A horse race is a competition in which horses run on a track and bettors place money on their performance. While the sport has evolved from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two horses to an elaborate spectacle with multiple competitors and sophisticated electronic monitoring devices, its basic concept has remained unchanged for centuries.
The term derives from the ancient practice of running a team of horses over various obstacles to test their agility and endurance. A team could consist of a rider and a number of other runners or an entire stable of horses. The steeplechase, which consists of jumping over a series of obstacles, is the most difficult of all horse races. The Greek author Xenophon wrote about this type of racing in the 5th century bc.
In modern times, horse races are usually conducted on a flat surface such as dirt or paved concrete, over a distance of up to 1 1/2 miles (2 kilometers). The distances and customs vary by country. Horses are bred and raised for their speed and stamina. To qualify to compete in a race, a horse must have a sire and dam who are purebreds of whatever breed the race is. The pedigree is also important for harness racing, where a horse must have a sire that is a purebred harness racer and a dam that is a purebred standardbred.
While the horse race may have a romanticized veneer, it is essentially a form of animal abuse. Pushed to their limits of speed and strength, horses suffer many injuries, including the bleeding of the lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage) or even death. These gruesome incidents have led to improved safety standards in the industry. Despite these improvements, many horses still die on the course. A necropsy must be performed after a race to determine the cause of death and whether anything could have been done to prevent it. California and New York maintain public databases of race-related equine deaths.
Proponents of the horse race argue that it can be an effective way to choose a new leader for a company. The process sends a strong message to the entire organization that it is expected to deliver results, and that top leadership will be held accountable for its performance. It can also motivate employees by allowing them to see that they have the opportunity to compete for the CEO role. However, an overt competition for the position is not suitable for every company. A board should carefully consider the culture and structure of the organization before implementing such a system. In addition, an overt horse race should only be used if the current board and chief executive agree that it is in the best interests of the business. A failure to do so can damage the company and its reputation. A board should also assess the competencies of current senior executives to ensure that the winner will be able to successfully lead the company at the next stage of its growth.