The Injuries That Make a Horse Race

Horse racing is an intensely competitive sport in which horses are pushed beyond their natural limits and often given cocktails of legal and illegal drugs to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. In its efforts to portray itself as a legitimate sports activity, the industry tries to hide these questionable ethics behind a veneer of professional sportsmanship. But while LeBron James can walk away from a poor situation, a horse cannot and therefore highlights the questionable morals that plague the business. A horse’s body is made up of numerous bones and joints, which must be well-coordinated to produce the smooth and hypnotic movement that makes a race exciting for spectators. The shoulder, for example, is a crucial joint that allows the front legs to extend forward with great power and to bend and reach down with an even rhythm. The ribs and pelvis also contribute to this movement, which is vital for the health of the horse. The most common injury for a horse is a sprain, or overextension of the ligaments that connect one leg to the other. When this happens, the horse’s knee or hock may flex and twist in an unnatural way, causing pain, swelling, and possible lameness. Another frequent injury is the sesamoid fracture, which can occur in four different ways: apical (along the top of the bone), abaxial (the side of the bone closest to the ankle joint), mid-body (through the middle of the bone), and basilar (along the bottom of the bone). A jockey, who wears a silk and cap to identify his or her owner and, at some tracks, post position, must be skilled at communicating with a horse’s leg movement to get the most out of each stride. The hypnotic motion of a horse in motion is the reason that the sport is so fascinating to millions of viewers around the world. When a jockey and horse communicate with each other in this way, it is called a ‘stride’ or a ‘passing stride.’ Each stride covers the distance between the imprints of the horse’s hoof on the track and is measured in feet per second. In the United States, the majority of races are contested over the dirt. Occasionally, however, a race is run on a synthetic surface. While synthetic surfaces have many advantages, they have been shown to have a negative impact on the horse’s foot and back. The specialized training required of a racehorse requires a high level of expertise and an immense amount of physical and mental strength. A jockey must be able to read the horse, as well as the other horses in the race, and make decisions in a split-second. The best jockeys are able to communicate with the horse and guide its movements, much like an orchestra conductor directs a string section. The horse’s owner and trainer must also be able to assess the race conditions and decide how to position their horse for success.