Horse Racing is an equestrian sport that has been practiced for millennia. It is inextricably associated with gambling. The common sobriquet for Thoroughbred horse racing is The Sport of Kings.
Horse racing is an equestrian sport and major international industry, watched in almost every nation of the world. There are three types: "flat" racing; steeplechasing, i.e. racing over jumps; and harness racing, where horses trot or pace while pulling a driver in a small, light cart known as a sulky. A major part of horse racing's economic importance lies in the gambling associated with it, an activity that in 2008 generated a world-wide market worth around US$115 billion.
Historically, equestrians honed their skills through games and races. Equestrian sports provided entertainment for crowds and honed the excellent horsemanship that was needed in battle. Horse racing of all types evolved from impromptu competitions between riders or drivers. All forms of competition, requiring demanding and specialized skills from both horse and rider, resulted in the systematic development of specialized breeds and equipment for each sport.
Chariot racing was one of the most popular ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine sports. Chariot racing was often dangerous to both driver and horse as they frequently suffered serious injury and even death, but generated strong spectator enthusiasm. In the ancient Olympic Games, as well as the other Panhellenic Games, the sport was one of the most important equestrian events. In mythology, horse racing was also a part of myth and legend, such as the contest between the steeds of the god Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology.
The popularity of equestrian sports through the centuries has resulted in the preservation of skills that would otherwise have disappeared after horses stopped being used in combat.
|Happy Valley Racecourse, Hong Kong, at night|
|Eclipse, The legendary undefeated racehorse|
|Nakayama Racecourse, Japan|
|Tambo valley races,Australia|
Types of racing
The style of racing, the distances and the type of events vary significantly by the country in which the race is occurring, and many countries offer different types of horse races.
In the United States, Thoroughbred flat races are run on surfaces of either dirt, synthetic or turf; other tracks offer Quarter Horse racing and Standardbred horse racing, or combinations of these three types of racing surfaces. Racing with other breeds, such as Arabian horse racing, is found on a limited basis. American Thoroughbred races are run at a wide variety of distances, most commonly from 5 to 12 furlongs (0.63 to 1.5 mi; 1.0 to 2.4 km); with this in mind, breeders of Thoroughbred race horses attempt to breed horses that excel at a particular distance
Flat racing is the most common form of Thoroughbred racing. The track is typically oval in shape and the race is based on speed and stamina. Within the general category of Thoroughbred flat racing, there exist two separate types of races. These include conditions races and handicap races. Condition races are the most prestigious and offer the biggest purses. Handicap races assign each horse a different amount of weight to carry based on their ability. Beside the weight they carry, the horse is also influenced by its closeness to the inside barrier, the track surface, its gender, the jockey, and the trainer. A typical Thoroughbred race is run on dirt, synthetic or turf surfaces. Viscoride and Polytrack are synthetic substitutes. Thoroughbred races vary in distance, but are usually somewhere between five and twelve furlongs. A furlong is a distance measurement equal to one eighth of a mile, 220 yards or 201.168 metres.
The length of an endurance race varies greatly. Some are very short, only ten miles, while others can be up to one hundred miles. There are a few races that are even longer than one hundred miles and last multiple days. These different lengths of races are divided into five categories: pleasure rides (10–20 miles), non-competitive trail rides (21–27 miles), competitive trail rides (20–45 miles), progressive trail rides (25–60 miles), and endurance rides (40–100 miles in one day, up to 150 miles in multiple days). Because each race is very long, the tracks are almost always just dirt.
Quarter Horse racing
When Quarter Horse racing began, it was very expensive to lay a full mile of track so it was agreed that a straight track of four hundred meters, or one quarter of a mile would be laid instead. It became the standard racing distance for Quarter Horses and inspired their name. With the exception of the longer, 870-yard (800 m) distance contests, Quarter Horse races are run flat out, with the horses running at top speed for the duration. There is less jockeying for position, as turns are rare, and many races end with several contestants grouped together at the wire. The track surface is similar to that of Thoroughbred racing and usually consists of dirt or a synthetic surface.
Horse breeds and muscle structure
Muscles are just bundles of stringy fibers that are attached to bones by tendons. These bundles have different types of fibers within them and horses have adapted over the years to produce different amounts of these fibers. Type IIb fibers are fast twitch fibers. These fibers allow muscles to contract quickly resulting in a great deal of power and speed. Type I fibers are slow-twitch fibers. They allow muscles to work for longer periods of time resulting in greater endurance. Type IIa fibers are in the middle. They are a balance between the fast twitch fibers and the slow-twitch fibers. They allow the muscles to generate both speed and endurance. Type I muscles are absolutely necessary for aerobic exercise because they rely on the presence of oxygen in order to work. Type II muscles are needed for anaerobic exercise because they can function without the presence of oxygen.
There are three founding sires that almost all Thoroughbreds can trace back to: the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin, and the Byerly Turk, named after their respective owners, Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin, and Captain Robert Byerly. All were taken to England where they were mated with racing mares. Thoroughbreds come in many different colors, all of which are recognized by the Jockey Club. However, the most prevalent include bay, chestnut, black, brown, and gray. Thoroughbreds range in height, and are measured in hands (a hand being four inches). Some are as small as 15 hands while others are over 17 hands. Thoroughbreds can travel medium distances at fast paces, requiring a balance between speed and endurance. They possess more Type IIa muscle fibers than the Quarter Horse or Arabian. This type of fiber allows them to propel themselves forward at great speeds and maintain it for an extended distance.
The Arabian Horse was prevalent in societies as early as 1500 B.C. The Bedouin Tribe in Arabia specifically bred these horses for stamina, so they could outrun their enemies. It was not until 1725 that the Arabian was introduced into the United States.
The Arabian Horse is primarily used in endurance racing. They must be able to withstand traveling long distances at a moderate pace. Arabians have an abundance of Type I fibers. Their muscles are able to work for extended periods of time. Also, the muscles of the Arabian are not nearly as massive as those of the Quarter Horse, which allow it to travel longer distances at quicker speeds.
The Quarter Horse was prevalent in America in the early 17th century. These horses were of mainly Spanish origin until the English horses were brought over. The native horse and the English horse were bred together, resulting in a very compact muscular horse. At this time, they were mainly used for chores such as plowing and cattle work. The Quarter Horse was not recognized as an official breed until the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association in 1940.
In order to be successful in racing, Quarter Horses needed to be able to propel themselves forward at extremely fast paces. The Quarter Horse has much larger hind limb muscles than the Arabian, which make it much less suitable for endurance racing. They also have more Type IIb fibers, which allow the Quarter Horse to accelerate rapidly.
The conditioning program for the different horses varies depending on the race length. Genetics, training, age, and skeletal soundness are all factors that contribute to a horse’s performance. The muscle structure and fiber type of horses depends on the breed, therefore genetics must be considered when constructing a conditioning plan. A horse’s fitness plan must be coordinated properly in order to prevent injury or unnecessary lameness. If these were to occur, they may negatively affect a horse’s willingness to learn. Sprinting exercises are appropriate for training two-year-old racehorses, but they are mentally incapable of handling too many of them. A horse’s skeletal system adapts to the exercise they are receiving. Because the skeletal system does not reach full maturity until the horse is at least four years of age, young racehorses often suffer multiple injuries.