Tag: horses

Steeplechase Around the World

As one of the oldest spectator sports in the world, horse racing, and specifically, the Steeplechase makes its presence known worldwide.

Ireland

The tradition of racing runs very deep in Ireland. It is here that steeplechasing was born; it is here that many of the most illustrious horses in racing history have been bred over the course of several centuries. – Irish Racehorse Trainers Association 

The first recorded steeplechase occurred in Ireland in 1752 between horsemen Edmund Blake and Cornelius O’Callaghan. They raced the distance between the steeples of churches Buttevant and Doneraile in Cork County. Unfortunately, the winner of this race is still unknown.

The jump racing season spans the entire year, but the majority of the races fall between November and April. The largest races have accompanying festivals, each with their own traditions. The dress code is fairly informal in comparison to other places, except for Ladies Day when women of all ages don their most elegant and extravagant clothes. 

England

spectators at Royal Ascot

Horse racing is one of the largest spectator sports in Great Britain.

The world’s most well-known steeplechase is The Grand National. The event is held at the historic Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. Up to forty runners compete and the purse is £1 million.  Some avid steeplechase fans believe that the race has lost some of its character by implementing changes to the course in recent years (such as softening the fences). However, the race remains a popular and well-attended event. 

Following the dress code is not optional, especially at Royal Ascot, England’s most prestigious horse race. With The Queen and many other royals regularly in attendance, race attendees embrace tradition  and wear their best clothes for the occasion. 

France

Jump racing in France has never quite reached the same level of popularity as in neighboring England and Ireland. Though similar, French jump racing has a few noticeable differences. One of these differences is that the hurdles are not collapsible. Instead, many races have bullfinches, hedges up to 8 ft. tall, that horses have to jump through.

Another difference is that the racehorses are not exclusively Thoroughbreds. AQPS horses, a French breed developed by mixing Thoroughbreds with local breeds and saddle horses, are also used.

Auteuil in Paris is the most well-known racecourse. 

United States

Unlike in England and Ireland, where jump races are referred to as National Hunt Racing, Americans typically refer to jump races as steeplechasing. There are two major divisions: races over hurdles and races over timber fences.

American jump racing occurs in 11 states: South Carolina (obviously!), North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. The National Steeplechase Association, founded in 1995, remains the governing body of jump racing in North America. Most tracks in the U.S. are privately owned, with the horses, trainers, and jockeys being independent contractors.

Steeplechase race in Middleburg, Virginia

The largest American steeplechase is the Breeder’s Cup Grand National Steeplechase (previously known as the American Grand National). It draws crowds of 50,000 and has a purse of $500,000.  Race-day fashion in the U.S. is largely focused on the elaborate hats. 

Australia

Jump racing was brought to the Land Down Under by British settlers. The obstacle sizes are reduced here due to an increased emphasis on safety in recent years.

Eagle Farm Racecourse, part of Melbourne Cup festival events 2011 Brisbane, Australia

The Grand Annual steeplechase in Warrnambool has more fences than any other steeplechase and as a whole, Australia has more racecourses than any other nation.

The jump season occurs from March to September, but Saturdays are considered the main day for racing.  Several racing carnivals are held throughout the season, the largest of which is the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.  

 

Who’s who of horses

who's who of horses

There are hundreds of different horse breeds, each with unique genetics. We've compiled a list of some of the most popular horse breeds to give you an idea of how they compare to the Thoroughbreds that race in Steeplechase of Charleston.

American Quarter Horse

horse breed type

The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States. American Quarter horses tend to be short and stocky with heavy muscular development. They are characterized by broad chests and a short, wide head.  Their coats are all solid and come in a variety of colors, with Sorrel and Chestnut being the most common.

The name 'Quarter' is derived from the race these horses excel at - the quarter mile. While they do not have the stamina Thoroughbreds do, Quarter horses have the speed to beat them in short races.

Because of their ability to make fast starts, turns, and stops, they are valuable in cattle herding. Overall, these are versatile horses with an easy-going temperament.

Height: 14.3 to 16 hands

Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

American Paint Horse

American Paint Horses, sometimes referred to as Pinto, are easily recognizab

le due to their distinctive coloring. Each horse's coat pattern has a color combination of white and another color. The two most common patterns are Tobiano and Overo. No two Paint horses have exactly the same pattern.

Height: 14.2 to 16 hands

Weight: 1,150 pounds

Appaloosa

Originally developed by the Native American tribe, Nez Pierce.  They are thought to have descended from Wild Mustangs. These horses have distinctive vertically striped hooves and spotted coats. Typically, these are stock horses but they can also be used in a variety of Western riding disciplines. They are light, but sturdy. 

Height: 14.2 to 16 hands

Weight: 1,000 to 1,100 pounds

Arabian

horse breed

These horses are the oldest registered breed and are easy to spot thanks to their chiseled head, dished profile, and long arching neck. Since they are characteristically affectionate and bond well with humans, Arabian horses are often used in instructional programs and therapeutic riding. They are often praised for being one of the more intelligent horse breeds.

Height: 14.1 to 15.2 hands

Weight: 800 to 1,000 pounds

Morgan Horse

horse breed 2

The breed exists solely to please people. It's their heritage. - The American Morgan Horse Association

Because of their temperament, Morgan Horses are a great choice for beginner riders.

The Morgan Horse is the first documented American breed, descended from Justin Morgan (who shared his name with his owner).  Morgan Horses come in a variety of colors such as black, brown, chestnut, roan, and gray. They are attractive, with a nicely crested neck small ears, and expressive features.

Height: 14.1 to 15.2 hands

Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

Tennessee Walking Horse

"The word's greatest show, trail, and pleasure horse."  The Tennessee Walking Horse gets its name because of its gait. Instead of trotting, they do a running walk in which the front foot hits the ground before the diagonal hind foot. This provides riders with a smooth and comfortable ride. The running walk is faster than a typical flat-footed gait and has a speed of 6-8 miles per hour.

Its stature is heavier and stouter than those of American saddle horses. The Tennessee Walking Horse carries its head low and is less refined than other breeds. These horses come in a variety of colors.

Height: 15.2 hands (average)

Weight: 1,000 pounds

Thoroughbred

thoroughbred horse breed

What really sets Thoroughbreds apart from the rest is their stamina. They have large expressive eyes, long, sloping shoulders, and fine-boned legs with thin hooves. Their coats are primarily bay or chestnut.

Proper training is important, as these high-spirited horses need a suitable way to channel their energy.

Though this breed is best known for its athleticism and racing careers, Thoroughbreds are also used in eventing and can serve as riding or driving horses after they retire. Additionally, a number of them work as police horses in their communities.

Height: 15-17 hands

Weight: 1,000 to 1,200 pounds

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steeplechase Horses

steeplechase horses 2

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steeplechase Horses

All eyes are on them during race days, but how much do you really know about steeplechase horses? If you are a horse novice, read on to find out.

1. Steeplechase horses are sometimes referred to as ‘chasers

In order to compete, their Thoroughbred lineage must be proven with official Jockey Club papers. 

2. They are the best of the best

Thoroughbreds are widely considered to be the most athletic breed of horse, and ‘chasers are especially known for their speed and agility. 

3. Proportionally, race days are rare for steeplechase horses

Most run in no more than ten races per year. Since there are no races from December through mid-March, horses have plenty of downtime.  However, they do not spend the entirety of off-season lazing about.

They are exercised in the same way every day in preparation for their next race.  Like people, horses do well with a daily routine and feeding schedule.

4. The training plan for each horse must be structured to avoid causing injury or lameness

After breakfast, horses usually have around an hour before training begins. It begins with a warm-up exercise. Next is the schooling process. Schooling is a combination of advanced exercises such as completing jumping patterns, practicing quick turns, upward and downward transitions, and galloping. The horses will train in all kinds of weather to keep up with their practice schedule. Some horses are re-schooled in order to refine their technique or break unwanted behaviors.

Horses’ skeletal systems adjust in conjunction with how much they are exercised. Horses also respond well to ice and heat therapy for treating aches and pains. 

5. Most steeplechase horses start their career running in flat races

They usually do not start competing in the steeplechase until they are around four years old and continue until they’re ten or eleven. 

The term novice is used to describe a horse in the early stages of its steeplechase career. Novice races are held at many meets, to give horses experience over hurdles before they compete with more-seasoned jumpers.

6. Steeplechase horses generally do not train at the race track

Instead, many of them reside in country settings along the east coast, from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. This allows them to spend time outdoors. 

7. Their diet mainly consists of hay and grains

In addition, medications and joint supplements are sometimes included with feeding to treat arthritis or other health concerns. It is important that a horse’s heart rate returns to normal before eating.

8. Steeplechase horses need a lot of stamina

Since steeplechase races are longer than those on the flat, the ‘chasers need to have enough stamina to carry its speed over two miles or more. It is important for horses to eat a lot in order to store ATP, which is what they use to simulate muscle contraction. Having a sufficient amount of ATP allows the muscles to contract longer without fatiguing. 

9. Shoeing and trimming is required every 2-4 weeks

A farrier is normally kept on hand to provide regular maintenance to the horses. Horses hooves are similar to people’s fingernails and need to be trimmed on a regular basis.  Farriers use nippers, hoof jacks, stands, picks, knives and rasps to trim the horses’ hooves. Some horses may require additional treatment for damaged hooves. 

10. Horses do not need a lot of sleep

Horses only sleep for 2-3 hours per night. Contrary to popular belief, horses do have to lie down in order to get a good REM sleep. Yet, they snooze while standing up at various times throughout the day. 

steeplechase horses

 

Witness the ‘chasers in action at the Steeplechase of Charleston on November 17th!