Harness Racing - Races

Races

Races can be conducted in two differing gaits – trotting and pacing. The difference is that a trotter moves its legs forward in diagonal pairs (right front and left hind, then left front and right hind striking the ground simultaneously), whereas a pacer moves its legs laterally (right front and right hind together, then left front and left hind). In continental Europe, races are conducted exclusively among trotters, whereas in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States races are also held for pacers.

Pacing races constitute 80% to 90% of the harness races conducted in North America. Pacing horses are faster and (most important to the bettor) less likely to break stride (a horse which starts to gallop must be slowed down and taken to the outside until it resumes trotting or pacing). One of the reasons pacers are less likely to break stride is that they often wear hopples or hobbles (straps connecting the legs on each of the horse's sides). The belief that hopples are used to create this gait is a common misunderstanding. The pace is a natural gait for many horses, and hopples are an aid in supporting the gait at top speed; trotting hopples (which employ a different design, due to the difference in the gait) are becoming increasingly popular for the same reason.

Most harness races start from behind a motorized starting gate. The horses line up behind a slow-moving, hinged gate mounted on a motor vehicle, which then leads them to the starting line. At the line, the wings of the gate are folded up and the vehicle accelerates away from the horses. Another kind of start is a standing start, where there are tapes or imaginary lines across the track behind which the horses either stand stationary or trot in circles in pairs in a specific pattern to hit the starting line as a group. This enables handicaps to be placed on horses (according to class) with several tapes, usually with 10 or 20 meters between tapes. Many European – and some Australian and New Zealand – races use a standing start.

The sulky (informally known as a "bike") is a light, two-wheeled cart equipped with bicycle wheels. The driver (not a "jockey", as in thoroughbred racing) carries a light whip chiefly used to signal the horse by tapping and to make noise by striking the sulky shaft. There are strict rules as to how and how much the whip may be used; in some jurisdictions (like Norway), whips are forbidden. For exercising or training, the drivers use what is known as a "jog cart," which is a sulky that is heavier and bulkier than a racing unit.

Read more about this topic:  Harness Racing

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