Find out what harness horse races are and the kinds of gait that horses can have in the race. Learn the common breeds used in harness races.
Since horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world, there are various horse racing formats that originated from centuries ago. This means that if you are looking for a race that can take you years back into the past, you should know about harness races.
This a form of racing that is similar to Ban’ei races. However, this is more popular in European countries. This is because the horses are strapped with two-wheeled carts called a sulky or a bike. The people who ride the carts are not called jockeys but drivers.
This is because the driver rides in the back of the cart and urges the horse to race through the track. This is also similar to chariot races in the past.
Additionally, since this form of horse racing is more popular around European countries, this means that Japan harness race does not exist. They have a different form of race that is more popular around them. This is draft racing or Ban’ei racing where horses pull a cart behind them up a sand hill.
Horses in harness races often race through the track in a specific gait—either a trot or pace. While it is important for them to get through the racecourse and finish first, they have to balance the weight of the sulky and their driver. This means they cannot speed easily since they carry a heavy weight that could cause them to fall on the track if they are not careful.
Horses that are trotting usually move their legs forward in diagonal pairs. This means that their right front and left hind are simultaneously moving; afterwards, their left front and right hind will move.
On the other hand, horses that are pacing on harness races are moving the same side of their front and hind legs together. This means that when their left front moves, their left hind leg moves as well; right front will move at the same time as their right hind leg.
Harness races where the horses are pacing is more common. This is because they are faster and less likely to break their stride. This is important to know if you plan to wager on harness races.
Horses that are pacing often wear straps that connect the same side of a horse’s legs together. This is called a hobble which supports the gait of the horses as they run through the tracks.
The Race Track of Harness Races
Harness races are often conducted in flat outdoor race tracks. This means the racecourse is made of dirt that makes it easier for horses to run on while pulling a sulky behind them.
Similar to other horse racing formats, horses that participate in a harness race are usually behind a starting gate before the competition starts. However, harness races can also have a standing start. This is where they stand behind a tape or imaginary line, without anything holding them back from starting the race. Only once the signal is given can the horses start the race.
The standing start also allows horses to have a handicap. Where the horses stand behind the tapes is often based on their class. There are usually 10 to 20 meters between tapes. Standing start in harness races are more common around many European, a few Australian, and New Zealand races.
Common Breed Used in Harness Races
There are many horse breeds that can be used in harness races. However, countries in North America limits the breed that can be used in a harness race to Standardbred horses.
Other horses that are often used in harness races are French trotters and Russian trotters. They are more common in some European countries. Orlov Trotters horse breed compete in a separate harness race in Russia. This is similar to Finnish horses that compete separately in Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
The Standardbred horse is the most common breed that can be found in harness races. This is because they are well-muscled with strong legs and powerful shoulders. They are also known to be both trotters and pacers.
The French Trotter horse breed is used in both harness races and for riding. They are commonly found in France and are often used in trotting harness races. They can be recognized by their chestnut or bay colour and a sloped shoulder with a prominent sternum.
The Russian Trotter horse breed can be commonly found in Russia. They are often used for trotting harness races. They are a horse breed that is a mix of native Orlov Trotter and American Standardbred stock.
The Orlov Trotter is a horse breed that is known for both its speed and stamina. They originated from Russia and are often used for trotting horse races. They can easily be recognized because of their dominant gray colour.
The Finnish Horse breed or otherwise known as Finnhorse is known to be the fastest and most versatile cold-blooded breeds in the world. They originated from Finland and are locally known to be a universal horse. This is because they can be used in harness races, riding, and more.
They can be recognized by their well-muscled bodies, strong bones, and good hooves. Also, they often have a chestnut-coloured coat.
Where to Wager?
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READ MORE: The Horse Races You Should Know