June 28 @ 1:00 pm
Enjoy a great day of harness racing at the Big Butler Fair! Whether you compete or simply watch, the event is sure to be exciting for all.
Unfamiliar with harness racing? Well, let us explain. Harness racing is one of the many types of horse racing enjoyed at the track, where a single Standardbred horse pulls a two-wheeled cart with a rider inside for a distance of usually one mile (two laps on a half-mile track).
Upon exiting the starting gate (or executing a “standing start,” where horses begin behind a line), the horse runs in one of two ways—by trotting or pacing. Whereas trotters move their opposite front and back legs together, pacers run by moving both right legs followed by both left legs. Pacing is beneficial because it’s faster and the horse won’t break its stride as easily.
Throughout the race, which lasts about two minutes, the driver uses a whip to communicate with the horse (such as telling it to slow down or speed up). For a successful race, drivers must be able to maneuver their horses around the inside and outside lanes. Even though the competitors usually start close together, track position becomes important in advancing forward, just as in a car race. Getting boxed into the inside of the track makes things difficult, as the horse won’t be able to get around its competition, so drivers usually try to get in front to lead or move to the outside to catch the leader and claim the coveted “pocket” position.
The last quarter mile is nail biting for both competitors and spectators, as the horses run faster and last-ditch efforts are made to move up before reaching the finish line. Mistakes here can cause accidents and injury, so drivers look carefully for available opportunities.
These races are close, too! Horses finish neck-and-neck, so you’ve got to look closely to catch a glimpse of the winner!