Harness racing began with owners competing against each other in the streets and Trotting races occurred in Holland as early as 1554. "The Golden Whip", Holland's most famous trotting event, was first run in 1777. Around this time horses were being bred as "Trotters" in various countries - Russia developed the Orlov Trotter whilst in the UK the Norfolk Trotter was bred as a road horse but was also being used for road racing, whilst in the US a Thoroughbred stallion imported in 1788 was crossed to local harness horses to produce horses with exceptional trotting speed.

Whilst trotting is a natural and familiar gait where the horse moves with the legs moving in diagonal pairs, Pacing is a non-natural gait where the horse trots with both legs on each side moving together. This is bred and trained into the horses and Pacing became popular much later.

Early in the 19th Century trotting tracks were built and in 1871 the Grand Circuit in the US was established and went from 4 tracks to 23 tracks. By 1879 the Standardbred horse was established in the United States and in 1897 the first two minute mile was recorded by a pacer named Star Pointer. Since then other Trotters and Pacers have gone on to complete the mile race in less than 2 minutes - this is the equivalent of over 30 miles per hour!

Trotting as a sport then became popular in France, Italy and other European countries and in Australia and New Zealand. It did not take hold in the UK until later but has now been carried out here for over 100 years with regular race meetings.

Harness Racing today is the racing of horses pulling a two-wheeled racing cart, known as a Sulky, whilst either trotting or pacing on an oval racetrack. Races are usually run over distances ranging from between half a mile to a mile and during the race if any horse breaks its stride it can be disqualified.

 

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