The phrase “horse race” evokes an image of a close contest of speed between horses, jockeys on their backs, or drivers on sulkies, with the winning horse taking home a prize. But behind the romanticized facade of a horse race is a world of drugs, injuries, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. These racehorses are forced to run, whipped and pushed past their limits, even to the point of fatal injury or sudden collapse. They’re abused, deprived of sleep, and forced into races that are often poorly planned and executed. In the end, the great majority are slaughtered or sold for dog food.

The sport has changed greatly in recent years, as it and other industries and sports have been transformed by technological advances that make them more efficient, safer, and better informed. New technologies such as thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners, and 3D printers are all being used to improve the safety and health of racehorses and their human caretakers.

But the underlying problem remains: The industry’s business model is based on gambling and focuses on profit over everything else, including equine welfare. Even in the best of times, the for-profit racing industry is not always able to keep up with the demands placed on it by society and culture as a whole that increasingly recognizes animals as living beings who have fundamental rights.

For the most part, horses are not able to call any one place their home, because of the vast number of races in which they participate each year. The for-profit industry tries to manage the logistics of the travel, but in reality it is not easy for these equine athletes to develop any kind of bond with anyone. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people come in contact with each individual racehorse throughout the course of a season as they are trucked, flown, or shipped to different states and countries for different races.

Many of these horses are not the ones we’re familiar with in our daily lives, but when they run in a major race we cheer them by name, as in “Come on, Seabiscuit!” This is because most bettors, whether hardcore daily bettors or casual spectators, connect with their favorite horse. A few years ago, however, a trainer made the mistake of bragging that his star racehorse was on a powerful legal steroid. This caused the horse to suffer a gruesome breakdown and finish dead last in its next race, which cost his owner millions of dollars.

It’s not surprising, then, that some newsrooms have begun comparing elections to horse races in terms of their probabilities of outcome. This is a type of journalism known as horse race analysis, and it allows them to report results in a more precise way than just listing the percentages of votes each candidate received. It can also help give an edge to third-party candidates, who are usually considered longshots and have slim chances of winning the general election against Republican or Democratic contenders.

The Horse Race Is Not What You Think It Is