An Overview Of Horse Racing

Horse racing is the world’s oldest equestrian sport. It places two or more mounted jockeys into a direct competition as they ride over a fixed distance. Since the dawn of history, the purpose of horse racing has remained unchanged: It’s a contest to establish which horse in the race is the fastest over the course.
While the principles behind horse racing are simple, an enormous number of different formats have been developed over the years. Racing standards often vary from country to country. Variations in horse racing often involving specifying particular breeds, track surfaces, or gaits. Races that include obstacles are another standard format.
Many horse races are run simply for love of the sport, but this endeavor has been indelibly linked to gambling for most of its history. Betting on horses remains a big business in the 21st century; figures from 2008 indicate that gambling on horse races in that year alone generated over US$100 billion.

Horse Racing History

Horse racing has a place in the historical records of virtually every culture that had access to domesticated horses. Horses were raced in Greece, Egypt, Syria, and Babylon thousands of years ago; clear archaeological evidence of the practice is still easy to find today. Horse racing even features in the myths and legends of many cultures. Norse culture, for example, includes the story of a fateful horse race between the giant Hrungnir and the elder god Odin.
In the classical era (e.g. Ancient Greece, Rome, and Byzantium), horse racing was joined by chariot racing. The original Greek Olympics included horse and chariot races in 648, and other athletic competitions throughout the Hellenic world did the same. Chariot racing was a wildly popular spectator sport for millennia, even though it was a risky and dangerous pastime for both drivers and horses. Horse racing survived the downfall of the Roman empire, and Rome’s traditional spring carnival included a major horse race up until 1882. This was an important race because the participating horses (usually one to two dozen) were run the length of the Via del Corso without riders.
Racing thoroughbreds became the industrial-era successor to older equestrian sports and became exceptionally popular in England. Horse races attracted the patronage of aristocrats up to and including the royal family, and it eventually earned the title “Sport of Kings.”
Equestrian sports had a practical purpose up until the 20th century as riding skills were a vital part of the military profession. The same speed and talent which thrilled audiences would translate into control and safety during battle. Thankfully, the continued popularity of horse racing as a sport had preserved a range of skills, equipment, and horse breeds that might otherwise have been lost when horses were replaced with mechanized vehicles in war.