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!


  1. There's my handsome man <3 (AND he has a lip tatt!)

  2. I love that photo. So much character!

  3. I Was wondering if you could make a detailed turorial on how to make panels for an english saddle. I know that Sophie's turorial is up but maybe you could do a more detailed version for panels?

  4. I loved these posts about Harness Racing :)

  5. While riding horses protect your ears with earplugs
    Custom Ear Plugs