Posts Tagged ‘horse chariots’

Harness Racing: kind of like a horse chariot but not really

Back in the days of the Victorian era, horse carriages were the preferred mode (slash only mode, besides walking) of transport. Mr Darcy lookalikes in their ‘casual’ midday tuxedos would travel miles and miles for hours in the back of a carriage until finally they stepped out into the sensible arms of their betrothed (who they’d first met earlier that week).

Fast forward a few hundred years and now we have cars. Horse carriages have been put in storage and reserved only for the eager tourists in New York’s Central Park or for the wedding day of those hopeless romantics who enjoy the smell of sloppy horse poo mixed with the aroma of their catering delicacies.

But there is a third option – sort of. It’s what I imagine to be the result of Victoria Era inventors trying to make the horse carriage more aerodynamic and efficient (before they figured out car engines). Picture a brightly coloured jockey sitting behind the ‘exhaust pipe’ of a horse on what resembles a chair on training wheels.

That is harness racing.

And like normal horse races, greyhound races and whatever other track race, people do bet on these events.



Wtf is it?

Harness racing is a unique form of horse racing in that the horses race at a specific gait (manner of walking). In Australia, horses can either race at a trot or a pace.

Similar to jockeys in conventional horse racing, the driver  is incredibly important to the race’s outcome. He or she will sit on a two-wheeled cart called a “sulky” – and if I was sitting behind the bum of a horse, I would be sulking too.

In Australia, a race can have quite a large amount of competitors, often 12 or 13. Also, unlike many other countries, the leader does not have to give the lead to a challenging horse, meaning the challenging horse can remain stuck outside in the “death seat”, forced to cover more ground.

A large reason why harness racing gets much less coverage than other horse racing is because it can be difficult to understand. For example, punters often find it difficult to break into this world simply because of the proliferation of jargon and abbreviations. If you are interested, Practical Punting  offers a good rundown of the abbreviations.

For avid punters or those of us who merely look fondly upon the past, harness racing could be a great new hobby. As for me, I know I’ll be pretending that Mr Darcy is riding in that semi-Chariot to claim my love.