A horse race is a competition between two or more horses run on a track over various obstacles, including hurdles and fences. The contestants are ridden by jockeys, who use their weight to control the animals while they speed along the course and jump over any obstacles that stand in their way. It is one of the oldest sports known to man, with a documented history stretching back thousands of years. Its popularity has given rise to a number of rules governing the behavior of horses and the safety of participants.
Before a horse race begins, the competing horses are positioned in stalls or behind a starting gate. Once all the horses are positioned, the gate is opened and the race starts. The first horse to cross the finish line is considered the winner. The winning horse is awarded a certain amount of money for its victory. Runner-up horses are also rewarded for their efforts, but often receive less than the winner does. The horses are assigned a fixed weight to carry during the race based on a variety of factors, such as their age, gender, and distance from the starting gate.
The horse race industry has come under increasing scrutiny over the safety of its animals and for its use of performance-enhancing drugs. Many of the athletes, or horses, are pushed beyond their physical limits in order to win, and many are injured as a result. The sport is particularly dangerous for the horses, as it exposes them to falls and to the risk of developing developmental disorders such as cracked leg bones and hooves. To reduce the risk of injuries, many horses are injected with cocktails of legal and illegal substances.
Horse races are not open to the general public, as they require specialized knowledge and training. Only a select group of people are allowed to enter the race, and the rules for eligibility are based on several criteria, including the age, sex, and birthplace of the horse. In the United States, for example, there are three classic races, known as the Triple Crown, that horses must qualify to compete in.
In the early days of horse racing, the horses were bred and raised for the sole purpose of being raced. Over time, this changed and the industry began to develop rules for breeding and training. The sport was regulated by the state and became more professional. It is now an international business with a large global presence.
Horses will generally begin their careers in flat races as juveniles, then progress to hurdling as they get older, and, if capable, they will eventually move on to steeplechasing. Typically, these jumps races are more demanding of the horses and require them to jump over larger obstacles over longer distances. The most successful horses are those that are able to compete at the highest levels in all of these different disciplines.