Horse Racing: Facts On One Of The Horse World’s Most Thrilling Sports


A few weeks back I wrote an article all about the race series known as the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown consists of three races: The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. After writing a whole article all about these races and their winners, I thought that maybe I should explain racing in general.

If you want to learn about the Triple Crown, click here to read all about it!

What Is Horse Racing?

Horse racing is a fast-paced sport that consists of riders known as jockeys riding horses at the gallop around a racetrack. The horse who crosses the finish line first wins. This sport is one of the most fast-paced and dangerous sports in the horse world and is practiced all over the world. The most commonly used horse breed for racing is the Thoroughbred which is a breed known for its incredible stamina and speed.

Where Did Horse Racing Originate?

Horse racing is an ancient sport that originated right after the first horses were domesticated. Central Asia was the birth place for horse racing which started as far back as 4500 BC.

The first steeplechase horse racing originated in Ireland, but now is more common in Great Britain. Britain is the birthplace of modern day horse racing, but the sport extends to way before Britain was even plotted on the map as a nation.

What Is Expected Of The Horse?

There are several things that are expected of a racehorse. A few of these are:

Speed

A horse might have all the other traits desired for racehorses, but not have the speed necessary to win. This is what kicks many racehorses out of their careers early on. If a horse can’t run fast enough, it is not considered good enough to compete on the track.

Strength

Racehorses are expected to be strong and sturdy. This is so they can drive their legs as fast as needed to cross the finish line before anyone else. A weak race horse won’t have the power, speed, or stamina to win.

Stamina

Stamina is key when it comes to racing. A horse might have the fastest sprint of any of its competitors, but if they don’t have the stamina, they still could finish last.

Desire To Be First

Horses who feel like they need to be first and in front of all of their competitors are often some of the best racehorses because they are so motivated to be first that nothing else matters. Horses who are like this feel as if they need to be first no matter what and will push themselves until they are in the lead.

One of the horses at the barn I ride at is named Padre George. This horse is an off-the-track racehorse who has this same drive. He is really difficult to ride when other horses are in the arena with him because he feels as if he needs to be in front of them at all times. He also can be difficult when getting from the turnouts because of you get him last he tries to run to the barn and ‘beat’ the other horses that were brought in before him.

What Kinds Of Horse Racing Are There?

There are two main types of track racing that involve the horses being ridden by jockeys. These are:

Standard Track Racing

A standard track race is a race that just consists of horses running on a large flat track with no jumps and obstacles to clear. This is the type of race that is mainly seen in the United States. This is the safest version of horse racing seen on tracks. Some horses can be injured due to the immense train on their legs and bodies from the sheer speed they are galloping. One young filly, the famous Ruffian, broke the sesamoid bones in one of her feet during a flat race against a Kentucky Derby winner.

Steeplechase

Steeplechase is a type of race seen in Europe that consists of horses running on a track and jumping bushes and hedges. Because of the jumping involved, this is one of the most dangerous types of racing seen. Many horses, such as the famous racehorse Barbaro, break their legs when landing these jumps and jockeys are known to be seriously injured when falling from a horse in one of these races. Sometimes, horses will even fall and get trampled by other horses if they fall after a jump. This goes for jockeys as well. Steeple-chasing is much more dangerous than standard track races.

Do Racehorses Enjoy Racing?

If a horse likes to run and has the desire to win and be first, yes, I believe that racehorses do love racing. Sometimes, if a horse loses its jockey in the middle of a race, the horse will keep running and gallop as fast as it can to the finish line in an attempt to still win the race. Some horses, even after retirement, still have the racehorse mentality like the horse I mentioned before (Padre George). This goes to show that racing is just in them and it is ehat they love and are driven to do.

Is Horse Racing Dangerous?

Racing is extremely dangerous. the reasons for this include:

  • The fact that the jockeys are riding young, hot, half-broke horses
  • The insane speeds that these horses are galloping
  • The possibility of falling off a horse going over 40 miles per hour
  • The chance the horse could fall and injure both themselves and their rider
  • The chance of getting trampled if the rider is thrown off or the horse falls over

Horse Racing Penalties

There are numerous things that can cause a racehorse to become eliminated, stripped of its winning title, or removed from a race. Some of these things include:

  • A horse and rider preventing another horse from passing (This happened at one of the more recent Kentucky Derby races where a horse cut off another horse behind them to keep them from passing which resulted in that lead horse being eliminated)
  • A horse falling and injuring themselves during or before the race will have themselves ‘scratched’ off the race
  • A horse can be penalized for kicking or biting another horse
  • A horse and rider can be eliminated if a jockey touches, grabs, or interferes with a competitor’s horse in any way.

Horse Racing Myths & Conspiracies

One of the most common conspiracies or myths surrounding horse racing is the myth that if a horse breaks out of its chute or gait before it opens, the horse will never win that race. This was the case for the famous racehorse Barbaro who broke out of his chute before the race began. In that race, he ended up breaking one of his legs and never finished the race. Breaking out a chute before it opens is seen as bad luck.

Another popular myth is that gray racehorses race the best in the rain or when the track is muddy. There is no evidence or proof to support this, but the saying “Back the gray on a rainy day” is still commonly heard in the racing industry.

It is thought that finding peanuts and/or peanut shells around or near a racehorse or their stalls before a race is bad luck.

World Record Racing Time

The Guinness Book Of World Records recognizes the horse Winning Brew to be the fastest racehorse of all time when he clocked a speed of 43.97 miles per hour. There are horses known to run faster than this, but he is believed to the fastest racehorse alive today.

At What Age Can A Horse Begin Racing?

Typically, horses begin to train to become racehorses around the age of two years old. All of the horses that race and try to win the Triple Crown are three year old racehorses which would be considered the youngest a horse is allowed to race. Though three and four is the usual age for a horse to begin racing, some horses are known to start at the age of five or six, but rarely will continue racing after that.

What Age Do Racehorses Stop Racing?

Usually, horses will stop racing around the age of five or six, but many will continue their racing career a few years later. The oldest racehorse to win a race was a 19 year old Arabian. This horse was still racing at this incredible age which goes to show that your horse can still race if in good health.

What Are Racehorse Riders Called?

The person who rides a horse in a race is called a jockey.

What Do Racehorse Riders Wear?

Boots

The boots worn by jockeys aren’t like your typical riding boots. They are small, shiny, and shorter than normal boots you might wear to ride your horses. They also don’t always have a heel and are extremely lightweight.

Helmet

Wearing a helmet is crucial when racing because it is one of your only chances of survival and safety if you are thrown off or trampled by a horse. you need to protect your head above anything else when you are racing or riding in general.

Silks

The colorful shirts that you see jockeys wearing are known as silks. This is how jockeys are identified when racing.

Breeches

Jockeys usually wear light weight and white breeches. This is the standard color and type of pants that jockeys are seen wearing.

Racing Tack

There is specific tack that race horses will wear that is unlike any other tack used on horses.

Bridle

The bridle used on racehorses is just a simple bridle that is typically made of leather.

Bit

The most commonly used bit on racehorses is a simple snaffle bit. This is because it is the least restrictive bit and it often the first bit a horse will ever use in its mouth. Because most racehorses are young, they might be using a snaffle in their training and breaking anyway so this could be another reason why a snaffle is most popular.

Blinders

Some racehorses require the use of blinders to keep them focused on the race and not on their opponents.

Weighted Saddle Pad

Racehorses must all carry the same weight on their backs to make the race fair and so the fastest horse is accurately determined. Because of this, lighter jockeys must use a weighted saddle pad to put more weight on the horses back to ensure a fair race.

Racing Saddle

A racing saddle is a skinny flat saddle with a pair of stirrups. Because the jockey is standing most of the race, there isn’t much of a seat on the saddle.

Reins

Any reins can be used in racing, but the most popular are rubber reins and leather reins.

What Do Racehorses Do When Their Racing Careers Are Over?

There are many things that racehorses do after their racing career. Successful racehorse stallions often get sold to studs to pass on their genetics to a new generation of racers, while others get turned into riding horses. There are many racehorse makeover programs that these horses will go through. The resulting horses can be turned into jumping horses, eventing horses, dressage hroses, barrel racing prospects, and other performance horses.

Hailey Johnson

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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