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Dangers of Horse Racing

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 27 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Dangers Dangerous Safe Safety Horse

For all the glamour associated with the sport of horse racing, it is one which is fraught with danger. Danger and racing are inextricably linked, and although the industry is working hard to minimise the risks to horses and jockeys, the association will always pervade in many people’s minds. Even occasional spectators who do not follow racing in great detail realise that there is a danger – and show the horror on their faces, if, for example, they see a horse fall in the Grand National.

Jockey Dangers

It is far less likely for racing to lead to the death of a jockey than a horse, but jockey deaths are far from unheard of. In addition, there are plenty of injuries – career threatening ones – which a jockey can sustain. If a horse throws a jockey, or stumbles, it can be disastrous, particularly if the horse was leading the field. If a rider goes down, there is always the risk of the jockey being trampled by the horses behind, who would not be able to stop in time. Even without the threat of other horses trampling from behind, simply being thrown from a horse at such great speeds is extremely dangerous and can lead to – at the every least – many broken bones for a jockey. This is why safety equipment is so important for riders – it can, and frequently does, save their lives.

Dangers for Horses

Horses are at far more risk than jockeys, and no matter how much care is taken over their well being, the sport of racing is always going to mean they get injured or even worse. Stumbles and trips, which in any other arena would remain just that – a minor fall at worst – in a racing situation, can prove very dangerous indeed. A simple stumble when there are a pack of other horses bearing down from behind can lead to very serious injuries and in the very worst cases – death.

Speed itself can hurt a horse too – the stress on their body if they are trying to race too much can cause weak bones. If a horse starts to develop problems, he should always be treated immediately, as to leave the problem will worsen it. And for a horse, there are few worse things. Injured horses can often never run again - a broken leg may be enough to end their career, and unfortunately, there are not enough homes for retired race horses and many are put down.

The racing industry does work hard to make the sports safer. And as long as people are trying to minimise problems, it can only get safer. There are plenty of charities which work to look after jockeys, but also retired race horses, so they do not have to be put down when their career has finished. Little by little, the dangers are being decreased and although racing at very fast speeds on horseback is never going to be the safest of pastimes, things are getting better. With everyone aiming for the same goal – a safer sport – this will hopefully continue.

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