Horse racing is one of the oldest disciplines of horse riding in all of history with intense anticipation, thundering sound of pounding hooves, and adrenaline like nothing else.  It’s quick; it’s fast; and it’s powerful!  They may be sticklers for the rules, but when you’re out for #1, we can see why!

What is Horse Racing?

Horse racing is all about horse is fastest over a set course or distance.  Jockeys ride and train the horses to master the courses.  Race variations are based on breeds, obstacles, different distances, different track surfaces and different gaits.

Horse racing dates back to ancient Greece, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt! Of course, it’s evolved since then to be safer for the horse and the rider!  Today, the Kentucky Derby is the most popular connotation the public has with horse racing.

What Types Of Breeds Do Horse Racing?

In horse racing, the breeding is extremely important. The horse must have a sire and dam who are purebred individuals of the particular breed that is racing.  The best breeds for flat racing include Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Paint, and Appaloosa breeds.  The best breeds for jump racing are Thoroughbred and AQPS.  You will see Standardbred horses, Russian Trotters and Finnhorses in harness racing.


Training for a race is obviously essential in this riding discipline.  The conditioning regime varies depending on the race length and the horse itself.  Training, genetics, age, and skeletal strength are all major factors for a horse’s performance.  The body structure and muscular strength is all based on genetics.  The training is all centered around fitness and speed, but also injury prevention.

Horses’ personalities are all different and unique.  No training program will be the same for each horse.  Trainers will pay attention to behaviors and mannerisms to ensure that bad habits are corrected and that spooking is not an option.  Horses will enter race training at age 2 or 3 and train with a series of conditioning and timing exercises.  Many racing horses train together to help simulate the experience or interacting with other horses, bumping into other horses during a race, and even the dust flying around!

General Riding Rules

•Racehorses are generally ridden much differently than the average riding horse.  Once the horse has been broken in, the focus is on fitness and speed, rather than precision in handling like in other riding disciplines.

• Racehorses generally hack to and from the gallops on a loose rein, with very little interaction from the rider. They generally go out in a string and are comfortable following the horse in front.

•Racehorses know to move off into a canter from a gallop from slight contact with the horse’s mouth.  A rider does this by leaning forward slightly, standing up into the stirrups.

•Racehorses are trained to learn that a change in hands (change in grip or shortening of reins) indicates a sign to go faster.

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