What’s Harness Racing?

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Harness racing uses chariots instead of riders, with horses called Standardbreds. Horses race on an oval track, with a qualifying run required for those with a history of missteps. The Little Brown Jug and Hambletonian are popular races for three-year-olds, with winning horses gaining prestige and breeding opportunities.

Harness racing is an offshoot of traditional horse racing. In harness racing, horses do not gallop with a rider on their back, but are tethered to a light chariot, which a jockey drives around an oval track. They should trot around the track without breaking stride, although doing so does not disqualify them. The broken step is called being “paused”. The rider must therefore try to bring the horse back to the correct gait, distance the horse from the others and must not use the break to improve his position in the field.

The horses used for this type of racing are called S-breds or Standardbreds. This means they are “thoroughbred” Thoroughbreds, bred specifically for the demands of the sport and are descended from other horses like them. Racehorses are sometimes called “trotters” or “pacers.”

Every trotting horse has a “birthday” on January 1, regardless of when it was actually born. Even if a horse is born on December 25, it is officially one year old at that time and is called a “yearling”. A year later, he officially turns two.

This is the standard method of classifying horses to race against others in their general group, but it can be a disadvantage for
late horses. For this reason, breeders try to have foals (ponies) born in April or May, which gives them plenty of time to mature.

The horses race on a standard oval track. Those with a history of misstep or who have been away from racing for a long time must enter a qualifying race before returning. A qualifying run is one without a prize pool or wagers. It is used to determine the horse’s manners, ability and likelihood of being able to comply with the rules of racing.

The Little Brown Jug and the Hambletonian are very popular harness races for three-year-olds. The purses (winnings) are substantial. Horses that win races like these gain prestige for themselves, their owners, and their bloodlines.
Stallions (uncastrated horses) are usually stabled (used to breed), and mares are usually sent to mare farms to produce more racing offspring.

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