Overview on harness racing
Harness racing is a genre of horse racing where people ride is small two wheeled carts called sulkys, attached to the horses. The horses run in a specific gait. Either they trot, or pace.
Details on harness racing
Harness racing is a genre of horse racing where people ride is small two wheeled carts called sulkys, attached to the horses. The horses run in a specific gait. Either they trot, or pace. However, saddle racing is also conducted sometimes, especially in Europe.
The breed of horses used in harness racing is usually the standardbred. The breed got the name since, their ancestors who could trot a mile within a standard time, were indexed in the stud books, and became members of the standardbred. They are shorter and longer than the thoroughbreds. The earliest standardbred was Messenger, a grey thoroughbred, which came to America in 1788; from whom we can trace the entire lineage of all standard American standardbred horses.
Harness racing is conducted in two different gaits, or stepping. In all of continental Europe, harness racing is conducted only among trotters, who are horses, whose left front leg would fall along with its right hind leg; and the right front leg would step along with the left hind leg. In UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, harness racing with pacers are also conducted. Pacers are faster horses, whose front and hind legs of the same side fall and rise together. In North America, pacing races are more common, constituting about 85% of harness races. Pacers are sometimes fitted with ‘hobbles’, which are straps which connect the front and hind legs of the same side. It is said hobbles help pacers to maintain the pace at top speed.
The sulkies are two wheeled carts, which are also known as bikes, having bicycle wheels. They are fitted to the horses, carrying one person, who carries a light whip to tap the horse, in order to signal. There are two ways of starting harness races – the standard start, in which a tape is held across the track till the race begins. The other start is the motorized starting gate method, in which a hinged gate mounted on a motor vehicle is used to start the race.
Harness racing tracks are of a mile length in almost all races of North America. Horses are ‘marked’ and classified by the fastest time they have performed. In Australia, however, harness racing tracks are of more than a mile length, and horses are classed by considering the number of races they have won.