Harness racing is not as many assume a relatively young sport. Archeologists have found tablets dating back to 1350 BC on which Egyptians had showed the methods they used to train trotters. Horseracing is an exciting, colourful sport throughout the world. It allows for a type of sports betting where you can easily meet the trainers, drivers, track personnel and owners. People in the know who are willing to share their knowledge are easy to find at the track.
Race horse gaits
For a long time people believed that horses had only three natural gaits—walk, trot and gallop—and that the pace gait was abnormal. Professor Hildebrand however who did extensive research at the University of Zurich into how horses move found that 28% of horse breeds had more than three natural gaits. Professor Hildebrand differentiated pacing and trotting as two natural gaits. Pacers go well back in history. People in the Middle Ages preferred the soft gait of pacing which allowed them to spend a long time in the saddle. It was comfort then that made pacing the favourite mount of horsemen for parades, long trips and work in the country. Also, Egyptian chariots were shaped in such a way that horses had to adapt a posture that only allowed for pacing.
Until 1600, pacer horses were very common. But 100 years later in 1700 it was almost impossible to find one. And in the early 20th century no one even knew the gait had ever existed, or what it was. Any horses with lateral paces were in fact considered to be weak, poorly trained, sick or old.
Walk, trot, pace and gallop are therefore all natural horse gaits. Smooth, regular movement is normally the sign of good conformation especially in the legs. Trotting and pacing include a period of suspension when the horse loses contact with the ground. With trotters, the diagonal legs move in unison touching the ground at the same time whereas with pacers the two legs on the same side move back and forth at the same time.
Pacing is faster than trotting, because with this gait the horse loses balance on one side and is forced to move faster to minimize the amount of time it is suspended in the air. Flawed pacing will lead to varying losses in speed and often injuries. Flaws that have no or little risk of injury include winging out and winging in. The conformation described here is therefore not infallible. Nature does take delight in offering up hereditary contradictions.
The model in Standardbred horses, as in all breeds, is the result of a combination of various beautiful or faulty parts of the anatomy. Horses should be appreciated for their respective proportions, compensating when necessary for minor faults whenever superior qualities are in evidence.