Is Racing Enjoyable for Horses?


The question of whether or not horses enjoy racing is a controversial topic and debatable. Some argue that horses naturally enjoy racing, while others raise concerns about the welfare of horse racing. In defense of both arguments, elements of fact support both arguments.

Some racehorses are well cared for and in comfortable living conditions. But some horses are ill-treated, drugged, and overworked. As such, some people only see the exploitative activity of horse racing, but another side of horse racing makes it an enjoyable sport beneficial to horses and humans alike.

With Saratoga races scheduled for 2023 in place, but you’re feeling guilt-ridden about attending or placing a wager in any racehorse because of concerns about the ethics of the sport, keep reading as we demystify the question if racing is enjoyable for horses.

Effect of Horse Racing on Horses: Positives and Negatives

Horses are social animals in nature. In the wild, horses enjoy running and jumping. So, yes, horses enjoy racing. Suppose you’ve ever attended a horse racing game. In that case, you’ll notice that even after the jockey unseats the horse, the horse continues jumping and running with other racehorses indicating its thrill and joy in participating in the race. But the concern with horse racing has always been about welfare as racing exposes the horse to significant risks. So, we’ll look at racing horses’ positive and negative aspects below.

Horse race final rush. Competition sport. Hippodrome. Winner. Speed background
Is Racing Enjoyable for Horses?

Positive Effect of Racing on Horses

Harnessing the competitive athleticism innate in horses offers certain benefits. Acknowledging and understanding these potential benefits is crucial. Below are some of the positive effects of racing on horses: 

  • Physical Exercise

Racing engages horses in physical activities, which helps improve their overall fitness and health. When horses participate in regular training and racing, it helps strengthen their muscles and develop their cardiovascular system. Moreover, it’s through rigorous exercise that horses can maintain their lean body, which is essential for their well-being.

  • Mental Stimulation

Another benefit of racing horses is that it serves as mental stimulation, allowing them to reconnect with their natural instincts. Horses are competitive, and participating in a sport like racing helps engage their mind and keep them focused.

  • Social Interaction

Racing also allows horses to socialize with other horses. Horses are social animals, and socializing benefits horses’ mental well-being. Also, racing helps build a strong bond between the horses and the jockey or trainer. This human-horse helps the horses thrive.

  • Economic Advantage

As of 2020, the horse racing track industry in the United States alone is valued at over 3 billion US dollars. This figure is to show that the economic advantage of horse racing is tremendous. The industry creates numerous jobs for those involved in training, care, breeding, etc. Also, the resources generated from horse racing can be channeled back into the equine industry to fund horse care and breeding programs that contribute to the horse’s overall health and well-being.

Adverse Effects of Racing on Horses

beautiful horse in stall
Is Racing Enjoyable for Horses?

While horse racing provides several benefits, it’s essential to be aware of the potential adverse effects that may arise from this sport. Understanding these challenges helps ensure you support horse racing when it’s done the right way. Below are some of the adverse effects racing has on horses.

  • Risk of Injuries

Racing, particularly jump racing, poses the risk of severe injury to horses. Jump racing puts horses in 10 to 20 times more danger of musculoskeletal injuries like fracture, sprain, and strain than flat racing.

  • Doping and Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Another concern with horse racing is the use of performance-enhancing and doping drugs. These substances offer short-term gains in endurance and speed in the horse but harm the horse’s well-being and overall health. Amongst the equine stimulates are methylphenidate, amphetamines, and even adrenochrome, a drug humans abuse.

  • Whipping and Other Forms of Pain

Sometimes, jokes use a riding crop to whip the horse to encourage it to run faster. But whipping can cause physical harm to the horse, such as abrasions and welts, as well as stress and induce fear. The tongue is another practice that has received negative attention. The tongue uses a strap or band to hold the horse’s mouth shut to prevent its tongue from hanging during a race.

  • Ethical Concerns

The desire to produce winning horses for races can lead to overbreeding and irresponsible breeding practices. Extreme breeding for specific traits could harm horses, as they sometimes prioritize it over their health, making them susceptible to injury.


In summary, there are arguments and concerns about horse races and their impact on equine welfare. It’s also important to recognize that there are aspects of horse racing that are beneficial to horses. But most importantly, if you’re a horse racing fan, support responsible and compassionate horse racing events.

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