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.


  1. Fascinating! I too grew up with the books Jennifer mentioned and am not up to date. Will you please include some information on the driver's clothing for us doll dressers?

    1. Sian, here are two websites that sell the clothing: and

  2. Awesome and informative, thank you!

  3. I've always wanted to know more about harness racing so this is really cool. Thanks!

  4. This is an awesome post! I've been wondering about the different types of harnesses/carts for a while and this has really helped ;)

  5. I found something you absolutely need to try making for your model horse saddles! It would be awesome! And your dolls would love it! So easy for tacking up!

  6. Awesome!! Definitely relevant information with Rocket from Kitty Cantrell out now. Looking forward to part 2!