Harness Racing Terms
Money added to the purse of a race by the racing association or a
breeding or other fund to the amount paid by owners in
nomination, eligibility, entry and starting fees.
1) All Standardbreds become a year older on Jan 1st regardless of
when they were born during the year. 2) The age of the horse.
A person empowered to transact business for a stable owner, or
empowered to buy and sell horses for an owner or breeder.
When a horse extends himself to the utmost.
A horse officially entered for a race, but not permitted to start
unless scratches below a specified number reduce the field.
A horse that finishes out of the money. .
A race for 2-year-olds.
Stable area, dormitories and often times a track kitchen, and
recreation area for stable employees. Also known as "backstretch"
for its proximity to the stable area.
1) Straight portion of the far side of the racing surface between
the turns. 2) See backside. 3) Also stable area.
Strips of cloth wound around the lower part of a horse's legs for
support or protection against injury.
A horseshoe closed at the back to help support the frog and heel
of the hoof, It is often worn by horses with quarter cracks or
A horse color that varies from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn.
The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black,
except where white markings are present.
Bearing In (Or Out):
Deviating from a straight course.
A stainless steel, rubber or aluminum bar, attached to the
bridle, which fits in the horse's mouth and is one of the means
by which a driver exerts guidance and control.
A horse color which is black, including the muzzle, flanks, mane,
tail and legs unless white markings are present.
Horses finishing so closely together they could be covered by a
A horse that bleeds during or after a workout or race due to a
ruptured blood vessel.
Device to limit a horse's vision.
A bad step away from the starting gate, usually caused by the
track surface breaking away from under a horse's hooves, causing
it to duck its head or nearly go to his knees.
Sudden veering from a straight course, usually to the outside
A poor race run directly following a career-best or near-best
A type of tendonitis. The most common injury to the tendon is a
strain or "bowed" tendon, so named because of the appearance of a
bow shape due to swelling. Horses commonly re-injure the tendon
when they go back into competition.
A horse that is racing on the rail and is surrounded by other
horses in front, outside and behind it. A horse that is boxed in
is held up and unable to gain a clear passage.
1) To train a young horse to wear a harness. Almost always done
when the horse is a yearling. When a horse goes offstride. A
harness horse competes at either a trot (diagonal gait) or pace
(lateral gait). A break occurs when a horse goes offstride and
into a gallop.
A horse, or driver winning the first race of its career.
When a horse suffers a potentially career-ending injury, usually
to the leg; The horse suffered a breakdown. The horse broke down.
Easing off on a horse for a short distance in a race to permit it
to conserve it's energy.
A piece of equipment usually made of leather or nylon, which fits
on a horse's head.
A short burst of speed during a race.
Short for phenylbutazone. a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
medication that is legal in many racing jurisdictions. Often
known by the trade names Butazolidin and Butazone.
A projection on the heels of a horseshoe, similar to a cleat.
Call (Race Call):
Running position of horses in a race at various points.
Another term for a program of racing. For example, a person may
refer to there being twelve races on the card, which simply means
twelve races will be staged on that particular day.
Another term for sulky, or jog cart.
A driver, which does not train his or her own horses, and is
engaged by other trainers to drive their horses.
He/she makes a simultaneous written record of how individual
races are run and how each hors performs.
A statistical "picture" of a race (from which past performances
are compiled), that shows the position and margin of each horse
at designated points of call.
To suffer interference during a race, causing a horse to check
up, or alter, its speed and/or path in a race.
Yellow-red, red-yellow to golden yellow horse with red main and
A box in which claims are deposited before the race.
A race in which each horse entered is eligible to be purchased at
a set price. Claims must be made before the race and only by
licensed owners or their agents who are eligible to claim horses
at said track..
The process by which a licensed person may purchase a horse
entered in a designated race for a predetermined price. When a
horse has been claimed, its new owner assumes title after the
starting gate opens although the former owner is entitled to all
purse money earned in that race.
The level of competition that a horse has been facing. Generally,
the higher class level the bigger the purse and the stronger the
level of competition.
A race of traditional importance.
A horse that runs best in the latter part of the race, coming
from off the pace.
Generally, the turn on a racing oval that is closest to the
clubhouse facility; usually the first turn after the finish line.
A horse, which is going easily or traveling without pressure in a
race, usually in front.
1) The very special colorful suit worn by drivers/trainers. The
drivers/trainers register their own colors and wear them every
time they race. 2) Colors: bay, black, chestnut, dark bay or
brown, gray, roan and white. See individual entries for
An ungelded (entire) male horse four-years-old or younger.
Class of horses in a race.
Condition Book (S):
A series of booklets issued by a racing secretary, which set
forth conditions of races to be run at a particular racetrack.
The fitness level of a horse. For example, it may be described as
peak racing condition or poor condition. Also the type of race
horsemen can place their horses.
A race where eligibility is based on age, gender, money won, or
races won. For example, "3-year-old colts that are non-winners of
$10,000 lifetime or 4 races."
Persons identified with a horse, such as owner, trainer, or
driver, and stable employees.
Restoring a horse to normal temperature, usually by walking.
Describes when a horse is racing with a horse in front of him,
especially on the outside. Live cover occurs when a horse has an
advancing horse in front of him, dull cover occurs when the cover
horse does not advance.
A Standardbred gait flaw that occurs when one hoof strikes the
hoof s whip, or leg on the opposite corner.
A dry and loose racing surface that breaks away under a horse's
Top portion of a racetrack.
Dark Bay Or Brown:
A horse color that ranges from brown with areas of tan on the
shoulders, head and flanks, to a dark brown, with tan areas seen
only in the flanks and/or muzzle. The mane, tail and lower
portions of the legs are always black unless white markings are
A day on which no racing is conducted at a particular racetrack.
A situation in which the judges cannot separate two or more
horses when judging the outcome of a race. These horses are
declared as having crossed the finish line at the exact same
Racing surface lacking resiliency.
A position very close to the finish line in race.
Abbreviation for dead heat.
Change in order of finish by officials for an infraction of the
1) A female horse. 2) A race for fillies, mares, or both.
A horse that is out of touch with the rest of the field at the
end of the race. This is often referred to as finished distanced.
If a driver or trainer records two winners on a card, they are
said to have recorded a winning double.
An abbreviation for disqualified.
A person driving a harness horse in a race.
A horse facing a lower class of rivals than he had been running
Qualified to start in a race, according to conditions.
The cost of nominating, entering or starting a horse in a stakes
Two or more horses owned by the same stable or (in some cases)
trained by the same trainer and thus running as a single betting
unit. Rules on entries vary from state to state.
Whip, blinkers, etc. Gear carried by a horse in a race.
Horseshoer, blacksmith. Also called a "platen".
Track condition with footing at its best. Dry and even.
The final list of horses, selected by the handicapper that will
contest the race.
The first horse to make a move on the leader in a race, moving up
on the outside.
A horse that is forced to move wide on the track (further away
from the inside running rail), because of the actions of another
How a horse has been racing. Generally, good form is defined as
close up finishes in recent starts - bad form is poor finishes in
Intermediate times recorded in a race, as at the quarter, half,
three-quarters, etc. The "quarter time," for example, refers to
the time after the first quarter-mile, not the first 25 percent
of the race.
A pacer, which races without wearing hopples (which helps
maintain it's gait) is known as a free-legged pacer.
A rested horse.
A horse whose running style is to attempt to get on or near the
lead at the start of the race and to continue there as long as
A condition of a racetrack where any moisture present is frozen.
Harness horses are divided into two distinct groups, pacers or
trotters, depending on their gait when racing. The gait is the
manner in which a horse moves its legs when running. The pacer is
a horse with a lateral gait, whereas a trotter has a diagonal
A horse that's brave, determined, or hard working.
How quickly a horse is able to leave from the starting gate.
The starting mechanism.
The equipment used by trotters and pacers.
Condition of the racetrack between fast and slow.
Winning at a class and moving up.
A horse color where the majority of the coat is a mixture of
black and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be either
black or gray unless white markings are present. Starting with
foals of 1993, the color classifications gray and roan were
combined as "roan or gray." See roan.
A person who cares for a horse in the stables.
Half of a mile.
Like a bridle, but lacking a bit. Used in handling horses around
Four inches. A horse's height is measured in hands and inches
from the top of the shoulder (withers) to the ground, e.g., 15.2
hands are 15 hands, 2 inches.
The gear, which is used to attach the sulky to a horse, to carry
the hopples and to enable the driver to steer the horse.
Head Of The Stretch:
Beginning of the straight run to the finish line.
A margin between horses. One horse leading another, by the length
of its head.
1) A race in which more then one running is required to decide
The straps, which connect the front and rear legs on the same
side of a horse. Most pacers wear hobbles to help balance their
stride and maintain a pacing gait. The length of hobbles is
adjustable and a trainer registers the length that best suits his
or her horse. There are also trotting hobbles that work through a
pulley system to help trotters maintain their gait.
The straight length of the track, nearest the spectators, heading
toward the finish line. It is called this because it is the final
part of the track a horse travels down on its way 'home' (or the
A male horse aged 5 years and over.
Area encompassed by the inner rail of the racetrack.
Judging officials may conduct an inquiry as a result of any
incident which may have occurred during a race, to determine
whether or not certain drivers and/or horses were responsible for
the incident and whether they should receive due punishment.
Slow, easy gait.
The person who decides the official placings and margins for each
race or trial. They are also responsible for deciding who the
placegetters are in the event of a photo finish or developed
Two-year old horse.
The term used to describe a horse which is limping or has
difficulty walking properly. Lameness is often caused by an
injury or problem with one or more of a horse's feet and/or legs.
A medication for the treatment of bleeding.
The horse, which is out in front or leading during a race. This
term may also be applied to a horse that most commonly wins races
when in a leading position.
A measurement approximating the length of a horse, used to denote
distance between horses in a race:
Harness racing uses this term instead of reins, but it means the
A horse on a loose line is one, which is allowed to run freely,
without any pressure from the driver to speed up or slow down.
A race for horses, which have never won a race.
A horse that has not won a race. Also applied to a non-winning
A race between just two horses.
A horse, which races well on an off track.
Unit of measurement. About the length of a horse's neck; a little
less than a quarter of a length.
the starter or Stewards may declare a horse, which has failed to
come within a reasonable distance of the mobile barrier, as a
non-starter of the race. All bets placed on a horse which is
later declared as a non-starter, are refunded.
Smallest advantage a horse can win by. Called a short head in
Claim of foul lodged by a driver.
An off track refers to a wet racing surface.
the stewards have confirmed final results of a race. Also used to
denote a racing official.
On The Board:
Finishing among the first four.
On The Pace:
A horse, which is keeping up with the runner, which is
determining the speed of the race. It means it's right up there
with a good chance of winning.
On The Pylons:
A horse racing in a position next to the hub rail or pylons.
Abbreviation for off-track betting.
Out Of Position:
A horse that is not in its designated position at the start of a
mobile event is deemed to have been out of position at the start.
This is the time taken to complete the distance of the race.
A race in which entries close a specific number of hours before
running (such as 48 hours), as opposed to a stakes race for which
nominations close weeks and sometimes months in advance.
A sheet published by the racing secretary's office listing the
entries for an upcoming racing card.
The early fractions of a race, particularly the opening 1/4 mile
and 1/2 mile. The pace of a race can affect how well certain
horses are able to compete. For example, if a pacesetter is able
to set a slow pace, horses that are far back early will have a
particularly difficult time making up ground once the pace picks
up in the latter stages of the race. Conversely, if the early
pace is torrid, it will be harder for pacesetters to withstand
the late challenges of closers who benefit from a relatively slow
The horse that is running in front (on the lead).
This Standardbred gait features legs on the same side moving
forward and backward at the same time. Pacers are sometimes
called amblers or sidewheelers.
Official in charge of the paddock.
Area where the horses are saddled and paraded before post time.
This term describes a horse that is racing on the outside,
normally for an extended period of time. Horses lose ground while
racing on the outside and depending on the circumstances (the
amount of time spent racing on the outside, the pace, etc) can be
adversely affected by it.
A compilation in the program of a horse's record, including all
pertinent data, used as a basis for handicapping.
A finish between two or more horses which is so close a still
photograph must be used to determine the order of finish.
A person who buys a racehorse with the specific intention of
re-selling it at a profit.
Boxed in, shut off. Running in a position with horses in front
Horses going from paddock to starting gate past the stands in
post position: Position of stall in starting gate from which a
The position a horse leaves the starting gate from at the start
of a race.
Designated time for a race to begin. .
In harness racing, a driver who's not fully licensed.
One whose services are not exclusively engaged by a single stable
and who accepts horses from a number of owners.
A horse, which has finished a race, has pulled up. The term can
also refer to the act of a driver stopping his horse from
competing in a race, while that race is still in progress, for
example, because of injury or broken equipment.
A horse that is pulling out in a race is one that is coming from
the rail heading out wider on the track in an effort to secure a
Some horses get fired-up during a race and try to run faster than
the tempo of the other runners. These horses are 'pulling'.
Horses that pull will usually waste a lot of energy in the
process, leaving little in reserve for the finish.
Pulled The Plugs:
Drivers who pull the plugs during a race are merely releasing the
earplugs that have been in their horse's ears up until that time.
Ear plugs can help keep a horse's mind on the job and help
nervous horses stay calm leading up to and during part of the
race. When released, the sudden exposure to more noise may help
spur on the horse. .
The total monetary amount distributed after a race to the owners
of the entrants who have finished in the (usually) top five
1/4 of a mile.
A race in which a horse must go a mile below an established time
standard to prove itself capable of competing in pari-mutuel
The description of a race while it is in process, which includes
such things as the positions of the runners at different stages,
any moves made by drivers, and any incidents that occur. A race
is called or described by a race caller or announcer.
The entire day's race lineup makes up the race card.
Official who drafts conditions of races.
This is what the driver does when he asks his horse to save
energy for a run later in the race.
When the first attempt at starting a harness race is nullified by
the official in charge of the start. A restart of the race is
A Standardbred's harness, protective equipment, and other gadgets
designed to make him perform better, plus the manner in which
it's fastened to him.
A cloth under the harness on which a horse's wagering number is
Process of familiarizing a horse with the starting gate and
teaching it racing practices.
To be taken out of a race before it starts. Trainers usually
scratch horses due to adverse track conditions or a horse's
adverse health. A veterinarian can scratch a horse at any time.
A group of horses being exercised together.
A (usually sheepskin) roll that is secured over the bridge of a
horse's nose to keep it from seeing shadows on the track and
shying away from or jumping them.
The two long pieces that attach the sulky to the horse's harness.
Rope or strap attached to a halter or bridle by which a horse is
A horse who travels from where he's trained to race at another
A horse in need of more work or racing to reach winning form.
This occurs when a horse is stuck on the rail and loses position
when outside horses advance past him.
Unable to improve position due to being surrounded by other
Three-year-old horses. Called sophomores because age three is the
second year of racing eligibility.
Some people use this word to describe only a horse whose legs are
healthy and painless. Others consider a horse to be sound only if
his legs are strong, his breathing is adequate, and his general
health is good.
A generic term describing a barn where horses are brought for
post-race testing. Tests may include saliva, urine and/or blood.
Areas, enclosures or places at a track used for the accommodation
of horses competing at a meeting. Stables may also refer to the
areas on a trainer's property or other property where their
horses are accommodated.
The opposite to strung out. In a field, which is stacked up, the
distances between the leader, rear horse and all other runners
will be quite small.
A horse whose level of competition includes mostly stakes races.
A race for which the owner usually must pay a fee to run a horse.
The fees can be for nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering
and starting, to which the track adds more money to make up the
total purse. Some stakes races are by invitation and require no
payment or fee.
Finishing first, second or third in a stakes race.
A breed of horse, which participates in harness racing.
The person responsible for starting a harness race. In a mobile
event, the starter controls the start of the race from the back
of the mobile vehicle. The starter also decides when and if a
recall should be declared.
A mechanical device, which allows each horse to begin a race at
the same time.
A horse bred in a particular state and thus eligible to compete
in races restricted to state-breds.
A horse moving up in class to meet better competition.
The persons appointed by the Racing Commission to assist in the
control of racing and other matters related to the sport. They
ensure all rules relating to racing and betting are observed and
enforced. Stewards are required to regulate, control and inquire
into and adjudicate on the conduct of officials, owners,
trainers, drivers, persons attending to horses, at any event
where licensed persons are involved.
Final straight: Portion of the racetrack to the finish.
A field of horses in a race in which the distances between the
leader, and the other runners is quite great.
A Standardbred who races directly behind another, benefiting from
less wind resistance.
When a horse refuses to extend itself.
Also known as the bike, the sulky is attached to the harness
which carries the driver and which the horse pulls.
A driver or trainer, who is deemed, by the stewards, to have
broken one or more of the rules of harness racing, may receive a
suspension as punishment. A suspension means a driver cannot
participate in any race and a trainer may not train for a set
period of time.
Equipment used for racing and training a horse.
A horse who competes in claiming races is running for a tag. The
tag is his claiming price.
A horse that drops so far back during a race that it is out of
touch with the rest of the field.
A horse that is disqualified.
A permanent, indelible mark used to identify the horse.
A conformation flaw in which the front of the foot faces in and
looks pigeon-toed, often causing the leg to swing outward during
A conformation flaw in which the front of the foot faces out,
often causing the leg to swing inward during locomotion
Strip of cloth-type material used to stabilize a horse's tongue
to prevent it from "choking down" in a race or workout or to keep
the tongue from sliding up over the bit, rendering the horse
uncontrollable. Also known as a "tongue strap.".
A racing surface that favors a particular running style or
position. For example, a track bias can favor either
front-runners or closers.
The person responsible for looking after a horse and preparing it
to race. A trainer must hold a license or permit to be entitled
An individual horse's race, with specific reference to the
difficulty (or lack of difficulty) the horse had during
competition, e.g., whether the horse was repeatedly blocked or
had an unobstructed run.
The normal mid-speed gait of four-legged animals. It features
legs on opposite corners moving at the same time.
A slang term for harness racing in general. It also describes the
gait of a "trotter".
Racing immediately behind another horse, thus using it as a
windbreak trailing.. A driver may place his horse in a trailing
position in order to save enough energy for a fast finish down
the home straight.
Tying Up (Acute Rhabdomyolysis):
A form of muscle cramps that ranges in severity from mild
stiffness to a life-threatening disease. A generalized condition
of muscle fiber breakdown usually associated with exercise. The
cause of the muscle fiber breakdown is uncertain. Signs include
sweating, reluctance to move, stiffness and general distress.
UDRS/UTRS (Universal Driver/Trainer Rating System):
A method of determining that status of a driver or trainer based
on the amount of wins, seconds, and thirds he/she has in
relationship to the number of starts. The formula, as set by the
United States Trotting Association, is below:
UDRS/UTRS = (Wins x 9) + (Places x 5) + (Shows x 3)....divided by
(Starts x 9)
An implement used by the driver to spur on the horse in the run
to the finish line. Drivers will tap their horse with the whip
when they want them to accelerate. A driver may only use the whip
in an elbow action: Upper arm action is not permitted. Most
drivers use the whip on the sulky shaft.
The finish line of a race.
Area above the shoulder, where the neck meets the back.