Site hosted by Build your free website today!

RUS Tips

Racing Under Saddle Riders & Owners Association


RUSROA Home Page
Free Web Building Help
Angelfire HTML Library
htmlGEAR - free polls, guestbooks, and more!


Bridgett Nappi, Donielle Hall and Jamie Coffy

The Racing Under Saddle Riders & Owners Association RUS Tips Book

September 2000

The History of RUS

Standardbreds have been raced under saddle since the early 19th century. Most all trot races were done under saddle in this early stage of, "trotting horses". Sulkies where not used until the 1830’s and 1840’s. Most harness horses were even match raced with horses riden under saddle. The fist recorded speed record was an unofficial time set in 1806. The speedy mile of 2:59 was set by the American trotter, Yankee. In 1845 a horse by the name of Lady Suffolk, broke that record mile with a time of 2:29.5. Traditionally, trotters were used. Trotters have also set most of todays record miles, even with pacers being faster and more commen. This may be because most pacers wear hopples.

The best of the riders exhibited good judgement, strength and stamana. The riders asked their trotters to extend to their maximum abilites, but not push them off their gait. The riders had to also know the difference between a true "puller", and a horse that was "on the bit." The weight of the rider did not matter as much as the balance of the rider and his ablity to keep the horse on stride and his weight off of the horses back.

Hirman Woodruff, was one of the first horseman to take an interest in racing under saddle. His family intended for him to learn a trade and Woodruff was from a family of horseman. It has been said that, "the young lad had the “call to the horse”, like that of a trumpet to the trooper when it sounds the “boots to the saddle”."

When Woodruff was only ten years old he sat in the saddle of the trotter, Top Gallant. That was only the beginning of his career in racing under saddle. Hunting Park in Philadelphia, PA. was the location of his first race. When he reached his teen years, Woodruff was winning races at great distances. Lady Suffolk, Rattler, and Awful, were trotters that helped him achieve his racing under saddle fame. His most famous ride was on Dexter, the most dominant trotter for the eara.

Early match races put a horse in harness up against horses that were under saddle. Woodruff stated that, “when a horse is clever under the saddle, it is a better and faster way of going than in harness; yet there are many horses as fast in harness as they are under the saddle “.

In early days it was proper to break trotters to saddle and ride them along country roads. The trotters were known to travel as far as twenty miles per day at a walk in the early days. Trainers soon learned that this type of work was hard on the horses bodies, and their minds.

. There are several reasons why trotting under saddle lost its popularity, and the trotting horse in harness became the preferred mode of transportation. The refinement of the Standardard breed parallels the development of the United States. As the roads became wider and smoother, and the need to establish develop settlements further west became necessary, it was found that driving longer distances was much more comfortable than riding. There were also more people that could drive rather than ride and they could transport more of their belongings in a wagon as they settled west. Match races in harness came into vogue amongst the wealthy and before long trotters under saddle became a thing of the past. It was’t until 1940 that the incomparable Greyhound thrilled spectators with an astonishing feat under saddle with the gifted horsewoman Frances Dodge Johnson. The pair stopped the timer in 2:01 3/4 over the historic Red Mile . In one of his most brilliant exhibitions of his career, Greyhound shattered the previous milestone of 2:05 1/4, set by Hollyrood Boris and his rider, Miss Helen James. Besides the pari-mutuel venues that will be entertaining of the USTA Boots And Saddles-Racing Under Saddle Late Closing Series, riders can compete in other Racing Under Saddle (RUS) events offered for both trotters and pacers at numerous county fairs across the Midwest. When first conceived of, the United States Trotting Association hoped the Boots and Saddle Series would serve three purposes: to create a new and exciting form of Standardbred racing, give women a wider involvement in the sport, and provide another non-traditional competitive outlet for this multi-talented equine. The series has done all of that and more. One of the most positive aspects of the series is its appeal to women, a segment of the population under-represented as trainers and drivers in the sport. The majority of Boots and Saddles riders are women that have years of experience with Standardbreds. All prospective riders must take a written "open book" exam that covers the guidelines set forth by the United States Trotting Association. First time participants in RUS events must either have a reference from an established rider, or a satisfactory workout before a licensed judge. The success of the Boots and saddles Series contributed to the creation of the Standardbred Equestrian Program (SEP) in 1995, whose goals are to promote the Standardbred in all disciplines, whether it's driving, roadster classes, dressage, trail riding, jumping, pleasure riding or barrel racing. Aimed at increasing public knowledge of the Standardbred and its variety of post or second career possibilities, SEP has a division for youth and adults to accommodate its diverse members. Finally, across the country, trotters and pacers, from free-for allers to claimers, will once again be encouraged to show off their skill under saddle. Some will alternate under saddle events with their more traditional "day jobs" of harness racing. P> Trotters have set most of the record-breaking times in the United States. In 1994, Brooke Nickells guided Preferential under saddle to record breaking mile of 1:58.4m.

In 2000, the World Champion mare, Moni Maker broke Preferential’s record mile of 1:58.1. Julie Krone, who was the only woman to ride a winning horse in the Triple Crown, rode the mare. She was also the first female jockey elected to the thoroughbred racing’s hall of fame in 2000.

However, the pacing horse, Highly Rated, has set many records on 1/2 mile tracks. He was owned and trainde by Darla Conklin. His 2:00 record stands at many 12 mile tracks in Ohio and surrounding areas. Today, most RUS mounts will be pacers.

The official “Boots and Saddle Series”, began in 1995 in the United States. The first official race was held at Hoosier Horse Park, in Anderson, Indiana. The series boasted purse races of $15,000. Half of the purse was put up by the track, while the other half was put up by the USTA. The USTA hoped that wagering would be introduced or sponsorships at the corporate level would take over the payment of purse races.

The series was cancelled in 1998, and the USTA was no longer a financial backer to the sport. Several dedicated groups continued to promote the RUS events. In Ohio, the Racing Under Saddle Riders & Owners Association was formed. It is a totally financial self-supportive organization. Several tracks and fairs continued the sport.

RUS is still licensed through the United States Trotting Association. All horses that race under saddle must be registered Standardbreds who are at least three years old. There is no other age requirements for horses. All horses must have current eligibilities for RUS. These may be obtained through the USTA.

Rider’s must also be licensed through the USTA and be current members. All first time licensee must apply for a Special license. This requires you to take an open book test and have several recommendations from people in the riding industry. This tips book and How to Pass the USTA Driver & Trainer TEST, by Todd Meerdink, are excellent reading for the test.

In this racing under saddle tips book we are going to discuss many topics that should help you in your racing under saddle event. This includes horse selection, care, problem solving and many other topics. In this tips book you will find other recommended reading.

RUS has not yet been fine tuned to the point that there is only one set way to do things. Many other areas of riding have contributed to the way things are done. It is most important to understand harness racing, and adapt your riding skills to work with traditional harness racing. The main thing to consider in this sport is the safety of all that is involved.

It is very important that you know and understand the sport of harness racing and the art of riding. It is wise to ask questions and observe trained professionals. Also be familiar with the rules, guidelines and regulations of all associations involved.


When selecting a potential RUS mount the goal is an athletic racehorse that, with proper care, stays physically and mentally sound while you pursue racing events with him.

First, especially when viewing aged horses, try to target horses that have proven their long-term soundness through their own lifetime achievements. This can be seen through their harness racing career.

Consider the pedigree, but remember not to overlook the individual. Aged horses are a good choice when you consider that they have already established good racing manners. For example, they have already learned how to properly come off of the gate and race, ignoring distractions on the track, and putting out all of the speed of which they are capable.

Durability is important and should not be replaced by priorities such as speed. Durability especially matters if the horse you choose for RUS will be your only horse. Your athletic partner will need to hold up to the wear and tear of the race season. The horse should also be a game one that will give his best when you ask, one with the heart and desire of a racehorse. Heart or a sense of competition is a factor that he must already possess. It can not be developed.

Racing demands total effort. Most horses with a lot of successful starts behind them are typically race-sound. If it is close to race season keep in mind that a horse with five starts since a lay off is possibly a better choice than one with 20-30 starts since his last vacation. A fresher horse can have the edge on the others. Another good pick on a budget may be the individual whose career blossomed late. A maiden racehorse has a world of potential, but be sure to assess him as well as possible. Athletic attitude means a desire to excel and accelerate! A consistent record may be a sign of such courage. Check out current and lifetime earnings.

Pacers are most commonly chosen for RUS events, and much of the content in this tip book will deal with pacers, although many things apply to either gait. Size is another consideration. Larger Standardbreds seem more suitable for RUS competition. Rugged, strapping individuals can pack a rider with less overall effort. Substance, such as the thickness, length, and depth of bone muscle and size of hooves are very important. Substance of bone refers to adequacy of the bone to weight ratio. Traditionally, the circumference around the cannon bone just below the knee serves as the measurement for substance of bone. For riding horses, an adequate ratio is approximately 0.7 inches of bone for every 100 pounds of body weight. These larger horses should still be refined as a big heavy coarse horse may beak down under the demand for speed. A substantial horse that is refined and athletic is the best choice. Big Towner is the author’s favorite example of this.

Conformation, a major factor in the soundness of the limbs, often determines the useful lifetime of the horse. Physical flaws contribute to unsoundness, but very few horses have perfect conformation. The famous stallion, Abercrombie, possessed action that was very efficient-due to his excellent physical type and it allowed him to over-achieve. He is known as one of the most correct Standardbreds in history. The dynamics of equine locomotion are influenced by a myriad of factors from health and nutrition to training, fitness and conformation. Remember that conformation is the one aspect that cannot be altered.

Some say the best conformation is speed. In RUS speed is important, but over the long term durability must still be stressed. The best combination for any racehorse is good conformation, speed and heart.


First assess the horse’s overall balance. All of the parts should look like they belong on the same horse. One method of determining balance is dividing the horse’s body into three equal parts. Do this by drawing a vertical line from the point of the elbow to the top of the stifle. Next draw a line from the point of the shoulder to the center of the stifle-it should be parallel to the ground. Stand back and evaluate balance from a distance-get the total picture.

A horse’s center of gravity is located near the forehand, so the limbs bear 60% to 65% of the body’s weight. Realize that the RUS horse will also need to factor its rider’s weight into the equation. Center of gravity alone causes an increased number of lameness in the forelimbs. For this reason, horses that “run downhill” (taller over the croup than the withers) are additionally disadvantaged under saddle.

Although the center of gravity remains relatively constant when a well-balanced horse moves, most horses must learn to rebalance their weight, and that of the rider and tack, when being ridden. To simply pick up a front food and step forward, the horse must shift his weight toward the rear.

If the horse’s forehand and hindquarters are balanced and the withers are level with or higher than the level of the croup, the horse’s center of gravity is located more toward the rear. This type of horse can carry more weight with its hindquarters, thus moving in balance and exhibiting a lighter, freer motion with the forehand.

The horse’s legs should be analyzed from a distance and close-up. Study them at rest and in motion. At a sale you can watch a horse track at a walk and trot. It’s really best to watch the potential RUS mount on the track warming up and in the race. If the horse you have in mind is at another track-try to watch the simulcast. It’s important to see how the horse carries himself at speed in the race. The warm-up miles seem to be another way to assess soundness.

Aside from general soundness, watch the way the hind limbs propel the horse forward. Watch how the hind limbs affect the forelimbs as well.

Observation of the horse during movement on a hard surface enables you to watch the feet as they leave the ground, during flight, and as they land. If the foot does not land flat, the limb structures might be subjected to unequal concussive forces that might lead to unsoundness.

Examine the forelimbs while the horse is standing and in motion. Both limbs should be straight and bare weight equally. From the front observe the chest which should be well developed and well muscled.

Structurally the RUS horse requires adequate width in the chest. Toes should point straightforward, and feet should be as far apart on the ground as the limbs are at their origin in the chest. Look for a nice, flat, balanced knees and a centered cannon bone under the knee.

Upon close inspection, overlook the shape of the hooves, the wear, distribution of weight and flight. Uneven wear and uneven distribution of weight are sign of faulty limb conformation and weakness. When viewed from the side the shoulder should be sloping and match the pastern angle and the hoof walls angle. Normal front pastern angles range from 53* to 58*. The ideally straight-legged horse should also possess a well-muscled forearm.

The long well sloped shoulder accompanied by a long forearm means maximum elevation and advancement of the limb. This is ideal as it results in longer strides and reduced concussion. Quality of shoulder muscling is important as well as it equals greater support and improved joint freedom during flight. The knee should be in alignment with the forearm and cannon. It should also be of sufficient size to carry out its duties of flexion, absorption of concussion and extension. The hoof must be large enough and shaped properly to support the horse and rider’s weight and absorb concussion. Track surfaces are hard and fast and can take a toll on any horse. Don’t start off at a disadvantage.

Avoid mounts with limb deviations predisposing them to contract interference. Another example of poor conformation is the horse that stands excessively under himself in front. In this deviation the entire forelimb from the elbow down is placed under the body. This shortens the base of support, overloading the forelimbs, causing the limb to hit the ground primitively with a low arc of foot flight. With the foot carried in the manner the horse is predisposed to stumbling. It is also hard on the bones, ligaments and tendons. This compromises speed!

The hind limbs should be well muscled with adequate hocks to support the horse. The muscle should carry down and be well defined. Remember-the powerful hindquarter muscles are his engine. A line dropped from the point of the horse’s buttock to the ground should be equally divide the hock and the rest of the hind limb, when viewed laterally should not be too straight or too angulated. You cannot change those angles with corrective shoeing. Normal pastern angels for the hind range from 55* to 60*

Most common locomotion problems in racehorses deal with interference. So watch out for conformation factors that can predispose a horse to excessive strain or interference.

When watching the potential RUS horse tracking one should see a foot breaking squarely over the toe and the flight of the foot should have a normal, even arc with the horse landing squarely upon the foot. You can affect this action or improve it with proper shoeing, but closely examine the horse’s actual conformation.

Another thing to look for in a potential RUS horse is a strong top line- a shorter back and convex loin. When you’re at the track check out what equipment the horse wears. It’s generally not favorable if they wear a lot of equipment. For instance, head poles cannot be used in RUS competition. However, many horses that wear head poles in the harness do not require them under saddle. Riders have more direct contact than drivers do. A line burr may also be substituted for a head pole.

Remember that the cost of your RUS horse will include training, travel time, and energy. It may also include veterinary expenses-try to consider this with careful consideration and sound selection practices.

Understanding the relationship between conformation, movement and lameness is essential for making wise buying decisions and devising sound management and training programs.


Currently, in RUS events, the girls and boys race together. In horses of equal class, geldings and stallions tend to go faster than mares. Geldings hold many of the current RUS records.

Geldings have always been the workers in any equine sport. They tend to be steadier and more consistent. For this reason, the author believes geldings are the choice for RUS mounts. Stallions and geldings are typically stronger physically. Some prefer stallions-who seem to have more energy over the long haul.

There are of course stable management issues with stallions. Stallions are also more likely to sulk. Don’t overlook the right mare. In 1999, the though New Zealand bred mare, Permanent Bromac N paced a sizzling 2:02.1 mile under saddle on Historic Track, in Goshen, NY. This mile broke the track record for RUS. The second place finisher in that race was also a mare.

The Lagg mare, MJ Sneakers, won 4 under saddle races contested at Ohio fairs in 1999. She was riden by Bridgett Nappi. Her miles were not as fast as the pari-mutuel records, but she demonstrated the necessary toughness and courage to win. She finished her season undefeated.

Another example of a tough racing under saddle mare would be Welcome Back, who paced the fastest mile of the season in 2000. She was ridden by Catherine Harris and paced the mile in 2:06. In the bike she was known to sulk when asked for more speed, but under saddle she was willing and able.

To the author, the right mare has the size; gait and temperament previously discussed in the selection portion of this tips book. She also has a little fire, or life to her. The author believes mares are a little more sensitive than geldings and they tend to be hotter, or more easily excited. However, they seem to be more easily motivated.


? The transition from harness to saddle is typically an easy one. Most Standardbred’s are handled from the time that they are yearlings. Once a horse is broke to drive, most of the work is over. They already understand how to guide or stear. However, they still aren’t familiar with a person sitting on their back, or leg aids.

There are several ways of breaking RUS horses to saddle. Taking everything slow is the most important method. Be sure to introduce your horse to each new piece of equipment. Use the saddle in which you are most comfortable with. Let him smell the saddle and pad. You may want to desensitize him to the saddle by patting him on the back with it until he doesn’t pay attention to it. When you have the saddle on him, lunge or take him for a walk. This will help him get use to the stirrups bouncing against him. Though the weight between the saddle and harness isn’t much, he might still be leery of it. Once he has relaxed you may want to call it a day, or if you want you may continue. Always reward your horse, this will form a bond with your new teammate!

When mounting your horse for the first time, let him know where you are and talk to him. If you are calm, he will be to. Some riders prefer to mount their horse in the crossties for the first time. Be sure that you don’t make any sudden movements. Once you are sitting on your horse, give him a pat. You may just want to sit on him for a while. Keep in mind that your horse knows nothing of leg aids.

The author recommends having someone else lead you around the first time you ride your horse. The first time your horse takes a step with you on his back, he might want to bolt or he may not want to go at all. You sitting on him is very different from him pulling a cart. Reassure him and let him know it is okay. If your horse is extremely nervous you might want to put a blind bridle on him. It takes some horses a while to get use to seeing a rider on them.

Once you are confident that your horse is okay with the new job at hand, you may want to ride him in an arena. This is a controlled environment. The first time you ride your horse on the track he might want to jog on a little. Keep in mind that your horse should be gradually introduced to riding miles. He is using muscles he may not have used before. Don’t be surprised if a horse that is use to four miles in harness sweats up a storm after only one or two miles under saddle!


? A fit racehorse maybe defined as one, which is able to race to the limit of its genetic ability without the onset of fatigue. Fitness is quite specific-we are concerned with a horse that is fit enough to race the standard one mile with a RUS rider on his back.

Fitness maintains a mental component as well as a physical one. For example a sedated horse can be just as fit physically, but unable to perform as well due to a blocking of his mental or nervous system. There are some horses whose temperament will be a limiting factor as they waste energy fighting the rider.

The genetic component is controversial. Pedigree may or may not influence physical ability. The most successful racehorse is not always the best bred one. There is a link between appearance and fitness but, don’t be misled by this.

If a rider asks too much in relation to a horse’s current physical capabilities or fitness level, many will attempt to adapt while complying. If over worked, many horses will continue moving forward but will modify stride to minimize fatigue and discomfort. When a tired horse adjusts timing of the various phases of its stride, it can result in gait defects. If the hindquarters have not been properly conditioned and strengthen, a horse will rely heavily on the forehand for propulsion and support. This adds stress and may cause interference as the forelegs, heavily weighted, find it difficult to get out of the way of the hind.

An overweight horse or rider may cause an exaggeration of the lateral limb movements-causing a more side-to-side sway. This alters the force of forward movement. It’s really important to have these horses conditioned properly.

Do not ignore fatigue in your RUS mount. Tired muscles lose coordination and may result in lameness. This lameness may affect muscles and/or tendons at their physical limit when the muscle is the last safety left.

Signs of over training are weight loss, despite adequate food intake, a dull or dry coat, and a loss of enthusiasm for work. Lactic acid accumulation can be a result of overstraining. Rest is really the only solution. Don’t be afraid to alter your training schedule, some horses really excel from lighter work.

Never overlook their mental attitude. A lot of RUS mounts enjoy a relaxing ride in the country.

MANAGING THE RUS MOUNT ? Training programs should be highly individualized in respect to the horse’s temperament, current level of fitness, soundness and racing schedule. Trainers have many different opinions on this, and what works for one may not work as well for another. Get to know your horse! How one would go about managing the RUS mount through the season really depends on whether or not he is also racing in the harness.

The RUS events typically start in the spring, about the end of April and last to October. Matinees generally begin in early April. Matinees are not purse races; however, they are excellent preparation for green horses or riders. They also help to make horses “race tight”. The heaviest RUS competition, in terms of numbers of races is in August. Often the largest purse events are “finals”, which typically occur in September. Managing your mount is important, so he doesn’t miss out on the bigger money events later in the season! Keep him sharp without over doing it.

Many raceway horses keep up an every-week schedule. We have had others that thrive on an every-other week racing schedule. Racing in harness while also racing under saddle keeps the horse “race tight” and earning an additional income. The only time it may be difficult to do both is in August, when there are many RUS events. Horses seem to do well racing under saddle on a more frequent basis, as it doesn’t require the same degree of speed.

Gene Riegle’s chapter in The New Care and Training of the Trotter and Pacer deals with training and management issues.

Once a horse is trained down and currently racing, he probably doesn’t require a lot of training miles between races. RUS mounts may also do their work in the harness or under saddle throughout the week. Just be sure to assess your horse thoroughly and select the program that best suits him.

Popular Training Methods/Tools

Slow, long jog miles on a soft track ideally sand. Conditioning based on a period of low intensity aerobics. Strengthens bones, tendons, and joints.

Treadmill work helps reduce injury. The treadmill is a flat, smooth surface where one may alter the incline. This enables higher workloads to be imposed. Treadmills are expensive and only one horse may be exercised at a time. But there is a great advantage from the trainer’s standpoint as you can impose a particular speed or movement on a horse getting the desired long, slow workout. Working on an incline may be compared to weight lifting in people. Some people believe that treadmills may contribute to knee and hock trauma.

Alternate riding work for sound individuals. This may help improve a horse’s attitude that seems to bore easily. Or calm an excited individual.

More harness work for horses that jog slow. (Some horses jog slower and better under saddle.)

Some trainers like to swim their racehorses as an alternative work out. It reduces concussion- related stress, but has also been criticized for the loss of “joint-tone” in the horse. For some horses dealing with lameness swimming can defiantly prolong their career as a racehorse.

Training on a surface can strengthen tendons as well, but some horses have problems that lead trainers to eliminate surface work. Swimming horses take quick breaths in and labored breaths out, building the respiratory system.

Interval Training -Trainers claim it gets horses more fit for racing competition. Suggested as good for a horse with weak last quarters. Criticized for increasing exercise related injuries, and a good foundation prior to interval training is imperative. In regards to interval training, also keep in mind that it should make your horse more consistent, but not necessarily a faster class of horse.

All RUS trainers should know and understand the sport of harness racing and riding. The author believes it is also helpful to study, and know the “science” behind what makes racehorses “go”. There is a fine line between under-training and over-training. Don’t be afraid to ask advice from someone you trust, and who has had success in harness racing or racing under saddle. There is no one set way of training.


Bucked Shins-occurs in young horses primarily.
Fatigue Fractures-occur at top speeds
Bowed Tendons-Caused by footing stresses, improper shoeing/fatigue of muscle or tendon
Suspensory Ligament Injuries-Long pasterns are susceptible to this.  Footing stresses.
Fetlock arthritis/chip fractures- trauma
Sesamoid fractures-most frequently in lateral seasmoid bones of the right hind limb
Hock and stifle problems-continued stresses, conformation issues
Cunean Tendonitis-common cause of hind limb lameness
	-caused by shear stresses when foot impacts the ground at a low angle
	-horses worked to fast too soon are at a greater risk
	-most common in 2 and 3 year olds when train down to 2:30 mile. 


? Make the horse comfortable and able to perform his best for you. Don’t settle for anything but the proper equipment and be sure that it is properly cared for. All equipment should be regularly checked over for wear and tear.


The key to properly biting any horse is to find the mouthpiece that the horse can relax into with the hands that are holding the horse. Keep in mind that pullers are made, not born. A rider with rough hands will make a horse with a rough or dead mouth.

RECOMMENDED BIT READING: A Whole Bit Better by Dale, Ron and Bob Myler. A Bit of Magic by Alixe Etherington These books give a clear explanation of physical effects of all bits.


Snaffle- Commonly used and available in a variety of weights from light & hollow to heavier, solid and more narrow. Look for signs of craftsmanship: uniform finish with no ridges or seams, smooth gapless joint between rings and mouthpiece to minimize the risk of pinching. Bits are also made of different materials. Some are copper, sweet irons, and steel. Stainless steel bits won’t rust. The author usually uses a D-ring or egg butt snaffle bit. Below are some other examples.

Kimberwick- Some riders have used these successfully, however the author does not use these in competition because the curb is a stronger bit, and may induce a lowering of the nose, flexion of the lower jaw and poll.

Pelham-Hybrid bit, derived from the curb & attempting to produce the same results as a double bridle with the use of a single mouthpiece. It is worn with a flat linked curb chain.

Gag bit-The bit moves upward in the horse's mouth exerting considerable pressure on the corners of the lips. In fact, the action causes contradictory pressures, one upward on the mouth and one downward on the poll. It can be a useful aid in jogging a strong puller that goes so far as to dive the head down in attempt to speed around the track.

Half cheek snaffle- comes in many different types. Some are egg butts with a large jointed center. Known as the traditional driving bit. There are many different widths for a variety of horses. They may or may not be rubber covered.

Dr. Bristol-Half cheek snaffle with a flat center joint that presses into the horses tongue when rider puts pressure on the reins. This may aid with mild pullers.

Sliding Bit-For a horse who may get “on a line”, or pull on one rein harder than another. Some horses develop this habit, for others it is due to lameness.

Tongue Ties-are very important but should never be to tight, or on for extended periods of time as circulation can be poor. They keep a horse from putting their tongue over the bit and from “choking down”. They may be of nylon or pre-shaped leather.

Drop nose band- rests about 3” above the nostrils, and the rear strap fastening below the bit, fulfills a number of purposes. Keeps the mouth closed so horse cannot evade bit action, maintaining control of head position The author prefers it for training more than racing as a violent upward head jerk could cause pressure on nasal passages.

Head Halter/Caveson-shouldn’t interfere with the action of the bit. They should be snug; you should be able to get one finger underneath. They shouldn’t interfere with breathing or comfort.

Mini-bit-Used on aggressive horses in conjunction with a riding bit. They give the rider more control.

Lip Cords- Used on pullers. A cord or string is connected to the bit and puts pressure on the horse’s gums.

Over Check Bits-Over check bits help set horse’s head. They also aid in balancing a horse. It is attached to the over check strap which connects to the saddle. Most All-purpose saddles, and jumping saddles will have extra “D” rings to attach an over check connection to. You may do this by putting two double-ended brass snaps together, or a secure strap with a ring. For saddles that cannot or don’t have extra “D” rings, you may connect a strap with a ring from the crupper to the over check.

Plain-For the horse who just needs balancing. The horse cannot lower his head beyond his check length.

McKerron-asks for more respect with lifting action

Crit Davis-for horses that have severe behavior problems. The U-shaped center when positioned properly lies flatly in the horse’s mouth when he is listening. When the horse hogs down, the “U” pushes into the roof of his mouth.

Double Bar Crab, with or without spoon-One of the most severe over checks. For horses who seriously hog down.

Burch-Some times used on horses that kick. Also corrects the horse that mildly hogs down. Leverage Over checks-good for horses that like to get their heads down, also good for horses that easily choke their selves, or cut off their air.

Raymond Leverage-made of steel, goes under horse’s chin.

Racing Martingales-when properly adjusted running martingales should not exert constant pressure on the reins; it only comes into play when horse throws its head to evade the bit. The rings exert a downward action on the bit when the horse raises its head to high. Careful fitting is required to ensure reasonable freedom of movement. Some trainers prefer these on trotters under saddle, to help balance them.

The author prefers a tie down on racehorses. With martingales, pressure is put on the mouth to effect a lowering of the head. Some horses seem to resist more when they feel pressure on the bars of the mouth. If you use a martingale be sure to have stoppers on your reins for safety.

Standing Martingales/Tie Downs-Restricts the upward movement of the head by putting pressure on the head (through attachment to the caveson.) The author prefers this martingale in racing situations because when properly adjusted, the standing martingale gives the rider more control without hampering the horse’s use of his head and neck. In fact, some extremely high headed horses travel in better form when slightly restrained by a martingale/tie down. It helps to steady them. If a martingale/tie down is too tight it will hinder the horse.

Bridles-You may want to keep the bridle that your horse was racing in the harness in on him if it worked well.

Types of Bridle Set-Ups:

Open-may relax aggressive horses

Blind-most commonly used, horse can see in front of him.

”Kant-see-bak”-horses can see in front and beside him.

Telescope-can only see straight ahead.

Runners Mask-commonly seen on Thoroughbred racehorses. Cups may be adjusted according to how much the rider wishes the horse to see.

Murphy Blind-a blind that is attached to the bridle when needed. May or may not have a window.

-Will help a horse that carries his head off to one side when properly adjusted. A Murphy should be placed on the same side, as you would put a head pole. It should also be lined up with the center of the eye.

Shadow Rolls-used to obstruct downward vision.

-Used on horses that may jump shadows.

-Used like insurance

-Many different sizes and may also include a brush for extra insurance.

Ear plugs-keep horses quiet going to the gate and in race

-Pull when you need more speed

Hood and Cones-May be used on horses that are extremely nervous.

-May be used just to warm up, so that you don’t take the race out of him.

Hopples-Used to keep horses on desired gait. Some horse’s may require tightening or loosening of their harness racing hopples. In generally, however, most RUS mounts keep the same length as in harness.

-Mainly used on pacers, however there are self-supportive trotting hopples available today.

-Most are plastic, average weighing less than a couple of pounds

Hopple Hangers-Made of plastic and are used to hang the hopples on.

Plain hopple hangers- two strips of plastic in the middle.

-Some riders feel these interfere with where they place their feet.

Chicago Style Hangers

-Both center hangers are attacked to one main piece

-Allows more freedom of where the rider places his feet

-Hangers stay where you put them.

Knee Boots -Cover the inside of the horses knees. -Used for a horse that may hit his knees.

Tendon Boots -Cover the tendon area -Used for a horse who hits his tendon area

Brace Bandages-Used for protection,support or to widen a horse’s gait behind. -May also be used to support horse’s who have had injures such as bowed tendons.

Trotting Boots -Used for protection on the trotter

Bell Boots- -May is used as protection or for weight.

Scalpers -Worn on trotters behind that hit.

Crupper-may be attracted by a T shaped metal piece inserted into the inside of your saddle. Or it may be necessary for you to have a professional put an added ring with a swivel snap in the back of your saddle.

-Helps to keep saddle in place

-Race number is attached to crupper

-Used to hang hopples from

Saddles provide a stable platform from which to enjoy the pleasures of racing. They appraise the rider’s weight over the anatomically appropriate area. Saddles that slide defeat the purpose.

Breast plates

Racing at high speeds can displace a saddle; it is wise to add a breastplate for extra security. Do not use a breastplate to “make” a mismatched saddle fit your horse.


Common-”Y” Breastplate- “hunting breastplate” “Y” shaped, three-piece unit, which stabilizes the saddle by attaching to three points. These are popular, as the shoulder straps don’t interfere with the horse’s movement.

English Jumper/Racing Breastplate Comes with or without wither strap to keep it at the proper height -Fleece tubing can be added to protect against chafing -There is the mistaken concern that the collar will interfere with the horse’s breathing. The equine trachea is protected under layers of muscle-so don’t worry about that.

The common belief that these breastplates catch the saddle faster accounts for popularity in flat racing.

Heavy Duty Elastic -Stiff enough to hold the saddle in place, elastic gives a little when the horse needs it the most.


? Riders can choose from a variety of saddle designs. The author prefers a light, flat saddle without the knee rolls or extra padding. This allows closer contact and better feel for the rider.

Accompanied by a thick foam pad for shock absorption. As for girths, the author uses one with elastic at one end. This type of girth can be cinched with less discomfort to the horse. It also keeps the saddle in place better.

Thoroughbred Exercising Saddles

These are the most commonly used saddles in RUS events. They are lightweight and offer riders close communication with the horses. Riders are also free to adjust stirrups to any length, especially comfortable for shorter lengths. They have a 1/2 tree and seem easier to fit to large horses.

Close Contact

Similar to racing saddles in respect to horse/rider communication. In recent years small knee rolls have been added for extra security. Jumping Saddles

Are built for the forward seat over fences that does not interfere with the horse’s effort. The forward out flaps, knee rolls and stirrup bars located just behind the pommel support the rider in the forward position. This is traditionally the jumping position. Some RUS competitors prefer this type of support.

Eventing Saddles

Also have a well-forward flaps with large knee rolls and/or thigh blocks underneath to support the rider’s forward position. The author doesn’t care for the deep-seats for racing events, but some riders really prefer these saddles.

Fitting Saddles

Poor-fitting saddles are the main cause of back pain in riding horses. Subsequently, this also means poor movement. If the tree is too narrow, it can cause pinching of the nerves and muscular pain. If the tree is too wide, it can cause the weight of the saddle and rider to be borne directly by the vertebrae.

To assess saddle fit from the ground, tack up with a snug girth but no pad, and consider the following:

-The saddle should look level from the front to back.
-The panels and bars should clear the spine.
-The pommel should clear the withers.
-The panels should be broad enough to distribute weight evenly along the loin.
Add the pad you’d regularly use to race with then assess the following:
-Does the saddle shift when you ride?
-Does the front of the saddle clear the withers even when you are in forward position?
-You should be able to slide a hand under the points without undue force.
-Freedom for shoulder movement.
Signs of discomfort:
-Generally unhappy
-Head tossing
-Shortened stride
As a rider you:
-Should feel “level”
-Should be able to relax and still maintain your position (especially leg position)
-Should be able to fit one hand’s width between the back of your seat and the cantle
-Your bent knee should fit comfortably into the hollow behind the knee roll or block.

*So remember when you want to get off your race horse’s back-an doing that you may require a shorter stirrup with more bend in your knee-some knee rolls may not be placed in the proper position for this. Try it out around the track!


? As a RUS Rider you must comply with the rules of equipment that are set up by the USTA. Each rider must have distinguishing colors. This means a jacket of sorts. Each rider must also have clean white pants or breaches.

SEI Certified approved helmets-riders are required to have the proper safety helmets. Boots-each rider must have boots with heels on them. There are different types of boots that may be used. Tall boots maybe chosen. A rider may choose to wear shorter boots with an addition of half chaps to prevent leg pinching.

Body Protectors-are not required for all tracks. It is the rider’s discression to wear Body Protectors in most situations. Many of the new body protectors provide comfort and fit as well as offering a high level of shock absorption and impact reduction.


Legs-in RUS will generally see the leg just behind the girth for balancing and pressing the horse forward

Hands-Essentially, good hands are always flexible, sympathetic hands. Make use of rein aids and steady your mount. Should be firm but not rigid.

Hand-Arm Position- Arm bent with straight-line form elbow forearm and wrist to the reins to the bit.

Eyes Good eye control, look forward choose your path and judge the mile. Also use peripheral vision; watch the riders around you.

Body control of the horses and rider is largely governed by use of rider’s eyes if you are looking down; you may shift your weight left of ridged.

Throwing the horse off balance or your body may “collapse” on the horse and force his front end to be weighted down.

Voice -Sensitive horses respond well to the tone of their rider’s voice.

Rein Aids

-Commonly RUS rider will ride with direct rein. This means there is a rein in each hand and an even amount of pressure is exerted on both reins until it is time to ask the horse to turn or bend one way or the other. When that comes into play you will use the hand in which direction you are heading.

Pulley rein-may be used to stop a horse that is out of control-an emergency measure with shortened reins press on hand primly on the horse’s neck while pulling up with the other hand

Baring Reins-this is also a method for controlling horse’s who grab on to the bit. Commonly used in Eventing. To “bar the reins”, you double up on the reins and use your thumbs as leverage.


The slightly forward inclination at race speeds must be accompanied by greater engagement of the rider’s thighs then when in a purely vertical position.

Balance-being balanced in RUS events is essential. Rider should be balanced over his stirrups and over the center of gravity of the horse at all times.

Shorter Stirrups

Generally seen as rider gets up off the horse’s back


? Work Together! You must consider your equine as a teammate and respect him as so. In order to succeed it is going to take both of you!

-Follow your horse in flight (barrowed from jumping). Remember forwarded movement is the key.

A rider that is not securing gets essentially “left behind” and as a result jabs the horse in the mouth because the rider is literally hanging on by the reins. There is no quicker way to discourage a horse than to punish his mouth as he tries to move forward. Riders should feel secure in their legs.

Strengthen your lower leg and constantly press your heels down.

Racehorses are supposed to be on the bit. This shouldn’t mean pulling against the rider, but seeking the support of the reins and moving forward.

Rider No-No’s

Elbows out- elbows swinging outward-balance lost as rider interferes with horse’s mouth, causing discomfort.

Legs extremely forward- places you and your horse off balance. Also prevents you with the ability to get off of your horse’s back. A leg extremely back-places you off balance. Puts you in a position that may send you over your horse’s head should he slow down or stop.



This is what you have been working for, and as long as you are prepared everything should go smoothly. To limit stresses make a checklist of the items and equipment that you will need. Some thing's you just can’t find at a harness track to buy or borrow for a RUS mount. Watch some RUS races if possible, because watching harness races can also be a good experience. Warm Up

A proper warm-up is very important. It minimizes the effects of fatigue and also gives the rider a chance to “feel out” his/her mount. When to Warm-Up

Most warm-ups are done about 3 races or about an hour to 45 minutes prior to competition. The duration of the warm-up varies for each horse, but a minimum of 5 minutes is essential. Most racers jog 2-3 miles, which would be approximately 8 to 12 minutes. Sometimes riders may want to turn the horse and go a slow training mile as well. The idea is to increase the circulation to the muscles and open up the blood vessels. It gets the muscles warm; a state in which they can work more efficiently.

Horses that get very excited and experience adrenalin-stimulated sweating are not considered “warmed-up”. That kind of sweat doesn’t produce any change inside the muscle mass and can result in fatigue.

Most racehorse trainer’s place sweat sheets and wool/acrylic coolers on their racehorses after the warm-up. In extremely hot conditions the cooler or a towel may be the only thing placed over the horse’s back and hindquarters.

Lotions and/or liniments-may also be applied after warm-up depending upon the horse’s needs. If time permits, you may want to take off your horse’s bridle and let him relax. You may also offer your horse a swallow or two of water, and the chance to urinate.

Post Parade-Remember that not only are you racing, you are putting on a show for the public. Races look much better when everyone knows where to be and when to be there. You should go over the post parade with an official and be sure that everyone does the same thing. Since our races are not yet wagered on we generally take one short score after the post parade and go to the starting gate.

Behind the Starting Gate-In RUS races, the starter will tend to go a little faster than with the harness horses. It is important that you know your postposition, or starting position, and go to it. If your horse is rammy behind the gate or a bad actor, it might be best to time the gate. You do this by keeping your horse a few feet off of the gate until you are in the head of the stretch and then putting your horse on the gate.

Leaving the gate-Depending upon your race strategies and your horse’s abilities you may or may not want to leave quickly from the gate. It is wise to look at a program and see how other horses have raced. Trying to beat another horse off of the gate if you cannot come home is useless. As is following a horse that cannot keep up with the field. But anything can happen in a horse race!

Breaking horse-When a rider’s horse looses stride, he must follow the breaking rule. A horse who laps on break, or passes the horse in front of him when off stride, will be set back. A rider must alert the field by yelling, “break!” When clearance exists he must also pull to the outside and regain gait.

Be Safe-When you are in a race you must be aware of the rider’s around you. Erratically pulling your horse in front of another rider is dangerous. Be sure to go over the RUS rules and guidelines.

Testing-The winner of the race will be tested after the race.

Cooling Out-After the race it is important to bathe and blanket your RUS horse. You may also want to walk your horse to cool him out and give him 8 to 10 swallows of water every 8 to 15 minutes until he is cooled out. You may remove the blanket or towels when he is cool and dry.


Whenever you have difficulties with your horse, the first question should be: Is he hurting, sick or sore?

Next, address his mental state. A horse can only perform to the limit of his talent. If pushed regularly beyond his capacity he may become a stopper, or sour. Often, a horse that stops in a race is in pain or is scared. A horse may also grab on or become a puller if he is hurting. This may lead to fast first quarters and slow back half's.

What to do when horse throws in a bad start

Horses, like people, can have a bad day. In racing there can also be bad luck or failed race strategies. But when a horse’s performance doesn’t meet our realistic expectations it may be time for some investigation. Professor Reuben Rose, at Sydney University has made a study of investigation poor performance. Here is a simple list of key questions, based on his study, you should ask:

-Has the decrease in exercise capability been sudden or gradual?
-Is they’re any respiratory distress after exercise?
-Is they’re any respiratory noise during exercise, and if so at what speed does it occur?
-Is the problem continuous or intermittent?
-Does the horse train well but not reproduce its form in competition?
-Is there any sign of lameness or alteration of gait?
-Are there any signs of ill health such as weight loss, coughing, etc?
-Are there any changes in the horse’s appetite?
-Has the horse had any recent drug therapy?

If a horse performs poorly in RUS competition due to a lack of fitness, then you may wish to train him harder of longer. If, on the other hand, the really is fit, but is still performing poorly, then it is likely that training harder or longer will make the situation worse. Most horses seem to have some lameness at the root of the problem. If there is no soreness/lameness present, it may be that the horse’s “heart” is not into racing. This is not desirable for the RUS future of this animal! However, it should be mentioned that Standardbreds make amazingly good riding horses. The RUS mount can make an easy transition into pleasure horse life and build on the riding skills you taught him.

If the horse “bleeds” you may or may not see blood in his nostrils after the race. Detecting this common racehorse problem may require scoping by a vet at the track. Telltale signs that may or may not be present in bleeding horses are: poorly finishing races, inconsistent last quarters, coughing and/or not wanting water after racing.

There are a high percentage of racehorses that bleed in their lungs. Lasix, or furosmide, is available and legal if administered by an ORC licensed veterinarian. Lasix is very effective in the prevention of bleeding effects. Because of irreversible inflammatory changes that take place in lungs tissue, once a horse is a bleeder, it will tend to remain so. If the RUS mount you chose is on Lasix when you purchase him; it may be wise to continue the medication. The cost is about $10 to $20 each race.


A called positive is prima-facie evidence that the drug has been administered to the horse. The trainer is considered the responsible party for illegal drugging.

Any drug that is given within 8 days of competition should be researched. And there are drugs that will test for over 30 days, such as Pennisillin. Inform the vet that the horse will be competing on a particular date before he gives any treatment.

The winner of the race is drug tested in racing under saddle events. Judges always have the right to call for drug testing of a random horse as well.

Unapproved medications or illegal drugs may not be administered to any horse with in 48 hours of its race. Read the USTA rulebook and keep them in mind! Prevent a problem before it starts!


From this tips book, we hope that you have gained a greater knowledge and respect for the RUS horse, rider and trainer. Being a RUS trainer requires an abundance of horse sence, knowlege and respect. There is always something new to learn about racing and horses. Being involved in RUS racing is very exciting, but it requires a lot of knowledge and hard work from all that are involved.

There are sure to be many topics and problems that we have not touched upon, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for advice.

*the following has been obtained through the USTA

RACING UNDER SADDLE (RUS) GUIDELINES The following guidelines are intended to regulate all Racing Under Saddle (RUS) events, including but not limited to the Boots and Saddles Series, sanctioned by the United States Trotting Association (USTA) and conducted at USTA Member Race Tracks. The United States Trotting Association reserves the right to modify, add, or delete these guidelines if, in the opinion of the United States Trotting Association, it is in the best interest of the event(s). Horses Registration of Horse. All horses must be registered with either the United States Trotting Association or the Canadian Standardbred Horse Society in the name of the current owner. Eligibility Certificate. A special eligibility certificate issued for racing under saddle events must be obtained from the USTA and presented to the clerk of course prior to racing. Age of Horse. No horse under the age of three shall be eligible to start. Veterinary Examination. All horses entered to race may be subjected to a pre-race veterinary examination conducted by a designated veterinarian prior to the race. If, in the opinion of the veterinarian, the horse is not in fit condition to race, the judges shall exclude the horse from racing. Identification: All horses must be identified by either a lip-brand tattoo or neck freeze brand applied by either the United States Trotting Association or the Canadian Trotting Association. Riders Age of Rider. No rider under 16 years of age shall be eligible to ride in any event. License Requirements. All riders must hold a current year Special License - Racing Under Saddle (RUS) issued by the United States Trotting Association and sign an affidavit releasing and discharging the U.S.T.A. from all liability for damages of whatsoever kind, nature or description which may arise from or out of any injuries that the rider(s) may receive by virtue of their participation in the Boots and Saddles - Racing Under Saddle (RUS) Series. Helmet Requirements. Every rider shall wear a protective safety helmet, properly fastened, that meets the standards and requirements as set forth in the Snell Memorial Foundation's 1984 Standard For Protective Headgear For Use In Harness Racing or the standards established by the Department of Transportation (D.O.T.). Any equestrian helmet bearing the Snell label or approved by the D.O.T. shall be deemed to have met the performance requirements as set forth in the standards. Safety Vests. It is recommended that all riders wear a safety vest during the race. In accordance with the Association of Racing Commissioners International Model Rules, The safety vest should be designed to provide shock absorbing protection to the upper body of at least a rating of five, as defined by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA). Racing Colors. Riders shall provide their own distinguishing racing colors which shall be worn at all times when the horse and rider are on the race track for warming up and racing. Footwear. Riders shall wear footwear that has a minimum heel of one-half inch at all times while warming up and racing. Declaration/Starting Fees A declaration to start specifying the name of the horse, rider and gait at which the horse will be ridden, along with any requisite starting fees, shall be due in accordance with the deadlines established at the track at which the event will be raced. All starting fees shall be due at time of declaration and payable not later than one hour prior to post time of the race to be contested. Pre Race Pre-Race Meeting of Participants. It shall be the responsibility of the Presiding Judge to call a meeting of all riders and trainers competing in Racing Under Saddle races at least two hours prior to the race for the purpose of reviewing the racing guidelines and other matters relative to the conduct of the race. Report to paddock. At extended pari-mutuel race tracks and other tracks that utilize a paddock, all horses and riders must report to the paddock at least one-half hour prior to the post time for the race unless otherwise excused by the judges. Warming Up Horses. Horses may only be warmed up during the time and area designated by the track. All riders must have the expressed permission from the judges prior to riding on the grounds of the race track. Horses and riders may warm up at the same time, and on the same track as other horses that will be racing to a sulky. Saddling of Horses. All horses must be saddled in the paddock under the supervision of the paddock judge or other designated official. Equipment. Only equipment specifically approved by the judges shall be worn by a horse in a race. All horses are required to wear a saddle and bridle with bit. No head poles are permitted to be worn by any horse in a race. Saddle Pads. Traditional saddle pads shall be used to identify each horse. Riders may wear numbered arm bands on each arm above the elbow. No head numbers shall be used on any horse. Starting of Horses Post Parade. All horses and riders are required to participate in a post parade and scoring prior to the start of the race. Starting Gate. All races shall be started by using the mobile starting gate. Starting of Horses. The starting gate shall pick the horses up no nearer than 1/4 of a mile before the start of the race as the track will permit. Horses must reach the starting gate in post position order. There shall be no recall for a breaking horse. (The speed of the gate may be faster then the speed used for sulky events.) Schooling of Horses. All horses shall be schooled under saddle behind the starting gate prior to their first race under saddle. The trainer of the horse may be required to show proof that the horse was properly schooled behind the starting gate, under the supervision of a licensed starting judge, prior to starting. Handicapping. At the discretion of the race sponsor, horses may be handicapped based upon their prior performance under saddle. Rules of the Race Interference, Jostling or Striking. A rider shall not ride carelessly or willfully so as to permit his/her mount to interfere with, impede or intimidate any other horse in the race. No rider shall carelessly or willfully jostle, strike or touch another rider or another rider's horse or equipment. No rider shall unnecessarily cause his/her horse to shorten its stride so as to give the appearance of having suffered a foul. Maintaining a Straight Course. When the way is clear in a race, a horse may be ridden to any part of the course, but if any horse swerves, or is ridden to either side, so as to interfere with, impede or intimidate any other horse, it is a foul. The offending horse may be disqualified, if in the opinion of the stewards, the foul altered the finish of the race, regardless of whether the foul was accidental, willful or the result of careless riding. If the judges/stewards determine the foul was intentional, or due to careless riding, the rider may be held responsible. Breaking Rule. When any horse breaks from its designated trotting or pacing gait under saddle, the rider shall at once, where clearance exists, take such horse to the outside and pull it to its gait. The following shall constitute a violation: 1) Failure to properly attempt to pull the horse to its gait. 2) Failure to take to the outside where clearance exists. 3) Failure to lose ground by the break. Any breaking horse shall be set back when a contending horse on its gait is lapped on the hind quarter of the breaking horse at the finish. Placing of Horse. The judges may set any horse back one or more places if in their judgment any of the aforementioned violations of the breaking rule have been committed. Any horse or rider that causes interference while on gait or off stride may be placed. In the event a horse is placed for interference, the horse shall be placed behind the horse with which it interfered. Whip/Spurs/Goading Devices. Riders may carry a riding crop not to exceed 30 inches. The crop is only permitted to come into contact with the horse in front of the saddle. No electrical or mechanical device or other expedient designed to increase or retard the speed of a horse is permitted. No rider shall be permitted to wear spurs. Testing of Horse Post-Race Testing. Any horse entered to race under saddle may be subjected to post race saliva, urine and/or blood test. Should the test taken from a horse indicate the presence of any drug, stimulant, depressant, sedative, or unapproved medicant, it shall be considered prima facie evidence that such has been administered to the horse. The horse shall be disqualified from receiving any winnings or earning any points toward the final event. Licensing Requirements of State Racing Commissions Although the Racing Under Saddle Events are primarily "exhibition" races and should not require any of the participants to obtain a license from the state racing commission, some commissions may require each rider, trainer and owner to be licensed. Officials The same compliment of racing officials used in the supervision and judging of sulky races shall be used to officiate all Racing Under Saddle events. Officials shall use the guidelines herein to act as their authority to regulate each event. This shall include disqualifications, placing, and issuing fines and suspensions to the participants. Recording of Performance/Charting of Races. All Racing Under Saddle races shall be reported in the same manner as other races conducted at the track. At all Extended Pari-Mutuel Meetings and Grand Circuit Meetings the charting of RUS races is mandatory. At County Fairs the races shall be either charted or uncharted depending upon the type of reporting in effect for that meeting. It shall be the responsibility of the Presiding Judge and Clerk of Course to see that all judge's books for Racing Under Saddle Events are mailed to the USTA office no later than the day following the RUS race(s). It shall be the responsibility of the Clerk of Course to record each horse's performance on the Special Racing Under Saddle (Green) Eligibility Certificate. Under no circumstances is the information to be recorded on the regular USTA Trot or Pace Eligibility Certificate. Disqualifications/Placing/Disputes In all matters relating to the conduct of the race, to include claims of foul, violations of the breaking rule, placings, disqualifications, positive tests, and other disputes, the decision of the judges shall be final. Christina (Chrissy) Russell has been riding horses since the age of five. She assists her husband Tom with he training of their Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. She has experience with galloping runners and breaking young horses to ride and drive. Christina has been a top competitor in the Boots and Saddles series and brings experience and a competitive spirit to the under saddle events. She and her pacing mount, My Trap, displayed their exciting come from behind form to capture three legs of the 1997 Boots and Saddles series. Chrissy looks for good gaited Standardbreds that wear little equipment. The RUS prospect's front legs must be in good condition without any indications of lameness. Shes explains that under saddle events can put additional pressure on the front legs, so it is wise to select a mount with as few problems as possible. Since some of the equipment used on trotters and pacers to harness isn't allowed in RUS competion, one is better off looking for a simply rigged prospect. Her pacers will generally use the same length of hopples for under saddle events as they do for harness racing. The hopple hangers' length stay approximately the same: just check to be sure there is clearance of the rider's foot and the hangers and hopples. Her mount's bridle will be rigged with a kimberwicke style bit. This bit guarantees the rider a bit more leverage and allows for slow workouts and warm-ups. Chrissy believes in more saddle training when starting out with a RUS mount, but after the horse feels secure being ridden, she will switch to working in a jog cart. She feels that this helps the soundness factor when a horse is racing in both disciplines and also keeps them fresh. She saves her distance work to saddle training, and firmly believes that racing them in harness events in the spring is a very effective way to tighten them up for the saddle events that are contested during the summer months. The 1997 Boots and Saddles leading point earner is second year competitor Cathy Caserta. She was victorious in two legs of the series with her pacing gelding, Scootin Neuton. A horse diagnosed with atrial afibrulation, or an irregular heartbeat, Cathy switched from racing Scootin Neuton in harness to jogging him under saddle. Since she had purchased him specifically as an under saddle prospect, the change in regimen seemed to suit them both just fine. Scootin Neuton had the traits that Cathy likes in an under saddle mount; size, good front legs and powerful smooth gait. He also had a wonderful temperment and a willingness to please. All of these traits added up to a successful series for Cathy and Scootin Neuton. Cathy combines work in harness and under saddle. She feels that this is beneficial if the training surface is hard. The saddle training strengthens the hindquarters and allows a nervous horse to relax, and in general, helps their mental attitude. Rigging differs only slightly when converting to under saddle work. It may be necessary to sep up the severity of the bits under saddle to provide more leverage. Any unique soundness problems to the ridden Standardbred can easily be lessened with the use of pads on the front hooves. First year competitor Bridgett Nappi combines her horse show judging experience with her husband's family involvement with harness racing. Before RUS, Bridgett would help out with the family's racing stock and was able to learn the basics of harness racing, but didn't see any way to use her horse/show ring background to be really involved. RUS competitions have changed all of that. The Nappi household is no longer split by horse interests since RUS events involves the participation of the entire family, and has added quality time to their lives. Since becoming involved with RUS, Bridgett has learned to drive a harness horse and loves the thrill of racing, training and versatility of the Standardbred. Bridgett feels that the correctness of a horse's structure is of utmost importance. It determines a horse's way of going, efficiency in going, and the ability to tolerate the stress, strain and concussion of racing. Front limb faults can ruin the best of equine athletes. You must consider that a RUS mount is carrying 60-65% of their distributed weight (and the rider's) on their forelimbs. It is this reason that she feels conformation faults on the front limbs are generally more of a threat to performance than the hindquarters. When looking for a prospective RUS mount, it is important to emphasize form to function and balance. Balance will produce movement that is comfortable to ride, minimizes stress on joints, and increases overall athletic ability. Perhaps the most important characteristic of a prospective RUS mount is motivation or HEART. This is often a key factor to winning in RUS competition. Bridgett's 1997 mount, the pacer Takin' Chances was well balanced and muscled, but not perfect. Her thickness through the neck from its base to the throatlatch contributed to her "pulling" tendency, and placed a bit more weight on her front end. However, she remained clean legged and traveled nicely through the season. Takin' Chances training schedule consisted of 85-90% under saddle work and the remainder in harness. In retrospect, Bridgett feels that the mare might have done better with more harness work and less training under saddle. This regimen would have lessened the load on her forelimbs. The under saddle training was valuable training tool--Takin' Chances did not go entirely the same in harness as under saddle, thus equipment changes were made to accommodate each situation. The decision to try her under saddle was a unique in the fact that the mare was not competing successfully under harness. For variety, she raced in harness at a fair in August and won handily. Bridgett believes that change was good for her mare; she developed more muscling and she started her racing season much calmer than she had in the past. This can be attributed to under saddle work. Takin' Chances wore the same basic equipment in harness and under saddle. The only change was a tie-down (she was throwing her head at the beginning of the season) instead of an over check. While she did not always rely on the tie-down, she never seemed to need an over check. In addition, a line burr was added in place of a head pole (the use of head poles is prohibited in RUS competition) for added body control at high speeds. A smaller gauge snaffle was substituted for the standard driving bit she wore during harness competition. This bit allowed her to take a stronger hold with more control. In the Boots and Saddles Final a milder bit was used because she hadn’t been trying, and the mare took advantage of her rider in the post parade, although she left the gate like a rocket! RUS events have drawn interest from all parts of the country. Linda Werkheiser trains and races her Standardbreds primarily in Wisconsin at the county fair level, but has competed in several of the Boots and Saddles events. Linda looks for Standardbreds that aren’t heavy on the forehand and will hold themselves up without “using the over check and lines. She prefers free-legged pacers; and trotters that are low going and can balance themselves and trot with weight over their shoulders. It is important to avoid Standardbreds with serious leg problems, one that goes to their knees, crossfire, or are bad actors behind the starting gate. Beware of horses that show aggression while racing in harness-in racing under saddle events the horses are in closer proximity. Linda starts her under saddle training with long, slow miles in harness. She implements this with riding twice a week on the track, as well as the trails. Trail riding allows her horses to learn balance as they start, stop, turns and travels up and down hills. This type of regimen strengthens the horse’s ability to race at full speed while balancing weight on his back. In the final 4-6 weeks before racing, training sets are divided evenly between harness and saddle. When possible, it is advantageous to train with the company of another horse. Linda has experienced improvement with her trotter in harness as a result of training and racing under saddle. Having a reputation for running off during warm ups and training miles, riding has had a calming effect on her mount. Yet, he is just as good (if not a little better) in harness after being ridden this year. Linda has always ridden her Standardbreds after their retirement from harness racing. She has found them to be willing and enjoyable-thus the transition to under saddle events was a natural for Linda and her Standardbreds . Her trotter, One Bad Hombre, has not retired from racing from harness, however. He was just awarded Wisconsin’s Trotter of the Year in 1997 with eight wins in harness and successfully competing under saddle. Another competitor, Jean Abranovich, feels that a good RUS prospect should be on the large size, and preferably a pacer, to be competitive. A strong back, good legs, and a willing personality with regards to a new endeavor are musts. A rather fast competitor in harness is helpful since most RUS races tend to slow horses down as the result of the rider’s weight on his back. A “burnt-out” harness horse may fare quite well with a change of venue from harness to saddle racing. Jean’s training schedule includes both harness and saddle workouts. It helps combat boredom and she finds that most Standardbreds can carry over an education from harness racing into under saddle events. Her involvement began out of a love of harness racing (as a groom) and lack of a driver’s license. Being actively involved driving and riding horses all her life, she loved the idea that RUS licensees can include anyone with the ability to ride, without prejudice towards stature or physique, versus the prototype jockey. Rider Tina Nesley and her trotting mount Mr. Nat proved that the mandatory age of retirement from harness racing at 14 years of age wasn’t about to stand in their way. Having demonstrated his ability to race in harness and compete in gaming events under saddle within days of each other, Tina felt that racing Mr. Nat under saddle would be a perfect way of keeping him fresh and useful. Mr. Nat proved his versatility and youthfulness by an impressive fourth place finish in 1997 Boots and Saddles Consolation against game pacing competitors. Tina feels that rider weight should not exceed 20% of the horse’s weight and that their training should include 4 or 5 days of long, easy miles. In training sets, the horse would decide how fast they would go without letting them “running off”. This includes rating miles at a slower speed. This concept assists her with gate speed. Unlike drivers in harness events, riders don’t have the luxury of sulky stirrups to brace themselves behind the gate and control is of utmost importance. This communication between horse and rider comes from the rider’s ability to rate their mounts speed behind the starting gate, and the starter knowing that RUS starting procedures are equivalent to sulky starts with regards to gate speed. “What types of equipment can I use for RUS events?” is one of the most frequently asked questions of prospective RUS participants. As you will read in the RUS guidelines, the only two mandatory pieces of equipment is some type of saddle and a bridle outfitted with a bit. After three seasons of RUS events, most riders seem to prefer a thoroughbred exercise saddle or close contact jumping saddle. Both saddles are fairly lightweight and allow the rider to sit comfortably over the horse’s withers. The length of stirrups is a matter of personal choice; most riders aboard pacers seem to prefer a shorter stirrup that allows clearance of the hopple hangers; many of the riders astride trotters seem to prefer a longer stirrup. A lot of this depends on a rider’s position and comfort and how it affects their horse’s way of going. EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST FOR RUS MOUNTS PACERS TROTTERS Close contact or thoroughbred exercise saddle Close contact, exercise, or cut back saddle Bridle with bit; over-check if needed Bridle with bit; over-check if needed Crupper Split ring or buxton- martingale Hopples and hangers Crupper (optional) Over-check attachment on neck or pommel of saddle Over-check attachment on neck or pommel of saddle Racing boots where needed Racing boots where needed Most pacers race with hopples, and the hopple hangers fit quite nicely on a saddle equipped with a crupper. Cruppers can be attached at the rear or cantle of the saddle, or you can purchase a t-shaped crupper that fits between the pads of the saddle’s tree. You will find that many trotters will also include a crupper on their equipment list; it helps keep the saddle in place when used in conjunction with a breast plate or buxton martingale. A large number of RUS competitors use the same bride configuration as then they are racing in harness. Some mounts don’t need an over-check; the rider will provide the stabilization their mount needs and others incorporate an over-check quite easily. The most popular ways of attaching the check is either to the front of the saddle, or on the neck directly in front of the saddle with a ring or some type of strap. Elaine Elmore, a very successful RUS competitor and winner of the first Boots and Saddles Series event, likes to start her RUS prospects with the same equipment that they wear for training and racing in harness. She likes to add a split ring martingale and usually leaves it on trotters to help the horse balance itself. If her mount is a bit of a puller, Elaine will change the bit ton the bridle to a pelham and use two sets of reins. She will take rein that is attached to the snaffle portion of the pelham and run it through the rings of the martingale. This rigging gives you more flexibility in terms of control. A murphy blind can be used instead of a head-pole; and a nifty way to attach the crupper is to purchase a T-strap at your local tack shop. It fits very nicely between the under padding of the saddle, running along the saddle-tree. You must use your own judgement in the areas of boots, hopples and bits. A little bit of experimentation is the best way to find out what best suits you and your horse’s needs. Most RUS trainers and riders have stated that the equipment changes are usually minimal and the transition from harness racing to RUS competion is a fairly simple task. CONDITIONING FOR RACING UNDER SADDLE Conditioning a RUS mount is quite similar to getting a harness horse ready to race. A trainer’s goal should be to come up with a training schedule that will get the most from his athlete while maintaining the horses physical and mental well being. A Standardbred is jogged clockwise around the track for several reasons. One is to condition the muscles and keep them in proper tone. A racehorse has long muscles in thick bunches that need to be stretched and loosened, so that when we ask our mounts to perform at speed, the muscle fibers are less likely to strain or tear. The respiratory and circulatory systems also benefit from jogging. These systems need to operate at the same speed as the muscles. Jogging allows the heart, lungs, veins, arteries and nerves to function at the same speed as the muscles at various speeds. Jogging also “puts a set of legs” on the horse. The variations in speed strengthen the horse’s ability to swing back and forth, loosing the feeling of wobbly or heavy legs. A Standardbred should be jogged for up to six weeks being turning them to go a training mile. Putting this foundation on a horse is extremely important before asking more of your Standardbred. Start out with two miles each day; increase the distance by one half mile for two days; increase one-half mile for the next 4 days, keeping up the pattern until you reach 4 miles a day for a solid two weeks, and hopefully your horse will be fit enough to begin training a jog -train set. Most trainers prefer to jog 2-2 ½ miles; then turn a go a mile in 2:50. Continue to deve velop a training regimen that best suits your horse. Remember that a RUS mount has to be at least a three year old to compete, and hopefully will have a good training foundation in place. IF that is indeed the case, your primary responsibility will be to keep your horse fresh, sound and sharp over the distance of a mile race. Many of today’s top trainers and conditioners combine several jog miles each day in combination with training sets either done as singles or double headers, depending on the horse’s individual needs. Combine the jogging and training with trail riding or just exploring the backstretch on your horse’s back. You will have to determine whether your training sessions will be to jog cart or under saddle. It is important that you construct a program that will spin a horse into racing shape without burning him out from a lack of changes in his routine. This is where the saddle training comes in handy. It is also important to jog your horse both directions of the racetrack to keep him going straight and to develop some flexibilty. There are several excellent books, such as Care and Training of the Trotter and Pacer, published by the USTA, to assist you develop your game plan. It can also be helpful to ask for the assistance of an experienced trainer or RUS licensee to give you training tips. THE FIRST RUS EVENT When you and your mount have trained down successfully to the point that you feel ready to compete, there are still a few more important items that need to be addressed. It is imperative that you make sure that you have schooled your horse properly behind the starting gate. Many of the events have been won at the start of the race and how a rider’s horse is able to get right on the gate and secure a good position on the rail. This maneuver can take several attempts to get your timing right. It is also important to find out whether your horse can, in fact, leave quickly from the gate. If your Standardbred does not display the ability to leave, it is imperative that you and your RUS mount are right on the gate and ready to spring. Be aware that your mount will probably take a big hold behind the gate and you will need the proper equipment in his mouth to be able to rate him. The majority of RUS riders agree that it is a completely different feeling when you’re on their backs and that you have less leverage than when driving in harness. Another major difference is that RUS mounts have the capability of getting much closer to each other than their harness counterparts. The rider must be aware of the other horses’ position and avoid clipping heels another competitor. It is the responsibility of all participants to read the RUS guidelines thoroughly and make sure the rules are understood. As a RUS competitor, you will be promoting the versatility of our breed. Think of yourself as ambassadors to racing fans and equine enthusiasts alike, with a marvelous secret to share. RUS has opened the doors to men and women who loved the thrill of racing, but were unable to participate on a competitive level. The Standardbred is as versatile as the people that are involved with them. What other breed can offer as wide a variety of uses as the Standardbred? Making an entry to a RUS event properly is another area that needs to be addressed. It is the trainer’s responsibility to know how far in advance before a race date that an entry needs to be made. The actual entry is done by calling the race office a few days in advance. Having the following bits of information on hand will make the process go smoothly: The horse’s name; The gait on which you will be competing; Name of the trainer and rider and their USTA license numbers; Medications the horse races on. While you’re on the phone with the race office, remember to find out about: stabling accommodations; state licensing requirements (if needed); administration of medications procedure; time of the pre-race meeting of riders, trainers and owners; what time do you report to the paddock with your horse; when you’ll be allowed to warm your horse up; whether or not it’s mandatory to wear a safety vest. Most RUS competitors outfit themselves with white breeches, a short sleeved set of racing colors, hunt or paddock style boots with a heel, an approved helmet (see RUS Guidelines) and the optional gloves and goggles. There are variations to this code of dress, but form- fitting clothes give a neat appearance and provide less wind resistance. You are ambassadors to this innovative form of Standardbred racing and image is important. For more information about the USTA, Racing Under Saddle, and the variety of disciplines that owners are enjoying with their Standardbreds, please contact….The USTA, SEP, or RUSROA.