A horse race is a contest of speed between horses that either are ridden by jockeys or pull sulkies and their drivers. It is usually held in a racetrack, and the fastest horses are rewarded with prize money. The term “horse race” has also come to mean a political contest or a competition that takes place in the public eye. The most famous horse race is the Kentucky Derby, but there are many other popular races throughout the world.
During a horse race, the winning time is the sum of a number of factors, including the innate ability of the horse to run, the tactics used by the jockey, position in the starting gate, the ‘going’, and the amount of weight carried. It is possible that the innate speed of horses has remained unchanged over the centuries, but it is also probable that modern drugs and training techniques have made them faster.
The racetrack is a dangerous place for a horse, especially one that is in the lead at the halfway mark. Injuries are common, and some are fatal. The lower legs of a horse take a brutal beating during a race, straining ligaments and tendons. Mongolian Groom’s lower hind legs were wrapped in blue bandages, and he wore a heavy blue hood to keep him focused on the track and a shadow roll over his nose, which reduces his tendency to startle at shadows on the ground.
Despite the risks, the sport of horse racing has been very successful, and it is among the most popular spectator sports in the world. However, many horse owners and trainers have resorted to doping their animals in order to improve performance. Powerful painkillers, anti-inflammatories and antipsychotics designed for humans bled over into horse doping, as did growth hormones and blood doping. Some of these doping techniques were caught, but others weren’t.
A recent study in PLOS ONE has offered new insight into how horses race, and it might surprise some jockeys. The study found that horses that get off to a fast pace are more likely to finish strong, whereas those that begin slowly and conserve energy have a harder time maintaining their momentum over the last furlong. This information could help trainers optimize each horse’s starting strategy, and if the model becomes more sophisticated, it might even be able to predict individual horses’ aerobic capacities. The researchers say they plan to test the theory further with a more advanced computer model, which they hope to offer as an app. A subscription to The Atlantic includes unlimited access to our website and app, all of our newsletters and more. Click here for full access. Or subscribe today and receive the first month of your membership for free! If you don’t like your subscription, cancel anytime. We think you’ll stick with us. *At The Atlantic, we strive for accuracy and fairness in our coverage of events and issues. However, we may sometimes make errors. If you think we have, please contact us.