Horse racing thrives in the United States, though it originated in Central Asia in 4500 BC. Horse racing involves human riders, known as jockeys, saddling a horse, and riding it along a track, trying to reach the finish line before any other horse and jockey do. Jockeys and horses need to wear specialized equipment for safety and effectiveness. Horse racing is one of the most unique sports in the world, and it has a unique set of equipment, so let's dive in!
A lot of different equipment goes into horse racing. To be a professional horse racing jockey, many things are required to allow you to ride quickly and safely. Things like reins, whips, crops, and blinker hoods allow jockeys to get horses to run faster. Saddles, stirrups, and helmets allow the jockey to be safer and more secure while riding. Finish lines, starting gates, and tracks are all necessary for a race to stay on course and be well-organized.
The main reason horse racing equipment is unique from that of other sports is because it requires equipment for two separate beings: a horse and a human! Horse racing includes an animal working alongside a human, so it requires a lot more equipment than a typical sport would.
While attending a horse race, it is common for fans to dress up and/or look nice. While fans dress differently for certain races, belts are almost always part of the fashion. Most of the belts that people choose to wear are leather and can have designs on them that could be things like horses or the name of the race they are at. These belts typically cost anywhere from $30 to $60. Jockeys also wear belts sometimes to keep their uniforms in place, but are not always needed.
A bit is a metal piece that goes into the horse's mouth and is used to make communication easier between the jockey and their horse. The bit is part of the bridle, and the jockey can connect with the horse using this via the reins. Bits are not mandatory as some trainors will not want something in the horse's mouth, but are permitted because if used correctly they will not harm the horse. Depending on how big of a bit you buy for your horse, it can cost anywhere from $30 to $70.
Blinker hoods are similar to facemasks that are worn by horses during a race. Blinker hoods or "blinkers" are used because they cover the horses ears and part of their eyes, allowing them to only see forward and not off to the side or backwards. These are used mainly to calm the horses down and keep them focused on the race. If horses look to the side they could get distracted, and covering their ears prevents them from hearing the crowd, which could startle them. Keeping the horses calm and focused is very important for jockeys and trainers, so blinkers are extremely useful, but typically cost $60 to $100.
Having the correct boot on while riding a horse is very important because it will help you keep your leg positioning in the right place. A riding boot is specially designed for use while riding a horse, while paddock boots are typically only worn while walking around the facilities when not riding. Riding boots are typically longer and go up higher on the leg so that the saddle does not pinch the rider's leg, while paddock boots are typically more comfortable and have a thicker sole. Either boot will typically cost the user around $200 to $300.
The bridle is placed around the horse's face and holds other pieces of equipment on with it. The bridle is attached to the bit in the mouth and the reins on the outside. Jockeys hold onto the reins, and the bridle is what keeps everything connected. This is used to restrict the horse's movements when necessary and helps to keep the horse under control, and costs around $60.
Chaps are a piece of equipment worn on the legs of riders to protect their legs. Chaps originated with early cowboys and anyone who rode horses a lot, and are used today with any jockey or horse rider. Chaps are typically made of leather and are worn over a pair of suitable pants to protect the riders legs from ropeburn, cuts, or anything else that could hurt their legs while riding. Chaps typically cost around $40 to $60.
A crop is a type of whip used by jockeys during races to make the horses move faster. The difference between crops and whips is that crops are shorter and do not have a lash. They are simply a shaft that has a thick handle and a piece of leather on the end where it contacts the horse. Crops might be used instead of a whip because they take less time to control and can be used with only a flick of the wrist, requiring less effort from the rider and allowing them to keep better balance. Crops are also one of the more inexpensive pieces of equipment in horse racing, costing about $10 to $30.
Face masks are worn by horses for many reasons, but the main reason being to protect their faces and eyes from insects such as flies or mosquitoes. The mask covers all of the horse's face, but the material it is made of still allows them to see through it. These typically cost about $20 or $30 each. Most horses will not want to put on a face mask, but will be alright with it once they realize that they can see through it. The masks also sometimes cover their ears to quiet any distracting noises.
The finish line is where every horse race ends, and it is the goal of the sport to get your horse to the finish line first. The line stretches across the entire track and can be crossed from anywhere on the track, and it is deemed that the first horse to have it's nose cross the finish line is the winner. The finish line will be varying distances/laps away from the start line depending on how long of a race it is, but the goal remains the same: cross the finish line first!
Training forks, also known as running martingales, are used to limit how high a horse can lift its head while running. This is beneficial when your horse tosses its head or carries its neck too high. Forks are connected to the reins and hang down around the horse's neck, and the length of the fork will determine how high a horse can lift its head. Forks typically cost around $25.
A girth is a piece of equipment that is used to keep the saddle on a horse in place. It is attached to the saddle billets (the metal buckles) on each side of the horse, and passes under the barrel of the equine. Keeping the saddle in place is important so the jockey can be firmly mounted on the horse with no issues. Overgirths are also commonly used over a single girth to provide even more security for the saddle, showing just how important this is to riders. These are very important, but can cost around $100.
Gloves are worn by jockeys to protect their hands and to give them a better grip while riding. Gloves are not mandatory for jockeys to wear, but many jockeys will choose to wear gloves when there is bad or cold weather to ensure their grip on the reins is not affected. Some jockeys prefer to wear gloves all the time, but it is up to each individual jockey to choose what to do. If you want to buy gloves, they can cost around $15.
Goggles are worn by every jockey during a race and are used to protect their eyes from anything that will fly up at them while they ride. Goggles protect jockeys from bugs and any dirt or gravel that is kicked up by the horses in front of them. Goggles are mandatory for every jockey to wear during a race, and depending on the quality of goggles they buy they can cost $10 to $40 per pair.
Halters are similar to bridles, but do not have a bit on them. Halters are used for handling horses around the stables and the facilities when they are not being ridden. They are used to guide the horses while walking next to them to make sure they go to the right place. Flipping halters are also used inside the starting gates and are attached to the horses to prevent them from flipping over in the gate. These typically cost around $40 to $70 dollars each.
A harness is a piece of equipment that goes over the horse and is connected to most other pieces of equipment on a horse such as the reins, saddle, and leads. Harnesses are also used to connect horses to any horse-drawn vehicles such as wagons or carriages. Some harnesses cost around $100, but prices can get up to around $200.
Helmet covers are worn by jockeys over their helmets. These are accessories that are used by jockeys so everyone can tell who is who during a race, and typically cost around $20. The covers will often be solid colors, but can have designs like dots or stripes on them. The helmet cover's color will almost always match the color that the horse is wearing for the race, and is a great way for fans to see where each jockey is during the race.
Helmets, also known as skullcaps, are mandatory for each jockey to wear during a race. Helmets provide extremely important protection of the rider's heads during a race and are worn in case they fall off of the horse. Falling off the horse is very dangerous because of the speed horses run at, the impact of the ground, and the horses possibly running behind you. Wearing a helmet is always very important, especially during horse races. Helmets can get expensive, costing anywhere from $200 to $500, but are essential for racing.
In horse racing, the horses are the stars of the show. These are the animals used in the races and are typically raised specifically to race. They will practice all their life to get ready to race and once they are of age and ready to go, their trainers and owners will enter them in races to compete against other horses. Horse's careers usually end after a few years or after injuries, but a typical career only lasts a few years. Horses can be bred from other horses that are owned, or bought from other horse owners. Buying a racehorse is very expensive. Horses can cost a wide range of prices, but will typically cost from $40,000 to $60,000.
Horseshoes are metal pieces of equipment that are designed to be worn on the bottom of each hoof of a horse. They are designed to prevent the hooves from wear and damage, and although they are not mandatory to wear, basically every race horse has them on. Race horses can develop cracks in their hooves, and wearing horseshoes is a great way to prevent this. They do not slow down the horse, so there are only benefits to wearing them, and they only cost about $15.
While the horses might be the stars of the show in racing, the jockeys are the ones controlling them. During a race, a jockey will ride on top of the horse in the saddle and will control the direction of the horse. Jockeys also use their whip to get the horse to speed up and use the reins to pull them in or slow them down. Speed and direction control is a very important part of a jockey's job. Jockeys are also typically short and very light weight in order to get the least amount of weight as possible on the horse so as to not slow them down.
Whips are used by jockeys to get their horses to speed up during crucial points of a race. When coming down the stretch approaching the finish line, it is common for a jockey to whip the horse to make them run faster and focus. While this is frowned upon by many people, it is part of the sport and jockeys can only use certain whips. Horses also have very thick and resilient skin, allowing them to absorb the hits for the most part. Whips can cost anywhere from $40 to $70.
A lead is used to guide a horse from place to place. The lead is usually attached to the halter and is handled by whoever is leading the horse. The horse will follow often at a walking pace and a lead is used when the horse is not being ridden. They are great ways to keep horses under control and prevent them from running away from their trainer or whoever is walking with them. Leads typically cost between $60 and $100.
Leggings, also known as breeches, are worn as pants by jockeys during races. The main reason why jockeys wear leggings is because they protect against any skin irritation or cuts to the leg that could be obtained while riding. Most jockeys have multiple pairs of racing breeches that come in different weights. The weight of them is extremely important because jockeys always try to put as little weight on their horse as possible, and every gram counts, as some pairs of leggings weigh as little as 50 grams. They also cost around $25 to $40 per pair.
In horse racing, a noseband is worn as part of the bridle that surrounds the nose and jaw of the horse. Nosebands are typically used on horses that carry their heads too high or too awkwardly. When a horse sticks its head in the air, the noseband blocks their view, forcing them to put their head back down in the right position. Nosebands also help to keep the horse's mouth closed and force them to breathe through their nose, which is preferred. Nosebands will cost around $50.
Pants are very similar to leggings and breeches in horse racing. Pants are worn by every jockey to cover up their legs and protect them during a race. Each pant has durable elastic leggings that are worn tightly around the jockey's legs. Every jockey must be wearing pants during a race as shorts are not allowed. These pants will cost jockeys $50 to $80 dollars.
The reins are part of the bridle and are connected to the bit in the horse's mouth. Reins are controlled by the jockey and are used to control the horse's directional movements. They are typically made of leather or whatever the rest of the bridle may be made of. They are useful because they help the jockey steer the horse and slow it down when needed. If you buy the reins by themselves, they will typically cost $40.
Saddle towels serve many purposes for each horse in a race. Saddle towels are inserted under the saddle and hang down the side of the horses. Each saddle towel is a different color and shows the post position the horse began at. They are a great way for everyone to be able to tell which horse is which while they are racing. Saddle towels are also used as pads for the horses to help absorb sweat and to cushion the saddle to protect the horse's back. These are inexpensive, costing $10 to $20.
A saddle is the leather seat that jockeys sit on while riding their horse. The saddle is placed on the horse's back and the jockey mounts themselves on top of it for the entire race. Some jockeys may slightly stand up while riding, but if they fall off the saddle or the horse they are disqualified from the race. Saddles for racehorses are typically very light as to not hurt the horses and not to slow them down. New saddles can be found for around $500, but will often be low quality at that price. Custom made saddles are the common way to go and can cost thousands of dollars.
A seat cover is an accessory used to protect a rider's saddle. A seat over, or saddle cover, is a piece of fabric (typically nylon) that is shaped like a saddle and is used to keep your saddle clean and in shape while it is not in use. It is useful for keeping dust, dirt, and debris off your saddle to keep it in top shape. Saddles are expensive, so you want to buy a good one and keep it for as long as you can, and a seat cover is a great way to make your saddle last, and they only cost about $20.
A skivvy is a microfiber or mesh piece of clothing worn by jockeys underneath their skills. The skills are colors of the uniforms that the jockeys wear to represent their horse during a race. Skivvies are placed underneath them and are worn at all times during races and practices by every jockey. They will tend to wear more lightweight skivvies during a race and heavier ones during practice. These typically cost $50 to $70.
A spur is a metal piece of equipment that is worn on the heel of riding boots. One spur is located on the back of each heel. The main purpose of spurs is to direct the horse while riding them. They are mainly used for lateral and forward movements that need to be made and are typically used as a backup to other kinds of commands such as voice commands and hand commands. Spurs look like a disk with sharp points sticking out of many sides of it, and cost around $40 on average.
Staring gates are where each horse is placed before a race. The starting gate is located at the start line and the race does not begin until every horse is in and settled in their gate. When the race begins, each horse's gate door will open at the same time and the horses run immediately. This is a pivotal part of the race as getting a bad start out of the gate will put the horse in a bad position, especially in larger races. The starting gate is lined up horizontally across the track so each horse starts on the same line and is a good way to keep the animals organized.
A stirrup is used to support the rider in getting onto the horse and staying stable while on the horse. Stirrups hang down from the saddle and are used by riders to hook their feet into to help them get up onto the horse. One stirrup hangs down from each side of the saddle so the rider can get on from either side and so it can support both feet once they are on the horse. Many stirrups are made of stainless steel because of its strength, but inexpensive ones are made from aluminium or nickel. Cheaper stirrups will cost around $40 to $60, but can be purchased at a higher quality for $100 to $200.
A sulky is a lightweight cart that is pulled by horses during harness races. The cart typically has two wheels and a seat for the driver. Harness racing is when horses race like normal, except instead of jockeys on their backs they are pulling them in a cart; that cart is known as a sulky. The sulky is attached to the horse with a harness and is certainly light enough for a horse to pull and still move quickly. These cost thousands of dollars, typically in the $2000 to $5000 range.
Tracks are the surface that the horses race on. The most common kind of track is a dirt track, but horses around the world also race on turf tracks and synthetic tracks. Dirt tracks are by far the most common track found around the world, with turf tracks as the second most common. Synthetic tracks are not very common as they are the most expensive. Dirt tracks are the cheapest options and easiest to deal with, but are not the best option for poor weather. Some horses only race on specific kinds of tracks, but most can run on any track.
Vests are a piece of equipment that jockeys wear to protect themselves while riding their horse. Vests provide padding on the jockey's upper body that mainly protects their chest and ribs in case they fall off of their horse at any point. Falling during a race is extremely dangerous, so vests have been mandatory to wear since 1998. Even before that, many jockeys would wear them, but it became a rule just to ensure the safety of the jockeys. Vests typically cost $100 to $300, but are an essential piece of equipment.
A yoke is a piece of equipment worn by each horse that is placed around the front of their necks and is worn on the front of their bodies. Yokes serve three purposes: the first is to stop the saddle from slipping back too far, the second is to provide the rider with a strap to grab when necessary, and the third is to provide an anchor point for a running attachment. The yoke connects to the saddle and with its many purposes is used by almost every jockey. These cost around $20 to $40 on average.
As you now know, horse racing requires a lot of equipment! But if you could only have five items, these are the ones to make sure you have.
Horse racing is not a cheap sport; buying all of the equipment possible would cost you over a thousand dollars, as long as you exclude the cost of a horse. Buying a horse that will compete professionally could set you back over $40,000; it's a good thing professional jockeys do not own the horses they ride! A lot of the equipment you may use for horse racing can be rented or purchased used, especially things like jockey whips or stirrups. Look for good deals before you purchase anything, but make sure anything you purchase used is still in good condition!