Most people are familiar with the type of racing done on tracks with Thoroughbred horses. But, flat racing is not exclusive to Thoroughbreds. There are many breeds that have racing similar to what we see at Thoroughbred tracks around the world. Here’s a look at just a few.
Quarter Horse Racing
Next to Thoroughbred racing, Quarter Horse racing may be the next popular type of racing sport. These races challenge the explosive speed of American Quarter Horses on a one-quarter mile track. The roots of Quarter Horse races go back to ‘match races’ held informally amongst horse owners on dirt roads. The track goes in a straight line and is usually a dirt, rather than turf surface. The whole race, from the moment the horse leaves the gate, to crossing the finish line is run at a flat-out pace. There are longer races, but in the traditional quarter mile race, there’s no saving the horse for the final backstretch effort. These exciting races are over in less than 16 seconds. Don’t blink!
Paint Horse Racing
Breeds heavily influenced by the American Quarter Horse such as the Paint Horse and Appaloosas are also raced. The same body type as that the QH is valued in the Paint Horse. At one time, Paints and QHs ran in the same races, but today’s races feature only Paint Horses. Like QH races, Paints run short sprints from 220 yards to 440 yards. And like QH, Paint racing bloodlines are outcrossed with Thoroughbred for a horse with explosive speed and staying power.
Appaloosa Horse Racing
Appaloosa racing is popular as well. These races are similar in distance to the QH and Paint Horse races. Appaloosas are considered middle-distance runners, 350 yards and 4 furlongs (½ mile or 0.8) are the most common races run.
Arabian Horse Racing
Arabian horses compete in races similar to those run by Thoroughbreds. The rules are much that same and the distances can be anywhere from five furlongs (remember a furlong is an eighth of a mile) to over two miles.
Icelandic Horse Racing
Icelandic Horse races are held in conjunction with horse shows and as their own event. These stocky little horses are raced in either gallop or pacing races. Standardbred pacers are raced harnessed to sulkies, but Icelandic racehorses are ridden. Their racing gear is called a ‘flying pace’. The track may be dirt or turf in the warmer months, but races are also held on hard packed ice and snow. The horses may reach speeds up to 30 mph (50 km/h) in these sprint races. Unlike Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and others, the Icelandic horse is not raced with a jockey perched high on the horse’s back, and well forward to allow the horse to use its haunches for propulsion. The rider sits astride and more upright than a jockey.
Morgan Horse Racing
A feature at some Morgan Horse shows and an event in its own right is Morgan horse trotting races. Morgans may compete in harness races and under saddle. One such race is held on the ‘Morgan Mile’ a stretch or road that the original Morgan horse Figure raced on. Other events vary in distance, from a quarter mile or more. Some shows feature a special event where horses are raced under saddle, in harness and then must pull a 500lb stoneboat.
IAkhal-Teke Horse Racing
A more exotic breed that can be seen on the track is the Akhal-Teke. In their native Turkmenistan, they race in 1-kilometer races. While said to be not as fast as a Thoroughbred, they are reported to be faster than an Arabian. There is genetic research that suggests that Thoroughbreds may lend some of their physic and speed to the Akhal-Teke.
Mule Horse Racing
Now you would think that those extra long ears would cause speed reducing drag if a mule tried to run a race. But perhaps when everyone else has long ears, it levels the field. The first cloned mule was related to a champion racing mule. Since mules can’t reproduce, cloning is the only way to preserve the genetics of champions. Mules run in short races, one-half mile or less. They are slower than horses. And, the cloned mule? He proved it takes more than genetics to win a race. And that’s what keeps horse (and mule) racing exciting.
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