Saturday, February 28, 2015

Harness racing for the model shower, part three

Somewhere in my stash of stuff there is an unpainted High Flyer resin and a blue Breyer racing bike. I've harbored vague intentions to turn these things into a performance entry, but I was overwhelmed by all the things I didn't know.  Now, thanks to Barb DiAnnibella, I think I could do a credible job of it.  Thank you so much for teaching me about harness racing, Barb.  I really appreciate it.

Harness Racing for the Model Shower

by Barb DiAnnibella, owner Seven Furlong Racing Stable Inc.

Other equipment
Like show jumping, there are a myriad of boots, bits, etc that are seen, however I will be covering just the basics.  

Your average pacer will wear at least knee boots, tendon boots and a head pole, in addition to the hopples.  Trotters will wear bell boots, brace bandages behind and a head pole.  

The head pole is an adjustable pole (it slides in and out as the horse moves its head), often with burrs on it to keep the horse from leaning on it, that helps keep the horse straight.  Most horses wearing head poles wear only one, usually on the left side, however you will sometimes see one worn on the right side.
Plain headpole without burrs.
Close up of the burrs used on headpoles
Many horses wear ear plugs during the race, to help keep them calmer and to reduce the chance they can be startled by a loud noise.  Often the ear plugs will be pulled at some point during the race, using a line that goes from the earplugs back to the race bike.  This unexpected exposure to noise, including the sound of other horses coming up behind, can help urge the horse along.

Choosing a horse for your setup 
Standardbreds come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  At the home barn, I’ve seen several you’d swear were Morgans or Arab crosses, one who looked like a rugged QH, a mare who was as dainty and feminine as any TB, a flashy black gelding who almost looked like a WB, and a wide range in between.  Most Standardbreds in the US are bay, with the occasional chestnut or gray.  Pinto is also seen but rarely.
Oz the Great, 2001 Standardbred gelding owned and photographed by Dominika Nawrot
Most racing Standardbreds have a freeze brand on their neck, on the right side, however there are some who have a lip tattoo like a Thoroughbred (we had one), so your model does not have to have a freeze brand.   

Other thoughts
If you are making a driver for your setup, tracks now require them to wear the safety vests like you see on eventers.  They are put on under the shirt however, so you don’t necessarily see it and it can be left off a model driver if you don’t have one.  There is no weight requirement for drivers, so they do not have to be as small as a jockey.  Your average Breyer or Zica person is fine.

Unlike Thoroughbred racing, where a jockey will wear the owner’s silks, harness racing drivers wear their own colors.  Anyone driving out on the track must wear their colors, even if they are only warming the horse up.  Horses go out on the track for a warm-up about an hour before their race (a horse entered in the 5th race will usually go out after the 1st).

The horse will wear a number cloth that goes over the horse’s back and a plastic or metal number that clips to the top of the bridle, at the horse’s poll.   

A nice detail for your setup is that the number cloth has specific colors that are universal from track to track.  

1 – Red
2 – Blue
3 – White
4 – Green
5 – Black
6 – Yellow
7 – Pink
8 – Gray
9 – Purple 

Sometimes you will see a number cloth with two numbers.  While some tracks have separate number cloth for the warm-up and the race, others will use the same for both.  The larger number is the horse’s post position number, while the smaller is the number of the race the horse is entered in.

If you can find one, the metal Breyer race bike (not the plastic one), while simple, is reasonably accurate, other than not having the offset shafts, but the harness would need to be replaced. 
More useful information:
Evolution of the Sulky
Information on hopples
Free-legged pacers
High-tech race bikes available
Pictures of equipment

I'm always looking for good guest blogger pieces like this. Please contact me if you have specialized knowledge about a horse sport that you would like to share!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Harness racing for the model shower, part two

Part two of Barb DiAnnibella's excellent harness racing series is tailor made for tackmakers.  I really appreciate all the good close-up photos, plus Buxton!  From now on, all tack items should have a piece called the Buxton.  Thanks again, Barb, for all the wonderful information.

Harness Racing for the Model Shower

by Barb DiAnnibella, owner Seven Furlong Racing Stable Inc.

The harness used for harness racing is very simple and consists of the saddle (usually worn with a pad under it) and girth, crupper, and breastplate or buxton as it is called.    The buxton is more like the breastplate you’d see on a riding horse than it is like the one you’d find on your average driving horse.   Most, if not all, harnesses are synthetic, however if there is not a suitable material available for models to make a synthetic-look harness, leather is perfectly fine.   Basic black is always acceptable but some trainers have the harness made in their colors. 

The saddle and the girth, showing the quick hitch clips.  
A close-up of the quick hitch.
The buxton.
Standardbred race horses can be trotters or pacers.  A trotter moves its legs in unison in diagonal pairs while a pacer’s legs move in lateral pairs.  Most pacers use pacing hopples (also referred to as hobbles, either is acceptable) when they race, however, while rare, there are “free-legged” pacers who race without them.  If you are making your first harness for a pacer, and want to keep it a little simpler, you can add documentation stating your horse is a free-legged pacer and leave them off.  

Pacing hopples are fastened to the harness using hopple hangers. The side hopple hangers fasten onto the crupper strap, one near the saddle and the other not quite halfway back.
This is the front hopple hanger.  The curved piece on the right fits over the horse’s neck, near the withers, and the strap in the middle connects across the horse’s chest.  
The rear hopple hanger also fastens to the crupper strap, near the crupper.  This picture shows the rear hangers and one set of side hangers.
This picture shows the buckles used to fasten the hopples to the hopple hangers.
Trotters sometimes wear hopples that are worn only around the front legs and are connected by a pulley system that is under the stomach of the horse.  

Bridles can be open (no blinkers) or include blinkers, called a “blind bridle”.  Your average pacer will wear a blind bridle. 

The bridle will include what looks like half of a noseband. This helps to keep the bridle in place when pressure is applied on the lines.
The horse will wear a head halter as well. This looks somewhat like an English bridle cavesson and is worn under the bridle.  The head halter has rings on both sides that can be used for cross-ties back in the paddock area and the head pole will fasten to one of the rings.
All race horses use an overcheck because they can be hard to control if they get their heads down.  Overcheck bits tend to be simple, usually a solid (non-jointed) loose-ring snaffle with small rings.  The driving bit is as varied as those for riding horses, but a half-cheek snaffle is always acceptable for the model horse.

The lines (reins) include handholds that can be adjusted to the driver’s preference.
The third and final post in this series will discuss additional equipment, Standardbred horses and hints for showing the model harness racer.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Harness racing for the model shower, part one

Today I am really pleased to present the first in a three part series about harness racing by hobbyist, Barb DiAnnibella. My knowledge of harness racing is limited to bits and pieces learned from books like Born to Trot and The Black Stallion's Sulky Colt, so I'm very thankful to Barb for sharing this information.  I learned a lot from this series, and I have no doubts that you will, too!

Harness Racing for the Model Shower

by Barb DiAnnibella, owner Seven Furlong Racing Stable Inc.

This article is being written with the newcomer to Standardbred harness racing (as it relates to the model performance shower) in mind and will primarily discuss the basics with the harness and vehicles that are used.  As in any horse-related discipline, there is often more than one way to do something.  The following information is based on my own experiences and research, and input from my husband who trains Standardbred race horses for a living.

Jog Carts and Race Bikes
There are two vehicles commonly used for Standardbred training and racing – the jog cart and the race bike.  You won’t often hear them referred to as “sulkies” at the barn or in the paddock area at the track.  

The jog cart is made of wood or aluminum and is heavier and sturdier than the race bike, and has longer shafts.  
Wood jog cart
Aluminum jog cart
The race bike is light, most commonly made of aluminum or carbon fiber, with shorter shafts than the jog cart, which puts the driver closer to the horse.  
A selection of jog carts and race bikes, showing the difference in the shaft length.
The race bike wheels have a cover over the spokes.  This is partly for safety reasons; to prevent injury should a horse strike the wheel of the bike in front of it, or even worse, get a foot through the wheel in the close quarters of racing.   It also lessens wind resistance.    
The race bike has an offset shaft on the right, and the seat is centered between the shafts, rather than in between the wheels.
Many professional drivers provide their own race bikes for the horses they are driving on race day, and have them painted in their colors. 

Race bikes can have fenders installed on muddy days, at the discretion of the track officials.  

Race bikes and jog carts do not have the usual shafts seen on other types of vehicles.  For safety reasons, they have a “quick hitch” system that involves a metal connector on the shaft that fastens onto a metal clip on the saddle of the harness.
If you are using a vehicle with standard shafts in your model performance class entry, you should include documentation stating it is from before the quick hitch came into general use in the early 1990’s.  Many model show judges won’t know the shafts are different, but for those who do, you can show that you did your research.  

Note:  Harness racing jog carts and race bikes are not to be confused with the similar looking bike used for Roadster horses in shows – those do have the standard long shafts.

Part two of this series will discuss the different parts of a racing harness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Almost wordless Wednesday

The first half of February felt like spring, but recently winter has returned with a vengeance. It's been cold and snowy, and the forecast predicts more of the same, with another storm due tonight. I miss the warm weather, but at least the horses and dogs seem happy. I've enjoyed taking pictures of them playing in the snow. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the last week. Enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Braymere by Breyer, part two

Last week, the UPS man delivered a giant box from Breyer.
Inside I found both the tack sets I'd designed for them, as well as the matching models and doll.
 I felt like a kid on Christmas as I unboxed everything and dressed my polo pony.
The saddle is made of soft leather and doesn't appear to have a tree.  It's not equal to one of my saddles, but I wouldn't expect that at this price point.  It fits well and has a nice shape. 
Great panels, too!
The bridle features a split crown and the most in-scale buckles I've seen on Breyer tack.
I didn't have a part in the doll's creation, so I'm surprised and pleased to have received him. My friend, Anne Field, designed the his knee guards... 
 and I picked the blue and yellow color scheme.
Here's the entire set minus the polo wraps.  I forgot to put them on before I took the picture, but they're made from thin, ultrasuede type fabric.  I actually prefer them to the prototype wraps I sent Breyer. 
On to the packing set! 
As much as I like the polo items, I'm even more pleased with my new mule and his tack. 
Here's the pack harness minus the panniers. It's made with the same soft leather and in scale buckles as the polo tack.   
I love the panniers. These are so well done.  They are every bit as nice as the prototypes! 
In my opinion, this set is live show-able as is. With a few small tweaks, it could be easily made top notch.
Good job, Breyer, and thank you so much for all the goodies!