The Historical and Legal Development of American Horse Racing

The Historical and Legal Development of American Horse Racing

From The Godolphin Arabian to Eight Belles

How the horse dominated the mind of the early races…You were a lord if you had a horse. Far back, far back in our dark soul the horse prances…The horse, the horse! The symbol of surging potency, and the power of movement, of action, in man. ~D. H. Lawrence

Since the beginning of time, humankind has needed horses; whether to work the fields planting crops, carry soldiers into battle, or to travel long distances. But the relationship between humans and horses has shared a much less utilitarian side. Throughout the years, people have gained immense joy from horses either through pleasure riding, competitive showing, or cheering a favored racehorse to the finish line. The athletic event known as horse racing dates back to ancient times when mankind’s competitive nature first emerged, and with pride and faith in one’s own animal the challenge was shouted, “My horse is faster than yours” and the sport of horse racing was born. Horse racing today has come a long ways since its primitive beginnings. There have been many undulations along the way, and at times, it looked as though horse racing would disappear altogether, but to those who love the sport, there is nothing they would rather do than spend their day at the races.

This paper begins with the history of American horse racing from the ancient Greeks who raced chariots to the modern day flat races enjoyed as an American pastime. It explores the lack of regulation during the early years of horse racing which allowed for the misuse of drugs on horses, dishonest practices regarding betting, and fraudulent racing, compared to the strict regulations enforced by the Horse Racing Commissions today. It will discuss the different classes of drugs, the current drug testing standard, and laws regarding drugs in race horses, including: trainer responsibility—-the rebuttable presumption and strict liability standards. An explanation of common licensing requirements for race track personnel such as trainers, grooms, and jockeys. And finally, a discussion about why the laws and regulations governing the modern horse racing industry make the sport safer for horses and riders and reduces the level of corruption.

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by Nikeela Black


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Nikeela Black
Jockey, Nikeela Black, is equally at home in the courtroom or on the race track. She earned her Juris Doctorate at the University of Idaho and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Eastern Washington University. She is presently working on her Masters in Dispute Resolution from the Pepperdine University School of Law Straus Institute. She is admitted to practice law in Idaho and has been a licensed jockey since 2004.

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