A horse race is a competition between horses, often over long distances and through obstacles. It can be a dangerous sport for both the horses and their jockeys, who are known as riders. There are a variety of races, and each has its own rules. Horse racing has been a popular sport for thousands of years and was once considered to be the sport of kings. It has been criticized for its inhumane treatment of animals and corruption, but others feel that the sport is vital to the economy and culture.
The horse is the most important element of a horse race because it determines how fast or far the race goes. It is important to choose the right breed for a race and train it well. The best breeds for racing include Thoroughbreds, Arabian horses, and Quarter Horses. The race organizers have specific regulations for what type of horses can run the races.
Before the race begins, all of the horses are gathered in stalls or behind a starting gate. Once everyone is ready to start, the gates open and the horses begin running. The horses are guided by a jockey, who rides them and whips them to encourage them to go faster. The use of a whip can cause pain to the horse, so it is used sparingly.
Most horse races are held on a track made of dirt, grass, or synthetic material. The tracks are oval in shape and have a designated start and finish line. There may be one or three inner tracks on the course, which can vary in size and shape.
There are several different types of horse races, and the prize money for each is usually quite large. For example, there are handicap races, where the entrants are assigned weights designed to even out their chances of winning, and allowances for older horses or females running against males. These races are ranked as the most prestigious and offer the largest purses.
The most famous horse race in the world is the Palio di Siena, a twice-yearly event in Italy in which the winning horse and rider represent a city ward. Its magnificent pageant draws visitors from around the world. Other notable horse races are the Grand National and Royal Ascot. There are also many televised horse races. The BBC pioneered coverage of the sport in the 1950s and continued to broadcast it until 2012, when it lost rights to the sport to Channel 4.