Horse racing is cruel. People who enjoy watching it, or who are involved in the industry will try to say it is not cruel, but it is.
Horses do not naturally run full speed for prolonged periods of time, and would certainly not do it to the extremes the horse race industry forces them to do so.
Yes, horses love to run, but not like this, in the wild they mostly trot or canter, and rarely gallop unless chased.
I took a college course on racetrack procedures, I even was hired as a groom at a race track (but before I could start the job I got a better job offer), and have enjoyed betting on horse races for years too – even though I know the risk and cruelty involved.
In the racing industry (speaking of Thoroughbred racing) horses are often ridden at 1 year of age, not hard, but just enough to get the feel of it, and are further trained and then raced as two year olds. Actually some of these “two year olds” are not actually two at all, but all thoroughbred horses north of the equator are given the arbitrary birth date of January 1.
Horses racing, photo owned by author and husband.
As two year olds they are raced at full speed in sprints over a short distance. Sprinting (running at full speed) is harder on the legs in these young (not full grown) horses.
Note that warmblood horses as used for show jumping and dressage are not even ridden until they are 4 or 5 years old (allowing their legs to develop). By that time many thoroughbred race horses have already hurt their legs so bad they are removed from the track.
The Quarter Horse race circuit is particularly risky as these horses nearly always race short distances. That is what they were bred to do, but so many injuries occur in young horses that many are destroyed at a young age. The Quarter Horse race circuit is often criticized for using painkillers on horses then racing them anyhow, thus causing the horses to further injure themselves and not even know it.
Horses “break down” often, not always during races, often times this occurs during training. In North America the horses are in their stalls for most of the day (more than 22 hours) and as such their bone density is poor, another reason why they suffer so many problems.
The better valued horses are cared for more than the lower ranked ones, but even the top horses have been known to suffer life threatening injuries on the track.
Race horses are not pets, they are money making machines, the only reason their owners love them is because they make money from them or because they are status symbols. Many race horse owners could not even pick their horse out of a crowd of horses.