What are the horses bred for racing?

Best Horse Breeds for Racing

Did you know that, although Thoroughbred racing is popular, it is not the only kind of horse racing?

Several horse breeds are praised for varied racing techniques that match their individual characteristics, much like the colors of a rainbow.

Breed Description Typical Events Top Speeds
Thoroughbred A registered Thoroughbred traces its lineage back to three foundation stallions and is registered with the Jockey Club. They’re bred to race. Flat and steeplechasing 40-45 MPH
Quarter Horse Horses from the United States. Sprinting horses bred to excel at quarter-mile distances. Flat racing and contesting events 55 MPH
Standardbred Horses bred to perform at either a trot or a pace gait in harness racing. Harness racing 30 MPH
Arabian The Arabian Peninsula gave birth to this adaptable breed. Their incredible stamina allows them to excel in long-distance races. Endurance racing 7 MPH
Appaloosa The breed is a stock breed recognized mostly for western riding disciplines and is distinguished by its speckled coat. Contesting events 40 MPH
Paint This breed combines the Western stock horse with a pinto spotting pattern. Horses descended from Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and Spotted Horses. Contesting events 40 MPH
Miniature Horse These horses are popular with youngsters and drivers due to their modest stature. Children’s racing, barrel racing (driving) 18 to 20 MPH

Types of Racing

From steeplechasing to endurance racing, people have figured out how to do it if there’s a way to race horses. Nonetheless, some breeds excel at specific types of racing.

#1 Track Racing

Consider the Kentucky Derby. The horses make up the actual race, but spectators are cared for by the racetrack. On-track racing styles include:

1a – Flat Races on Dirt

These races are centered solely on speed and provide quicker race times than comparable distances on grass or turf.

  • Typical Distance(s): Between 2 and 12 furlongs
    • A furlong is ⅛ of a mile
  • Average Speeds: 30 to 40 MPH
  • Breeds: Most commonly, Thoroughbreds or Quarter Horses
    • Thoroughbreds typically race 5-12 furlongs
    • Quarter horses compete in races of two furlongs (14 miles), thus their name.

1b – Flat Races on Turf

The only difference between these races and dirt races is the track surface, which may be grass or synthetic turf. Bigger Thoroughbred tracks in the United States typically have dirt races along the outside of the track and turf races on the inside.

  • Typical Distance(s): Similar to flat racing on dirt
  • Average Speeds: 30 to 40 MPH
  • Breeds: Most commonly, Thoroughbreds
    • Arabians compete on courses dedicated to their breed.

Horse track racing on turf

Track racing on turf. Photo Cred: Canva

1c – Steeplechase

Steeplechasing is characterized by racing over obstacles such as ditches and hedges.

Steeplechasing got its name from its beginnings in Ireland, when horsemen would race from town to town using church steeples (the most prominent landmark) as starting and finishing markers.

  • Typical Distance(s): 3,000 meters, or 1.875 miles
  • Average Speeds: 30 to 40 MPH
  • Breeds: Thoroughbreds dominate this sport!
    • Several tracks allow steeplechasing without requiring a specified breed.

1d – Harness Racing

Horses race at a trot or a pace (lateral gait), with a driver in a two-wheeled carriage called a sulky following after them.

  • Typical Distance(s): ½ mile, ⅝ mile, and 1 mile
  • Average Speeds: Horses can reach speeds of 30 mph!
  • Breeds: Standardbreds

Harness horse racing

Harness racing. Photo Cred: Canva

#2 Endurance Racing

Consider it similar to a long-distance horse race, such as a trail marathon.

  • Typical Distance(s): The event begins at 25 miles and often lasts 50 or 100 kilometers.
  • Average Speeds: 7 mph due to extreme length and terrain
  • Breeds: Any breed may participate, although Arabians dominate the sport.

Arabian horse galloping

Arabian. Photo Cred: Canva

Do you want to know more? Check out this endurance video:

#3 Contesting Events

These races pit speed and agility against the time in an arena. You’ll find contesting events at your local 4-H show all the way up to national, breed shows like the Quarter Horse Congress.

Barrel racing and pole bending are two common competitive activities.

  • Typical Distance(s): Very short: These events take place in an arena
    • Barrel racing entails maneuvering three barrels that are 90 feet apart.
  • Average Speeds: Horses can reach speeds of 55 mph!
  • Breeds: Although 4-H and municipal exhibitions are available to any breed, breed shows are plainly specialized to one breed.

Barrel horse racing

Barrel racing. Photo Cred: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is World Cup Driving? What kind of horses are used for driving races?

World Cup Driving is a carriage driving competition. While warmbloods and Morgans are popular, this is not for a particular breed. Do you want a greater illustration than words can provide?

Q: What breed is most commonly used for children’s racing?

Shetland Ponies are often utilized in children’s racing.

Q: Is a Thoroughbred faster than an Arabian?

While it varies on the distance, Thoroughbreds are often faster, followed by Quarter Horses and Arabians.

Q: What breed of horse is most prevalent in racing events?

Thoroughbreds are often the most popular race horses.

Q: What is the best type of horse for racing?

This question is entirely dependent on the kind of racing you wish to perform! Make sure the horse is sound, fit, and capable of doing the event you’re aiming for.

Parting Thoughts

Every breed has something they’re good at, just like every rider has something they enjoy. Horses and racing have been inextricably linked since horses were domesticated.

Racing is an excellent method to put a horse’s and rider’s talents to the test while having fun in a competitive setting.

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Related Questions

  • What horse breed is used for racing?


    The Thoroughbred horse breed was created for horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbred horses are “hot-blooded” horses recognized for their agility, speed, and energy.

  • What breed of horse runs the Kentucky Derby?

    Thoroughbred horses

    The Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes event for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses.

  • What types of horses race?

    Flat racing breeds include the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Paint, and Appaloosa. Thoroughbred and AQPS are two jump racing breeds. In harness racing, Standardbreds are used in Australia, New Zealand and North America, when in Europe, Russian and French Trotter are used with Standardbred.

  • Are race horses bred?

    To be registered as a Thoroughbred, a foal must be the product of a “live cover,” meaning a witnessed natural mating of a stallion and a mare. Despite artificial insemination and embryo transfer are legal and frequent in other horse breeds, they are prohibited in Thoroughbreds.

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