Feel the Excitement: A Beginner’s Guide to Steeplechase Racing

by Ryan Biddix

         The Steeplechase of Charleston, the Lowcountry’s premiere horse racing event, offers the perfect opportunity to embark on a mesmerizing journey into the world of equestrian sport. If you’re new to horse racing or this is your first time attending, fear not! From the preparation of the jockeys to the careful navigation of obstacles, we will be your guide, exploring the different parts that make up Steeplechase racing.

The Venue

Stono Ferry Owners Association

(Stono Ferry Owners Association)

Imagine stepping onto the grounds of Stono Ferry Racetrack, where nature’s splendor becomes an integral part of the racing experience. The venue is nestled amidst the breathtaking countryside, offering a scenic backdrop of live oak trees and verdant green fields. As you take in the new surroundings, you’ll notice the strategically placed obstacles that blend seamlessly with the idyllic landscape, enhancing the challenge and visual appeal of the racecourse.

The Horses


(Gavin McIntyre/Staff, 2022)

Prepare to be star-struck by the true celebrities of Steeplechase racing—the horses. These magnificent creatures display strength, grace, and elegance as they gallop with unwavering determination through the racetrack. The Thoroughbred, renowned for its speed, and the Irish Sport Horse, prized for its jumping prowess, are among the breeds commonly seen in Steeplechase events.


The Jockeys

COngrats jockey.jpg

(Grace Beahm Alford/Staff, 2022)

Watch closely as the jockeys take their positions, clad in vibrant silks that represent their owner and their heritage. These skilled riders are the conductors of the equine symphony, their bodies and minds attuned to every stride and obstacle. With finesse and determination, they guide their horses through the elaborate racecourse, making split-second decisions to navigate each hurdle.


The Course

Equestrian at Stono Ferry Hollywood SC

(Stono Ferry Owners Association)

The Stono Ferry Racetrack is a thrilling blend of strategy, speed, and skill. It features multiple laps, each presenting a diverse array of obstacles that must be overcome. The inclusion of obstacles is what sets this type of racing apart from traditional, flat derby racing. Jumps will vary in height, width, and complexity, testing both the horse’s agility and the jockey’s decision-making. The rhythm of the race unfolds as the competitors navigate the course, with the crowd’s anticipation growing with each lap and leap.


The Obstacles

steeplechase racing Archives - TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions

(Equi-Photo, 2020)

As the horses approach each fence, the atmosphere crackles with excitement. The jockeys assess the obstacles, gauging their horses’ readiness and speed. They then guide their mounts to approach the hurdle, timing their stride patterns and finding the perfect take-off spot. It’s a split-second dance of trust and technique as the horses spring into the air, their muscles flexing, and the jockeys lean forward to maintain balance. With each successful clearance, a surge of energy ripples through the crowd.


The Strategy

Steeplechase racing is not only about speed but also about strategic decision-making. The jockeys must gauge their competition, adjust their pace, and time their efforts to conserve the horses’ energy for the demanding jumps ahead. They carefully weigh the risks and rewards, choosing when to push their horses to gain momentum and when to conserve energy for the final stretch. The race becomes a testament to strategy, where even the smallest adjustment can make a colossal difference.


The Finish Line

2022 Steeplechase of Charleston | Horse Race | Charleston, SC | Event

As the race reaches its final lap, the intensity reaches its peak. Jockeys unleash their horses’ remaining reserves, urging them forward with ferocious fortitude. The thundering hooves echo in unison as the crowd erupts in applause and cheers. The finish line becomes the ultimate prize, where noble victories are celebrated and the spirit of sportsmanship shines through. Each race unfolds a story of grit, determination, and unwavering passion.

The Steeplechase of Charleston offers a breathtaking and immersive experience, bringing you into the world of Steeplechase racing. From the aesthetically pleasing venue to the awe-inspiring athleticism of both horse and jockey, this event exemplifies the artistry, skill, and spirit that make horse racing an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re witnessing your first race or a seasoned spectator, take time on race day to embrace the excitement, soak in the atmosphere, and allow yourself to be swept away by the timeless magic of the Steeplechase of Charleston.