I’ll bet you didn’t know what ‘barding’ meant either!!! I saw something on Antiques Roadshow about a headpiece for a horse and it caught my interest. In some ways, this also parallels my etymology series, after a fashion. So, without further ado…..

Barding (also spelled bard) is body armour for war horses. The practice of armoring horses was first extensively developed in antiquity in the eastern kingdoms of Parthia and Pahlava. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, it likely made its way into European military practices via the Seleucid Empire and later Byzantine Empire. Though its historical roots lie in antiquity in the regions of what was once the Persian Empire, barded horses have become a symbol of the late European Middle Ages chivalry and the era of knights.

A museum display of a 16th century knight with an armoured horse

During the Late Middle Ages, as armour protection for knights became more effective, their mounts became targets. This vulnerability was exploited by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn in the 14th century, when horses were killed by the infantry, and by the English at the Battle of Crécy in the same century where long-bowmen shot horses and the then-dismounted French knights were killed by heavy infantry. Barding developed as a response to such events.

Examples of armour for horses could be found as far back as classical antiquity. Cataphracts, with scale armour for both rider and horse, are believed by many historians to have influenced the later European knights, via contact with the Byzantine Empire.

Example of Cataphract

There are a number of bits and pieces that make up the barding. The chanfron (also spelled chaffron, chamfron, champion, chamfron, chamfrein, champron, and shaffron) was designed to protect the horse’s face. Sometimes this included hinged cheek plates. A decorative feature common to many chanfrons is a rondel with a small spike.

A chanfron made in Italy in the early 16th century

The chanfron was known as early as ancient Greece, but vanished from use in Europe until the twelfth century when metal plates replaced boiled leather as protection for war horses. The basic design of the chanfron remained stable until it became obsolete in the seventeenth century, although late examples are often notable for engraved decoration. A chanfron extended from the horse’s ears to its muzzle. Flanges often covered the eyes. In an open chanfron, the eyes received no protection. Hinged extensions to cover the jowls were commonly used for jousting tournaments.

Torrs Pony-cap, as displayed in 2011 The enigmatic Torrs pony-cap from Scotland appears to be a bronze chanfron from about the 2nd century BC, perhaps later fitted with the bronze horns found with it.”

The criniere (also known as manefaire or crinet) was a set of segmented plates that protected the horse’s neck. In full barding this consisted of two combinations of articulated lames that pivoted on loose rivets. One set of lames covered the mane and the other covered the neck. These connected to the peytral and the chanfron.

Light barding used only the upper lames. Three straps held the crinet in place around the neck. It is thought that thin metal was used for these plates, perhaps 0.8 mm. Mail armour was often affixed to the crinet and wrapped about the horse’s neck for additional protection.

Fragments of a set of armour with a criniere (protecting neck), peytral (protecting chest), and the croupiere (protecting hind quarters). This set was created by Lorenz Helmschmied and Konrad Ssusenhoffer for Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and later also used by his son Maximilian I.

The croupiere (also crupiere bacul or crupper) protected the horse’s hind quarters. It could be made from any combination of leather, mail, or plate armour.

The flanchards, used to protect the flank, attached to the side of the saddle, then around the front or rear of the horse and back to the saddle again. These appear to have been metal plates riveted to leather or in some cases cuir bouilli armour (which is boiled or treated leather sealed with beeswax or the like).

(Boiled leather, often referred to by its French translation, cuir bouilli, was a historical material common in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period and used for various purposes. It was leather that had been treated so that it became tough and rigid, as well as able to hold a mold.)

They sometimes had openings designed to allow the rider to use spurs.

Barding was often used in conjunction with cloth covers known as caparisons. These coverings sometimes covered the entire horse from nose to tail and extended to the ground. It is unclear from period illustrations how much metal defensive covering was used in conjunction. Textile covers may also be called barding.

(This 15th-century depiction of a tournament shows fully caparisoned horses, from Le Livre des tournois by Barthelemy d’Eyck.)

Another commonly included feature of barding was protection for the reins, so they could not be cut. This could be metal plates riveted to them or chainmail linked around them.

The full bard is a “complete ensemble of horse armour,” created for Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, by master armourers from Augsburg and Innsbruck like Lorenz Helmschmied and Konrad Seusenhofer. The development of the full bard was also connected with the development of Maximilian armour and the Landsknecht (all three arose from the time Maximilian was in Burgundian Netherlands), as both human and equine combatants required more and more protection. But the full bard was expensive and only the richest knights could afford it.

(Albrecht May, Master-of-Arms, entering Namur, riding a horse wearing his master Maximilian I’s bard in 1480. The bard is crafted by Lorenz Helmschmied. The female figure is likely Mary of Burgundy, the contemporary ruler of the Burgundian State and wife of Maximilian, holding the combined heraldry of Austria and Burgundy.)

(Maximilian I on an armored horse, ca. 1575)

A cataphract was a cavalryman in full armour riding an (partially or fully) armoured horse. This type of cavalry originated from central Asia and was adopted by the eastern satrapies of the ancient Persian Empire. The Seleucid cataphract used scale armour for its flexibility and effective protection against archers and also because unlike regular metal types, it was not too heavy for the horses.

(Taq-e Bostan: equestrian statue of Khosrow II as a cataphract)

National Day of the Horse

On the National Day of the Horse, horse lovers like ourselves like to consider America’s relationship with horses and our common history. It’s popular knowledge that European colonists brought horses over to America during the 15th and 16th century to be traded with the Native Americans, hence the Thanksgiving association. While this is true, the relationship isn’t as straightforward as that; it’s a complicated one.

A 2012 study found the wild ancestor of the modern domestic horse likely originated around 160,000 years ago in Eurasia. The scientists determined that horses were first domesticated roughly 6,000 years ago somewhere in the Eurasian Steppe. Another study published in 2017 found all modern horses descend from two distinct lines: the Arabian horse and the now-extinct Turkoman horse (which was similar to the Akhal-Teke breed).

Classic Arabian

Horses spread around the world via trade, war, gifting, theft, and more. People began to selectively breed for desirable characteristics to meet their work requirements for the horses, such as speed, strength, and stamina. While people kept track of their horses’ lineage and traits for centuries, studbooks to maintain an official pedigree record didn’t come about until the 1700s. From this arose the multitude of breeds and types of horses we know today.

Just 19 of the Breeds

The Breeds of Livestock resource from Oklahoma State University lists 217 separate breeds of horses from the Abyssinian to the Zhemaichu. Meanwhile, “The Encyclopedia of the Horse” by Elwyn Hartley Edwards lists just over 150 breeds of horses, including many ancient breeds that no longer exist but are the ancestors of many breeds today. A study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences references 784 horse breeds in the United Nations Food and Agriculture database, but most equine experts recognize approximately 200 horse breeds.

Although horses hadn’t been roaming the American plains in the years leading up to their European introduction, horses have a much longer relationship with America than previously thought.


Think millions of years, coinciding in time periods with the mighty wooly mammoth. Around 10,000 years ago, some of these wild horses crossed over the Bering land bridge that connected early America and Asia. The earliest bridles for horses were found in Eastern Europe dating back to 4000 BC, showing that the Europeans started to domesticate the wild horses around this time, using them for hunting, carrying packs and working the fields. The ancient wild horses that stayed in America became extinct but their ancestors were introduced back to the American land via the European colonists many years later.

Pleistocene Era Horse

Columbus’ second voyage was the starting point for the re-introduction, bringing Iberian horses to modern-day Mexico. Some of the Iberian horses escaped European control and became wild horses, relatives of the mustangs in the Western United States today. The first breeds of horses that were brought over were smaller, due to size constraints for the smaller ships of the time, but as time went on, larger horses such as draft horses were also imported.

Navajo Bridle

After Columbus’ re-introduction, horses spread across the continent and many Native American societies developed their cultures around them. This is where problems emerge, because although they were once native to America thousands of years ago, horses are still technically a recently introduced species to the American plains. Wild horses have few predators and a perfect habitat, so they quickly grew to become a symbol of the West. However, their populations grew too quickly, and they began to compete with farmers for the natural resources that the land held.

The Bureau of Land Management currently protects the wild herds, but they have to manage the population via sterilization techniques and round-ups, a dramatic controversy for animal rights activists.

Wild mare with foal and yearling
BLM Round-Up

The horses we see today are all examples of selective breeding via humans over the years (with the exception of the pure desert-bred Arabian) but they’re also a shared part of our mixed Native and European histories. Horses allowed humans to travel farther and faster, instrumentally help out armies during battles, and develop the country through labor-intensive agriculture.

There are currently around 9.2 million horses in the country, consisting of many breeds such as American Quarter Horses, Paints, Appaloosas, Missouri Fox Trotters, and rarer breeds such as the Shire, Lippizan, Gotland, Caspian and Colonial Spanish Mustangs.

Classic Quarter Horse

Classic Paint

Classic Appaloosa
Missouri Foxtrotter

Dappled Bay Shire
Classic Lippizanner

Oscar (above) is one of four horses who starred in Disney’s Hidalgo, the epic adventure movie based on the true story of Frank T. Hopkins and his Spanish mustang stallion, Hidalgo. Oscar is APHA registered as Impressively Better, born in 1991.

Most of the breeds in “The Encyclopedia of the Horse” are horses with existing registries that can trace bloodlines to ensure purity. In general, the number of horse breed registries is increasing as equine lovers recognize the need to compile data about rare and endangered breeds and types of horses.

Identification of the Desert-Bred Arabian

Header pic lists the ancient Classic Egyptian bloodlines of my Saba Kharazaarouf, which was his full registered name. His sire was Zaaris (dapple gray) and his dam was Kharoufa (chestnut); there was also strong black in his bloodlines, and my ultimate dream Arab was always a black – not that I didn’t dearly love my Z, mind you! But we hoped to get a black foal from him. He shared bloodlines with Cass Ole, the horse from “The Black” movies. I have a pic of HB standing on a step stool next to Cass Ole in his paddock – we went to a Lippizzan show at the Capital Center outside DC and he was in the lobby.)

When I posted some Arabian horse pics recently, I commented briefly about the physical characteristics and was going to go into a detailed explanation of all the others, then a little voice came to mind: “That would make a great open!” Yes, Pat – I hear you! LOL

So, here it is! These are all stock pics and all of the specific descriptions I am using are for this first picture. I’m going to test you to see if you can point out the similarities in the others!😉😉😉 Open the pic in a new tab and enlarge it, if you need to.

This is the pic of the blood bay Arabian I posted – spitting image of my Z:

Let’s start with the head: Look at the top of the ears, which are a scimitar shape, moving down to the forehead – see the bulge? Note the very broad jaws, rather short head, the foreward-and-wide-set, big eyes, quickly tapering to a dish-shaped, slender face and nose, ending with the huge nostrils (which is why they are called “Wind Drinkers”), yet a small, almost dainty mouth.

OK….moving on….go back to the top of the head/neck. Note that it is a short neck with a dramatic arch, set high into the shoulders, which are broad and well-muscled, set into the short barrel of the body. The concave profile and flagging tail are not the only peculiar features of the Arabian. Many also have one less lumbar vertebrae, pair of ribs, and tail bone than other horse breeds. Also note what is called the “tabletop back,” i.e., straight and level, with the tail set high up into the spine.

“Flagging” his tail

Back to the front: note the wide-set front legs, very well developed chest, straight and unblemished legs, wide and substantial knees, slender, almost fragile looking cannon bones (main bottom leg bone), clean, small ankle, with a short, straight, upright pastern (between the ankles and the hooves).

The knees of young Arabians do not “close” as early as other breeds. There is a gap in the center of the knee that does not fuse until around the age of 4. This is why it is wise not to do any strenuous training that will stress the knees until then; when Arabians age, the knees are often where the damage shows up first. Nine times out of ten, it is because they started training too soon. Trained and cared for properly, Arabians can continue to thrive and perform well into their 30’s!

Even newborn’s show the basic conformation – that nose would be called an “extreme” tea cup dish face)

As to the hooves of desert-bred Arabs, in a natural setting they rarely need a farrier to trim their feet. Given a “normal” pasture/grazing area with the occasional stones/rocks/gravel, and their clean, proper conformation, they wear off naturally. Under normal life, barring stepping on something and injuring the heel or frog of the foot or being out in wet, muddy ground for an extended period (which can cause a disease called “thrush”) or being a “working” horse, they don’t require intervention.

I had my Z for 17 years and not once did I ever have to call a farrier. That entire time, a farrier looked at his feet twice – I wanted to make sure Z was good and, since they were there anyway, they agreed to check him out. First guy, said nope, doesn’t need anything. Second guy looked, shook his head, dropped Z’s hoof in disgust, and said, “These damned Arabs!!! I’d go broke with just them!!!”

Note the difference in the conformation, specifically of the hooves, between the Arab and this one. You can clearly see the dropped heels, the long toes, the slightly slanted pastern. Of course, you can also see the difference in conformation overall.

I can’t identify which breed this is but it seems to be a pony of some type.

Most people not in the horse world have never heard the phrase “showing at liberty.” That means the horses are not on leads and are running free, oftentimes without even a halter. This is a video of a woman with her Arabians working at liberty:

Another Arabian show event that I always loved is the Costume competition!!!


LIFE Magazine called the story of Snowman, “The greatest “˜nags-to-riches’ story since Black Beauty.” But what makes Snowman’s story even more extraordinary is that it is true. It is one of the rare true stories of horses that has been able to captivate the imagination of millions of people. Only a few are able to successfully travel the road from “rags to riches.” It takes exceptional capability and luck. But the one who beats the odds “ the longest of long shots – the “unlikely” champion “ becomes a symbol of hope.

Harry and Snowman

Snowman was a plow horse in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. In 1920, most of the 25 million horses and mules in America were used for farm work. By 1945, tractor power overtook horse power on American farms. By the 1950s, farm equipment manufacturers stopped building horse-drawn equipment, leaving horse farmers no choice but to eventually replace their equipment.


It was a cold snowy day in February 1956 when Snowman headed for the slaughterhouse at only eight years of age. On that same day, luck came into play when the 28-year old Harry de Leyer headed off from his riding stable in Long Island, New York, to the same horse auction in New Holland, Pennsylvania, looking for inexpensive lesson horses.

Arriving late, the auction had ended, and the only horses left were the ones that nobody wanted. Already loaded on a trailer en route to the “meat dealer,” De Leyer spotted the dirty, gray horse that he would later name Snowman and called out to bring the horse back down. On instinct alone, he bought him for $80.

Snowman was a lesson horse for a short time when Harry sold him to a neighbor for double the money. But, an unhappy Snowman kept coming home to Harry “ jumping the neighbor’s five-foot fences” time and time again. As luck would have it again for Snowman, the neighbor was only too happy to let Harry take him back, and Harry, now recognizing Snowman’s extraordinary talent, set Snowman on his path to become one of the most beloved show jumpers of all time.

Just two years later in 1958, Snowman was named the United States Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year (formerly called AHSA Horse of the Year), Professional Horseman’s Association champion and the champion of Madison Square Garden’s Diamond Jubilee. The following year, Snowman achieved the unimaginable returning to Madison Square Garden to be the first horse to win the Open Jumper Championship two years in a row.

The pair became media favorites ““ even appearing on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” where Johnny climbed on Snowman’s back. Snowman retired from the show ring in 1962 and in 1974, passed away at home with Harry sitting close by his side. Snowman was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1992.


Horses Saving Humans?!?

A horse as a flight animal. Danger = Ruuuunnn!!!

If humans were an animal of prey, we would rather run than discuss the matter as well…however, there have been some Horse Heroes recorded lately…here are a few stories.


I read about a lady from England who went out to see what was bothering a wailing calf.

She realized her mistake after she had already gone into the pen when the Momma cow rushed to the calf’s aid thinking the woman was the issue…

The cow sat on the woman. Not good. The woman realized her predicament and thought she was a goner. But, suddenly, her horse who shared the pasture, came over and started kicking the beejueezus out of the cow. The cow moved and the lady crawled to safety. I’m guessing the horse had had experience with kicking this particular cow… since they shared a pasture. However, this horse came to the rescue of her owner! A remarkable story.


I just read about this older rancher who went out to feed in the morning and came face to face with a pack of nasty looking coyotes. Well, his trusty three horses who were also in the field, came to his rescue. They circled the wagons and defended their owner against the coyotes. The rancher reported seeinga few direct hits from his mares to the largest coyote. Once safe, the rancher exclaimed that he was absolutely sure that these three mares saved his life. Nice, ladies! Here he is pictured with his horsey heroes!


Another story which doesn’t really fit my model here, but is a good story nonetheless. In this article, a father swears that his horse helped his autistic child. He says that the child uttered his first constructed conversation when riding the horse. And, he feels that the horse was extra special gentle with the little boy.

Much more gentle than with anyone else. I’m sure this is true because I have a pretty rank lead mare at my ranch and she will test any grown-up I put on her back but will be an angel with a kid. Go figure.


I once interviewed Rocky from the famed Cowboy College. He said that he got lost in the Arizona mountains during really bad weather. He swears that he was so overwhelmed with exhaustion and cold, he passed out while riding. The next thing he knew, he was being brought into the ranch house. His mare had gingerly carried him the extra miles back home. He feels he owes his life to this horse.


I know that my horses are your normal horses…really no heroes among them. They will, however, step up and settle a score for me or make things right, if you know what I mean. I have accidentally been bitten by my lead mare but once she realized her offense, she looked aghast and just stood there bracing herself for what she felt was a fair retaliation blow. I didn’t. I just started to sob gently and she nuzzled me. Good enough. She made it right. (Horse bites HURT.)

My most literal score settling incident happened when I positioned myself badly and received a grazing kick from a colt. His Mama, the same horse who accidentally bit me, ran after him and kicked his hiney across the field and up onto the hill. Atta girl!

And, as I’m sure you have all seen, when you are out in the field with the herd and one particular horse is being a butt-head, the rest of the group will snap at some point and say, ENOUGH! Usually the offending horse will run off and hide behind a tree until he can sneak back unnoticed.

Indirectly, horses have saved my life in an emotional way. During my divorce many years ago, I was not healthy minded. Yet, through all of the drama, I still had to take care of my animals. I dragged my pitiful self out to the barn to help them with their lives. Hmmmm, I seemed to forget myself when I was out there. They got me out of my funk and inspired me to find some money and save the ranch for us. They got me back into the game.

Another indirect save was just last year when I lost Fanny. I stumbled upon her body in the barn. I had never seen a lifeless pet before and I was quite startled and shocked. I started crying. After a few minutes of this, I noticed that the whole barn was quiet and watching me. Now, I had no horses IN the barn. But, they had all come up TO the barn. Every one of them was peering inside through a window or an open board, trying to figure out why Mom was so upset. They weren’t demanding treats or hay or anything from me. They were being honorable. I remember looking up at all the faces and realizing how lucky I was.


That is why, for me, the human — the predator on the evolution scale — I find it fascinating when the prey animal (the horse) helps us.

posted @ https://www.horseandman.com/horse-stories/horses-saving-human-lives/10/04/2011/

Life on Thoroughbred “Dirt Tracks”

Folks who follow Thoroughbred racing on TV only see the pomp and ceremony in gorgeous, bucolic settings – IOW, the elites – not the mundane and yes, often seedy, environs of the small, cheap, so-called “dirt” tracks. It is rare for trainers from these small tracks to make the big time. Jack Van Berg was one of them. I worked for him briefly at Ak-Sar-Ben, which, by the way, is Nebraska spelled backwards.

I first began in the early ’70’s at Fonner Park in Grand Island, which has now been incorporated into the State Fairgrounds. Atokad Racetrack (Dakota spelled backwards for the Indian tribe) in So. Sioux City has been closed and Ak-Sar-Ben has been demolished. This was the first race of the season last year at Fonner Park.

The horses are walked to the paddock before every race, where they are tacked up, and a Paddock Judge checks the lip tattoo of each horse. All racehorses have a number tattooed on the underside of their upper lip, which identifies them. He also gives every horse the once-over for any injuries or injection sites. Yes, some of the dirt-track trainers dope their horses. As with any insular culture, there is a hierarchy and most are fully aware of which trainers dope or mistreat their horses.

Usually, it is the groom – the 2nd to lowest in the pecking order – who is at the heads of those horses, trying to keep them calm and focused. Grooms literally live with their horses for every minute of every day within a very transient life. You move from track to track, staying in various places – a hotel in Gr. Island, a rented room in a private home in Columbus, an apartment in Omaha, a hotel across the river in Sioux City.

By the way, if you want to know who to bet on in a race, find a way to talk to the grooms. They know ALL of the inside skinny – which jockey is going to throw which race in order to help a young jockey into the winner’s circle (called a “boat race”), which horse is drugged out of it’s mind, which horse is particularly sore that day, which one is a “machine” horse……they know it all!

Ah yes…..a “machine horse.” I had one of those: Stumpy the Boy, sire named Stumps. It was he who stomped on my bare foot right over my arch (NEVER go barefoot in the shed row) with the sharp toe grabs on his new shoes. I almost passed out and couldn’t wear my boots for weeks but I ran my horse!

This is Secretariat but Stumpy looked exactly like him.

A “machine” is an electric buzzer that jockeys hold in their hands or, if there is a “shakedown” in the starting gate, hide in their clothes. Stumpy would be 15 lengths behind into the last turn, yet end up 10 lengths in front at the finish line! He was THAT fast but it took a shock from a machine to get him moving! Here’s a trick for you: when you see a horse corkscrewing their tail, going round and round, that is often an indication they were just “plugged in.”

Stumpy did NOT like men – he had been hand-raised by a woman; he also hated for someone to stand outside his stall and look at him – with Stumpy, you did NOT dawdle in front of the stall. Walk right in or he would come at you with ears laid back and teeth bared. I put a metal gate on his stall rather than the webbing seen in this picture of a shed row on the backside at Belmont Park.

A groom’s life is repetitive – every single day, there are certain activities that must be completed for each horse and there are generally 4 horses for each groom.

Each horse must be fed at the same time every day with it’s own individualized feed mix, with supplements and medications. In the spring, it is around 6 am; in the heat of the summer, it is 4:30 am. When it is 90 degrees and humid by 8 am, you want your horses done with their workouts and back in the barn early. While they eat, the grooms head to the track kitchen to fill their own bellies, gulp as much strong black coffee as possible, and gossip; back to the barn within an hour or so, often making a stop at the head on the way back since your barn is a long way to walk.

The trainer will have provided instructions as to which horse is to be taken to the track to work-out and which are to be just walked. Most trainers have “hot walkers,” i.e., people who walk the horse around in a circle. Many also have mechanical walkers, such as this homemade one.

Automatic Walker

Some horses are very laissez-faire about this procedure, while others are absolutely terrified. The on/off switch is at the center – if a horse is acting up on the walker, you take your life in your hands trying to get to the on/off switch, all while holding your horse. So, you wait until the open spot comes around, step in and walk along as you connect the snap to your horse’s halter. It takes talent and agility!!

While the horse is out of the stall, you clean the stall, re-bed it, wash the feed and water tubs, and refresh the water and hay. You bring the walking horse in and commence the daily grooming – brushing, clipping, cleaning and treating the hooves, etc., etc. Some horses have their legs rubbed each day with liniment and stall bandages that must be applied carefully – too tight in the wrong direction and you run the risk of a “bowed” (i.e., damaged) tendon.

If your horse has been to the track that morning, about the time you get the stall done, the exercise rider is bringing your horse back and it is now time for the bath. I always trained my horses to ground-tie, i.e., I could drop the lead shank on the ground, say “stand,” and they would stay there while I bathed them. That proved challenging at the Columbus track, since our barn was located just 20 feet from the railroad tracks. THAT was fun!!!! Not really so grand, in truth.

Grandstand at Columbus, NE

Another of my favorites, Z Irish Lover, was indeed, the lover in the stable! Everyone simply adored her – she was a laid back, lanky bay mare, with white markings, who simply loved people – ALL people – but especially children. It is rare, indeed, to find a Thoroughbred race horse who can be trusted with children. Lover was that one! After a race, the horses have to be “cooled out,” or walked and watered until the sweat dries, they are breathing normally and their adrenaline has leveled off. Lover always tried to go down the shed row where the most people were located. She loved the attention.

Generic pic

Of course, we grooms always wanted our horses to look especially pretty. We would often make our own yarn pompoms, in the owner’s racing colors – Gary’s were Kelly green and white (his last name was Kelley). I would use a white bridle on her, with green and white pompoms in her braided mane and tail, and green or white “rundown” bandages. These are stretchy bandages that provide a little bit of support for their legs during a race. These are bell boots to protect the coronet band, from which the hoof grows (white area at top in pic below).

Coronet Band

There are different classes of races at every track: allowance, stakes, claiming, maiden, etc. I won’t get into the details but will provide a link for those who are interested. The majority of the races on the dirt tracks are claiming races – btw, if the horse dies during the race? Too bad – you just bought yourself a dead horse!

“Claiming Races are when owners can buy or sell their thoroughbred horses. Every thoroughbred horse running in a Claiming Race can be purchased (“claimed”) for a specific claiming price prior to the race. The horses usually have a similar value in price, bloodlines, and age.

A claim has to be put in before the actual race goes off. The outcome of the race is inconsequential once the horse has been claimed. The prices range on a low end of $1,000 to as much as $100,000.

The previous owner receives any winnings if the horse is in the money and the new owner receives the horse. Over half of the Thoroughbred Horse Races in America are Claiming Races, this serves as a way for owners to buy and sell horses.”


Lover always ran in stakes races but did not have the skills and ability necessary for the top races. She won repeatedly up to a certain level but was unable to compete above that. Finally, the owner decided to run her in a $15,000 claiming race, thinking no-one would take her for that amount. Lo and behold! She was claimed!!! It was THE hardest day ever for all of us working for Gary.

As her groom, it was my responsibility to take her over to the claiming shed so the owner could take possession. I cried all the way and passed by one of my fellow grooms on the way who was also in tears. I was required to remove her bridle and watch as they put on their own halter. I almost exploded when I saw them put the chain over her nose. There are many methods used to control a horse with a lead shank – usually leather with a measure of chain and a snap at the end. Some horses need this chain over their nose, some under their chin, and some inside their upper lip on their gums, called a “lip chain,” in order to control them. Lover NEVER needed such harsh tactics! I refused to allow them to take her away until they moved that chain!

The only thing that gave me any solace was that she had been purchased for breeding purposes and would never be raced again. Some years later, when my b-Mom was working on the racetrack in New Mexico, she happened to see a young horse on the program whose dam was Z Irish Lover. She bet on her because she remembered me raving about Lover and won hundreds of $$$’s on her win ticket.

I was happy envisioning my Lover romping in the fields with her foal by her side!

Generic pic