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The Dangers of Horse Racing

Horse racing is a great pastime, but it can also be dangerous. The intense training and stress placed on a horse’s young body can be too much for them.

The drugs used by many trainers to enhance their horses’ performance also can be harmful, as can the injuries that are common in the sport. These are a few of the most important issues to consider when betting on a horse race.

1. Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage

When a horse does strenuous activities (such as galloping, jumping or racing) during a race, it can cause damage to the lungs. This damage is caused by high pressures in the pulmonary circulation.

These pressures result in breaks or ruptures in tiny blood vessels called pulmonary capillaries. These pulmonary capillaries are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs into the blood.

This is a common problem that affects primarily Thoroughbred and Standardbred race horses, but it can also occur in other types of horses that participate in equine sports like polo or barrel racing.

A diagnosis of EIPH can be made through endoscopy and cytopathology (examination under a microscope) of either a tracheal wash or bronchoalveolar lavage sample. A tracheal wash sample will typically show only a small number of red blood cells in the fluid; however, a bronchoalveolar lavage sample will contain a significantly higher number of red blood cells than expected.

2. Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is a problem in many sports and can lead to serious injuries or death. It is also a serious concern for horse racing, which is why there are many laws in place to prevent drug use.

Performance-enhancing drugs include stimulants to increase speed and anabolic steroids to promote muscle growth. These are legal at certain doses, but critics worry they can damage a horse’s health and make it less likely to win.

Therapeutic medications, on the other hand, are legal drugs used to treat an ailment or injury and are generally not administered to enhance a horse’s performance on race day. Some, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, are exempted from drug testing requirements.

The problem is that there are a lot of different regulations and it is often difficult to keep track of what’s allowed and what isn’t. Nevertheless, it is crucial that horse owners, trainers and veterinarians stay informed on what they can and cannot do with their horses.

3. Injuries

A horse race is an exciting event but also a stressful one for both the jockey and the horse. Injuries are common and can be a major factor in the outcome of a race.

A study comparing injury rates in Great Britain and Ireland found that jump jockeys fall more often and sustain more injuries than flat racing riders. This is largely due to the nature of jumping, which has a higher risk of upper limb fractures and concussion than flat racing.

Another injury that is very common in jump horses is osselets, which are small calcified bone growths in the fetlock. This occurs mainly when there is trauma or stress between the cannon bone and the large pastern bone at the front of the fetlock. The osselets can then cause arthritis in the fetlock. However, osselets are not career limiting and can be treated successfully. The treatment will depend on the severity of the osselet and how much it is affecting the horse’s performance.

4. Bleeders

Bleeding during a horse race is one of the most common problems faced by horses competing in sports and other high-energy activities. Although bleeding is a normal part of intense exercise, repeated bouts can cause lung damage.

The most common type of bleeding during a race is exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). EIPH occurs when the blood-gas barrier in the lungs ruptures, allowing blood to flow into the lungs.

It can also occur when a horse breathes air that is too heavy or has too much carbon dioxide in the lungs. This can cause the lungs to become overfilled and lead to a collapse or a fatal accident.

In many jurisdictions, a horse that bleeds during a race is placed on a bleeder list and must wait a certain amount of time before running again. Depending on the state, these periods of stand-down vary.

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