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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Torture Device Tuesday

Now, I don't know for sure, but this fellow does not look too comfortable. I know very little about harness racing, but this sure looks like a lot of hardware on this guy. I can see that the blinders are operated on pulleys so they can be engaged or disengaged according to the situation. I get that, really. But I cannot for the life of me figure out what all that hardware in his mouth is meant to do. Anyone care to explain for the rest of the class?


  1. Yikes! Have no idea what all that could be for or why it could not be simplified!

  2. Bit and overcheck bit --- the overcheck keeps the horse from putting his head down too low. Looks like there are also leather pieces on the side of the bits to keep them from being pulled through his mouth. Looks like he has 2 overcheck bits, which is odd --- the overchecks are attached to the straps that run up the middle of his face. I've never seen the sliding eye cups before.

  3. Wow! He really does look uncomfortable. It looks as if he has a regular over check bit and then his regular bit is also arranged to be an overcheck bit as well. Chain mouthpiece too? I've heard of the adjustable eye cups before but never actually seen them. Looks like the ear wear is for muffling noise rather than fly protection. Poor guy.

  4. Good heavens, he looks uncomfortable! The pivoting blinders are interesting, but I'd think seeing that thing moving on its own accord to block his vision would probably freak the horse out more.

  5. Wow. With all that stuff on his head it is no wonder he is having a hard time keepiing it up. The real wonder here is how the poor thing doesn't just topple over from all that gear on his dome. Look he fell asleep from the exertion of the herculean effort required to keep his nose off the ground.

  6. There has to be a simpler way to bit this poor fellow. Overkill on all fronts.

  7. Harness racers do wear a lot of stuff, but this guy's head gear is pretty extreme. Wait until you see one with double headpoles (one on each side). Don't forget the hopples, hopple hangers, suspenders, knee boots, stud support (I kid you not)... Cleaning all of that is a royal PITA.

  8. scaequestrian- I do believe you have a bridle that has been won. Congrats. Please e-mail me with your shipping address to sydney(AT)

  9. This is harness racing?! I thought it was some poor Amish man and his draft horse. Yikes! And the manual blinders look like they'd whack him in the eye if someone tried to pull them down. I've never been a fan of harness racing to begin with... I've always felt like the jockeys are holding themselves upright with the reins.

  10. IT always amuses me to see the comments of those who are just too smart for the rest of the world. He doesn't look Uncomfortable to me. He looks asleep. Or maybe he JUST BLINKED!! sheesh. Heavy? Have you ever held a dressage double?? Especially the ones with brass buckles AND brass keepers? Uh, yeah, *those* are heavy.

    The basics, since I don' have the time to analyze the whole photo, and I'm not a stb trainer. The rhyme and reason of *every* available item is not at my fingertips.

    Over checks help keep the horse "on gait" in as much that horses use their necks differently to canter/gallop than they do to trot/pace. If they can drop the head, it's pretty easy to break gait. Some do go without, some go in just a strap under the chin, instead of a check bit in the mouth.

    Bits in general... Well, that does *look* like alot of hardware, and I'm guessing he likes to pull a bit. Do note that the extra strap on that bit transfers some pressure to the nose and OFF the tongue and bars.

    Don't forget you don't sit ON a STB, you sit in the cart. Whole different ball game when you are deprived of your wieght and legs, going at a high rate of speed. Even a 2 minute mile is pretty f'ing fast. Still, I don't know what the MOUTH PEICE looks like. I reserve judgement until I see that, but I really don't think that chain is the whole mouth, just a means of connection to the cheeks.

    The blinds are for those horses that *should* see some things, and *should NOT* see others. They are used to them before they race in them, thier function is hardly a surprise.

    The chain on the 'race cavesson' is unusual in my experience, but it's hardly adjusted too tight. It's no worse than a DQ strapping her Pookiekin's mouth shut with a "padded" cavesson and a flash strap. (oh, but she stuffs his mouth with sugar, so it's ok)

    And so WHAT if the 'hat" is for muffling noise?? Virtually EVERY hunter on the circuit is shown with ear plugs. You just can't see them...

    Drivers DO NOT hold themselves up with the lines. Dear GOD. If they did, one false move and they are in the dirt.

    yes. cleaning all that is a PITA. Which is why I prefer Sales preps when it comes to STB's. Less trouble. But strangely, still plenty of laundry!

    Maybe a trip to the track is in order for some of you. LEARN about it before you trash it, please! I'm a dyed in the wool hunter princess, and I love the track and my STB "kiddies". Cant friggin WAIT to get back to work on this year's Yearlings and studying "The Black Book" untill I've got it memorized.

  11. Pat - thanks for a voice of REASON.

    JOCKEYS ride thoroughbreds (& sometimes quarter horses).

    Standardbreds (both pacers & trotters) pull racebikes piloted by DRIVERS.

    I've had STB pacers for years; one of my best-ever riding horses was a mare who made $137,000.+ in her 5-6 year career. She also produced two stakes winning colts who went on to be monsters on the track. I still have her, still ride her, & still love her.

    What we (my partner & I) call the 'witches hat' should be properly put on underneath the race halter & the bridle.

    And yes, it is to muffle sound as some horses can't handle the noise of racenights - some are distracted by it, some are just stressed. Some horses wear sponge earplugs instead to block out sound; sometimes these are 'pulled' by the driver at the appropriate time for the individual horse.

    I've never actually seen THESE blinders used; it would be interesting to know where this horse is racing?

    I have see all manner of other blinders though - can't-see-backs, one-sided blinders, one-sided with a hole in the middle, cups, cups on masks, mud screens... there's probably more, but not that we've used in our barn.

    Harness horses do indeed wear a lot of equipment - but not all equipment is used on all horses!

    The way a horse is 'rigged' is entirely individual and good trainers figure out what each horse does & doesn't need.

    ALL equipment that a horse wears is reported and checked before each race by the paddock judge; no changes may be made (added or removed) without the proper notification form being received by the paddock judge by a pre-set time.

    "Poor guy" my ass...
    MOST (notice I said MOST) stb barns treat their horses like gold!

    These horses are exercised 6 out of 7 days (and usually walked in hand on the 7th day), bathed after workouts, blanketed or sheeted, wrapped, rubbed, bandaged, poulticed, pampered and loved on several hours a day.

    They have their feet tended by farriers specializing in stbs and their specific needs every 4-5 weeks. Ask any farrier who has real experience/knowledge of stb race shoeing and he'll tell you how good you have to be to do them.

    These horses are regularly given expert care by vets who specialize in horses in general, and racehorses in particular. There is more money spent on preventative medicine than anything.

    These horses have massages, chiropractic care, laser light therapy, and almost anything else you can think of for their benefit.

    They are fed a generous diet of high quality feed, always have a full bucket of clean water, and sleep most of their careers in a comfortable barn - warm in winter & cool in summer.

    And yes, we do it all in HOPES that they will race well and make money. But I can tell you more people go broke trying than ever get rich, so don't go thinking that money is the chief motivating factor in the horse industry. The majority of us do it for the absolute joy and love of the horse, that noblest of beasts. Just go ahead and ask around any racetrack - if you averaged out the hours worked for the pay received, you'd know for sure, it ain't just about the money!

    Don't feel sorry for my stb racehorses please, they are much better cared for than are a lot of children in this world!

    And when they retire from racing, stb's in general are EASILY retrained to other disciplines. There are stb's in the dressage ring, the hunter/jumper world, endurance, competitive trail, and any other field of pursuit you can mention.

    Sorry if this sounded more like a rant..... but I do passionately love my horses & my sport - it's kind of hard not to be defensive when people who don't have a real understanding are so quick to slag the sport and the people in it.

  12. first of all I would like to stress, that I don't think all harness-racing people are cruel, and torture their horses. but there are some, who do, and those are the ones that create an awful image of the sport.

    I am not involved in the sport personally, but if somebody uses devices that scream "pain!", I don't care how much they pamper their horses outside the track. they are evil!

    just look at this Finnish "catalogue" of various bits and other devices used in harness racing. there is a part that I see is reasonable, but some are plain painful!

    and don't tell me there is a sensible reason to use some of those things on a living horse!

  13. pampered, venom? I give you pampered!!

    I was sitting in the parking lot at the Meadowlands and struck up a conversation with another shipper waiting about. He hauled Money Maker a time or two. She didn't like to "share" so her owner would pay the rate for the WHOLE truck to insure that she'd be happy. That means 4 times what it should have cost him.

    That .pdf wouldn't load, so I can't comment on it. But seriously, it is NO better to pat yourself on the back for using a "padded" noseband on a "dressage" horse but to also use a crank cavesson and a tight flash strap. Just because there's a fat, hi-tech "german silber" bit in his mouth, it doesn't make it right.

    LEARN ABOUT it before you trash it. Please. I have been in MANY MANY different types of barns, from arabs, to Big Lick TWH's, dressage/eventing, as well as my preferred h/j. I've stood in the paddock at The Meadowlands and Freehold, and just *watched*. I like to think I know a bit about it all.

    There are bad apples in ALL SPORTS.

  14. I wonder if this is a training bridle rather than a racing bridle? That might be why the blinders can be turned down.

    I have also seen the earcovers to muffle noise. They sometimes use them in mounted shooting as well, because sometimes the ear poofs (sheepskin balls tucked down in the horse's ears) can fall out and custom earplugs can be expensive.

    It just seems like a lot of gear to correct x problem and y problem or whatever... I don't understand much beyond classical dressage methods to train, though, no matter ewaht breed (I have gaited horses). To me if you have to use all kinds of gadgets and gimmicks and use pain to keep a horse in line, then how is that really worth it? But it's the industries themselves--more money if the horse does this or that and a younger and younger age, so we have to use quick fixes. And unfortunately, I doubt it will ever end.