A horse race is a sport where humans perched on their backs compel a horse to speed through crowded enclosures. In nature, horses understand self-preservation, and they will not run unless they are healthy enough to do so. In racing, pushed beyond their limits by the pounding of humans and accelerated by their own bodies, horses are often injured or killed.
Most people who watch or gamble on a horse race are familiar with the gruesome deaths that occur on and off the track. But few know that a horse’s death at the racetrack can also happen from complications of anesthesia or other drugs, as well as overtraining and injuries.
When a horse dies at the racetrack, its cause is often not investigated or reported properly. In fact, most horse races take place under a patchwork of state and federal regulations, and rules vary widely for horse trainers and owners. For example, one state may allow a horse to be given certain drugs while another will not. Moreover, the punishments for violating these rules can also differ.
The horse racing industry has a reputation for putting profits ahead of animal welfare. While some horse fans have found a personal connection with an individual racehorse, most are drawn to the sport’s glamour and potential payoffs. The sport’s most famous names and events are prestigious and draw crowds from around the world. But while the sport attracts affluent bettors, many people are turned off by a combination of factors, including scandals involving animal cruelty and doping.
In addition to being pushed past their physical limits, most racehorses are forced to ingest a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs to mask injuries and to artificially enhance performance. In some cases, these chemicals are so powerful that they can kill the horses by causing a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). This is when blood accumulates in the lungs during vigorous exertion and is caused by the stress of racing. EIPH is the most common cause of equine death, but it is rarely diagnosed and treated. Other common causes of death in horse racing include heart attacks and colic, gastrointestinal ulcers, and laminitis, a painful bone disease.