Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Than Just Thoroughbreds

Although this blog is mainly focused on Thoroughbred horse racing, I think it is time that I share with my readers that more than just Thoroughbreds run on the tracks.

My personal favorite breed actually got it's name for its running ability. The Quarter Horse, (usually associated with ranch work, rodeos, and pleasure riding) received its name for being the fastest horse over a quarter mile. Humans run a quarter mile usually between one and two minutes, while Quarter Horses run the same distance typically between sixteen and eighteen seconds.

Quarter Horse racing is one of the more entertaining forms of racing to watch. Despite the fact that it is done so quickly, their speed is what makes it amazing. Unlike Thoroughbred racing, Quarter Horses don't have to worry about how many horse widths they are from the rail (which would make their trip slightly longer), how many turns the race has, and whether or not the horse gets their perfect position. This is mainly because Quarter Horse racing is a full on sprint in a straight line from start to finish. Most horses are within a few lengths from the leader, who usually wins by a neck or half a length. If you are worried about getting around other horses you might as well relax because the race is already over.

Although it is not as regal and prestigious as Thoroughbred racing, Quarter Horse racing is a lot of fun to watch because of the intensity to the finish line and their speed.
Another breed of horse that races is the Standardbred. These horses race in an entirely different manor than their cousins the Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred. They are harness racers and race with sulkies which are light weight racing carts.

There are two forms in which Standardbreds can race: Trotters or Pacers. The difference is in gait (speed and movement) in which the horses race.

Trotters are horses that race in a gait known as a trot. A trot is usually a moderate speed where the horse's legs move on diagonals (front right moves with back left and vice versa) in a two beat fashion, but in the case of Trotters the 'moderate' idea is thrown out the window. Although it is not as fast as a gallop, horses do hit some fairly high speeds.

Pacing is similar to trotting in the fact that it is also a two beat gate that is remarkably fast. However, in a pace the horses legs move together on one side (right front moves with right back). Pacers make up a good portion of harness racing and is generally more popular because of it's unique gait. It is also much faster than trotting, and more speed usually means more excitement.

To help show you what I mean (hopefully) here are some prime examples of harness racing.

The first picture is of a Pacer, while the second is of a Trotter.

The differences are subtle, but they greatly effect how the race is run in terms of speed.
My favorite part about harness racing has to be the start of the race.

Unlike Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, Standardbreds do not use a traditional starting gate. This is mainly because it would be near impossible to get the speed you want without breaking the proper gate. To solve this problem, a Standardbred starting gate moves with the horses. It is mounted onto the back of a truck, and as the truck is in motion, the horses get to their proper position and speed. The truck eventually gains more speed than the horses and the long gates fold around the truck giving the horses room to move.

Sadly, I have only seen Thoroughbred racing live. Although it is amazing and probably my favorite form of racing, I am really hoping to see the other three types.
The sheer speed and intensity of Quarter Horse racing would make for a fun and adrenaline filled day at the track, while the beauty and precision of Pacers and Trotters would simply introduce me into a world I do not know a lot about.

I encourage everyone to watch different forms of racing and find which one they find the most interesting, Whether it be the classic a regal world of Thoroughbreds, the high speed battles of Quarter Horse racing, or the complex sport of Harness racing. No matter which branch or breed of horse racing you choose, you are almost always guaranteed great competition, amazing speed, a grand amount of excitement, and the ability to watch a magnificent animal doing what it

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