A horse race is a competition in which horses compete against one another to cross the finish line first. The horse that finishes closest to the time set by a governing body is declared the winner of the race. The rules that govern how a race is run are set by national horse racing organizations, but most follow similar principles and are based on the British Horseracing Authority’s original rule book from the 1800s. A race may be contested by horses of different breeds, ages, or genders.
A jockey is the person who rides a horse in a horse race. They help to guide the horse throughout the course of a race, and jump any hurdles that are on the track (if present). The top three horses in the race will be awarded a certain amount of prize money depending on the race and type of horse.
Horse races have a long and storied history. The first recorded race took place in 1651, and by the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), horse racing had become a major industry in France, with many races fueled by gambling.
As in any sport, there have been scandals and ethical concerns over the treatment of horses in the racetrack. Despite these issues, horse races continue to be held worldwide and are attended by millions of people each year.
The horse racing industry claims that its horses are “born to run and love to compete.” But the way a horse runs in nature bears no resemblance to what they are made to do at the racetrack. In fact, the industry’s claim is nothing short of a lie.
In an ideal world, no horse would have to be whipped into breaking neck speed. However, in the real world, many horses are whipped so hard they break their legs, and many more suffer from injuries that can be fatal. Nevertheless, the industry carries on, in part because it has a captive audience of gamblers and spectators, but also because the escalating cost of breeding fees, race purses, and sale prices makes it financially profitable to keep racing going, even when horses are nearing their physical limits.
A new study, published in PLOS ONE, may explain why: it finds that winning strategies in horse races maximize the energy output of muscles requiring either powerful aerobic pathways that use oxygen or anaerobic pathways that don’t require oxygen but build up waste products that lead to fatigue. The study’s authors, a group of EHESS mathematicians, used GPS trackers built into French racing saddles to monitor the movement of each horse as they raced. The trackers let fans see digital images of each horse moving across a screen, and the data allowed them to see how each horse adapted its strategy throughout the race. They then compared this information to the results of timed historical horse races and human athletic events, and found that record-breaking performance in both animals and humans had progressively improved with each passing year.