What Is Horse Racing?

Horse racing is a sport in which horses compete against each other at speed on a dirt track. A jockey rides a horse in a race and uses his or her skill and judgment to help it win. Historically, the sport was not always well regulated but today there are many formal rules and regulations.

During the early modern period, horse racing became a popular sport in Europe and North America, with races ranging from short sprints to long-distance route races. Whether a horse is running for a purse or simply to exercise, racehorses are trained and groomed to prepare them for competition. They are fed and bathed to keep them healthy and strong for the race and are given medicine, if needed.

Some of the best horses in the world are bred for the purpose of racing. These racehorses are typically Thoroughbreds, a breed that includes both stallions and mares. They are bred to run fast and have a great deal of stamina, but are also powerful enough to carry heavy armor and knights on the battlefield.

As the sport of horse racing evolved into a more formal competition, men began riding behind the horses to control them. This was called jockeying and it became an integral part of the sport. In the 17th century, the sport became more structured when organizations were established to document and regulate the pedigrees of horses and set rules for races.

The development of horse races that rewarded the winners with large sums of money and trophies increased interest in the sport. This, in turn, inspired breeders to produce faster horses. Soldiers returning from desert battle fronts told of their opponents’ amazing horses’ ability to sprint through sand, inspiring breeders to cross Middle Eastern “hot-blooded” sires with native English “cold-blooded” stallions. This new breed, known as the Thoroughbred, was a faster, leaner equine with both speed and stamina.

In addition to training and conditioning, racehorses are often given drugs to help them maintain health and fitness during and after the race. These medicines can include anabolic steroids, analgesics, anti-inflammatory agents, and anti-diuretic drugs. Some of these drugs have been banned from use by some races because of their adverse side effects.

A horse’s performance in a race is assessed by its finishing position, its speed, and its ability to jump obstacles. The finishing position is measured at various locations around the course (known as poles) and designated by numbers. The racehorse’s speed is assessed by measuring its acceleration over a specific distance, which is called the distance. A horse’s ability to jump is determined by its stride length and the length of its strides. The poll is the highest point on the head of the horse, above the eyes and ears. During the race, the jockey uses the poll to help steer the horse by applying pressure. A jockey who loses control of his or her mount may fall off the horse and be injured.