9 billion in 2009. In contrast, the number of races decreased and bettors favored other betting options.

This drop in participation and income is attributed to the public’s increasing awareness of the cruel treatment of horses in racing, which has been fueled by PETA’s groundbreaking investigations into abusive training practices for young horses, drug use, and the fate of countless American racehorses in foreign slaughterhouses.

The earliest horse races were match contests between two, or at most three, horses. Pressure from the public eventually produced events with larger fields of runners, and rules were developed based on age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance to determine eligibility for the race. In addition, a fixed scale of weights was established so that the winner could be determined by how much faster he or she ran than the other competitors.

Flat races are run on a paved or dirt surface and are conducted over distances from about a mile to four miles (6-8 kilometers). Short races, known as sprints in the United States and as routes in Europe, are usually seen as tests of speed, while longer distance races are often viewed as tests of stamina.

While the sport is highly profitable, it cannot thrive without a change in culture and society to recognize animals as sentient beings who are entitled to life on their own terms and not those of humans. The horse race industry needs to start recognizing this and adjusting its business model so that the best interests of its horses are its highest priority, not the profits of its for-profit companies.

If not for the tireless efforts of independent nonprofit rescues and individuals who network, fundraise, and work tirelessly to save ex-racehorses, they would hemorrhage into a pipeline that leads to slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico, and Japan, where they are turned into glue, dog food, and meat products. Eight Belles, a Kentucky Derby winner in 2008, is one of thousands of former racehorses who met a horrific end because they did not have the financial means to continue competing and were not wanted by their owners once they stopped winning.