The Truth About the Horse Race

Horse race is a sport that involves competitive running of Thoroughbred horses over long distances. It is a popular pastime in the United States and several other countries and draws large crowds of spectators who cheer on the contestants. Behind the romanticized facade of the sport, however, is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. Many horse racing critics believe that the industry is corrupt and should be abolished.

The first horse races were match races between noblemen in France. In the 17th century the practice of racing became more common in England, where there were a number of professional races for horses with established handicapping systems. By the late 1850s, thoroughbred races were popular in America, as well, and Union officials promoted breeding of these speedy horses to meet the needs of cavalrymen in the Civil War.

By the early 20th century, the horse race had become a national phenomenon with more than fifty major tracks. Horses were bred and trained to be the fastest in their class, and owners put up money before each race (known as a purse) that would be awarded to the winner. Spectators clad in elaborate outfits, sipping mint juleps, watched the races.

As the popularity of horse racing grew, the number of horses in training increased and competition became more intense. Some owners even started breeding their own horses to improve their performance. This led to the development of standardization rules for horse racing in America, including requiring that horses be certified as sound before they could run and setting minimum weight limits for horses to compete in certain races.

In the early 1880s, railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt and newspaper publisher Robert Bonner began a fierce rivalry over who had the best thoroughbreds in New York City. They fought over who would win the top races and set records for their horses. Eventually, the public demanded more racing and open races were created, in which owners financed the events by placing a bet on each horse, with winners earning the entire amount, known as the purse.

Most horses are raced too young, and the high risks of injury make them susceptible to painful breakdowns. To compensate, trainers use cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that mask pain and enhance performance. The result is that horses are pushed beyond their physical limits, and often bleed from their lungs during exercise, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. As a result, most horses end up euthanized or slaughtered.

While a few hardheaded racehorse moneymen have vowed to reform the sport, serious reforms must occur to save it from collapse. The horse race is a good example of how the horse power of business can be used to drive positive change in the workplace. When done right, a horse race enables companies to identify future leaders and groom them in a series of critical roles until they develop the competencies and seasoning needed to lead the organization.