The Darker Side of Horse Racing

Horse racing is a spectator sport of astonishing beauty, power and drama. Feeling the earth shake under a mass of thundering hooves barrelling down the stretch is one of life’s quintessential experiences. But there is a darker side to the industry, which has made the sport toxic and in many places nearly unwatchable. Growing awareness of that dark side has prompted some improvements, but horse racing’s troubles are far from over.

The enduring question of whether or not the sport is morally acceptable has always been a major issue in American culture and in horse racing. Some critics argue that horse racing is inherently cruel and exploitative, while others maintain that it’s simply a legitimate form of entertainment with its roots in the medieval world of knights, jousting and archery.

Those who support the legitimacy of horse racing tend to focus on the thrill of the sport. The excitement of watching a horse win in the final strides is one of the greatest sports moments of all time. Some people are not entertained by the cruelty of a dogfight or a cock fight, but there is something compelling about a steed galloping down the stretch.

On the other hand, the cruelty of horse racing is a serious problem that cannot be ignored. In some cases trainers over-medicate and over-train horses, causing them to break down and become too sore to run. As a result, many horses are euthanized or die in transit to slaughterhouses. It is also believed that horse racing does not do enough to monitor and punish illegal drug use. Random drug testing has shown egregious violations, but horse racing officials often fail to catch cheaters.

As for the sport itself, horse racing has been slow to adopt modern technology and attract a new generation of fans. Many of the sport’s leaders did not embrace television as a marketing tool, and it is now struggling to compete with major professional and collegiate team sports for spectators. The sport is also plagued by poor demographics, as its typical fan is a retired, blue-collar man.

Some governance experts have grown uncomfortable with the classic succession “horse race” approach, which pits several highly qualified candidates against each other in a contest to become the next chief executive officer. However, the system has proved to be an effective way to select an outstanding leader, especially when it includes a rigorous process of developing and testing candidates through a series of functional assignments and challenging roles. Moreover, companies that successfully employ the horse race strategy have several advantages.