FAQ Category: The Equine Disciplines

What is the difference between horse racing in the UK vs. the US?

Horse racing is one of the oldest of all sports, and its basic concept has undergone virtually no change over the centuries. It developed from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two horses into a spectacle involving large fields of runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and immense sums of money, but its essential feature has always been the same: the horse that finishes first is the winner. In the modern era, horse racing developed from a diversion of the leisure class into a huge public-entertainment business. By the first decades of the 21st century, however, the sport’s popularity had shrunk considerably. However, racing at the highest levels is still very popular.

Racing Toward Love centers around the English Triple Crown is a three-race competition for Thoroughbred racehorses. The English Triple Crown consists of the 2000 Guineas Stakes (at 1 mile), The Derby (at 1½ miles), and the St. Leger Stakes (at 1 mile 6 furlongs and 127 yds) although the distances have varied throughout the years.

In Racing Toward Love, Megan Brady’s horse, Seabiscuit II, is a contender to be the first horse in years to win the British Triple Crown. That’s why the Irish mob is so interested in capitalizing on the massive increase in public attention and the related increase in betting that is sure to accompany this latest sensation to launder large quantities of illegal money. It is generally conceded that capturing the British Triple Crown is more difficult to achieve than winning the American Triple Crown, because, even though the British trio of races takes place over a longer span of time (four months compared with four to five weeks), the large difference in race distances (1 mile for the Two Thousand Guineas, 1.5 miles for the Derby, and 1.75 miles for the Saint Leger) tests the horses’ versatility.

Want more? See the other equine disciplines listed on my site.

What is the World of International Show Jumping all about?

International Show Jumping

Jumper classes are held over a course of show jumping obstacles, including verticals, spreads, and double and triple combinations, usually with many turns and changes of direction. The intent is to jump cleanly over a set course within an allotted time. Time faults are assessed for exceeding the time allowance. Jumping faults are incurred for knockdowns and blatant disobedience, such as refusals (when the horse stops before a fence or “runs out”). Horses are allowed a limited number of refusals before being disqualified. A refusal may lead to a rider exceeding the time allowed on course. Placings are based on the lowest number of points or “faults” accumulated. A horse and rider who have not accumulated any jumping faults or penalty points are said to have scored a “clear round”. Tied entries usually have a jump-off over a raised and shortened course, and the course is timed; if entries are tied for faults accumulated in the jump-off, the fastest time wins.

The higher levels of competition, such as “A” or “AA” rated shows in the United States, or the international “Grand Prix” circuit, present more technical and complex courses. Not only is the height and width (“spread”) of an obstacle increased to present a greater challenge, technical difficulty also increases with tighter turns and shorter or unusual distances between fences. Horses sometimes also have to jump fences from an angle rather than straight on. For example, a course designer might set up a line so that there are six and a half strides (the standard measure for a canter stride is twelve feet) between the jumps, requiring the rider to adjust the horse’s stride dramatically in order to make the distance.

In Lionel’s Leap of Faith, Lionel’s horse Gideon’s Rainbow is competing with Monty Campbell as his rider in The Longines Global Champions Tour which was established to bring together the top show jumpers in the world to compete in prestigious locations for unprecedented prize money. There are 19 total events in the Tour, which offer some of the most explosive and exciting competition of any equestrian series. Olympic, World and Continental Champions battle fiercely for the title of overall season Champion of Champions and the lion’s share of the bonus prize fund. Individual purses can equal $100,000 per show.

Want more? See the other equine disciplines listed on my site.

What is Dressage?

Dressage (/ˈdrɛsɑːʒ/ or /drɪˈsɑːʒ/; a French term, most commonly translated to mean “training”) is a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition, as well as an “art” sometimes pursued solely for the sake of mastery. As an equestrian sport defined by the International Equestrian Federation, dressage is described as “the highest expression of horse training” where “horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.” Learn more at Wikipedia.

In Dressage Dreaming, Michael Stafford is an established dressage professional and the reigning Olympic champion in Dressage. Jessica Warren is an accomplished young professional but relatively untested in international competition. Both are, due to circumstances beyond their control, in need of a horse that is capable of competing at the international level. As you might imagine, horses of that caliber are difficult to find. When the “perfect” horse becomes available, both are determined to have him. As you might guess, sparks will fly.


Want more? See the other equine disciplines listed on my site.

What is Therapeutic Riding?

Equine Assisted Learning and Therapy

In Her Forever Love, Liz Randall has decided to leave international Dressage competition to come home to Columbus, Ohio and take over the management of her therapeutic riding facility. When Liz’s daughter Amy was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Liz researched the condition and discovered that the symptoms of CP improve with equine assisted physical therapy. When she couldn’t find a facility near their home in Columbus, she converted a part of her dressage training facility into a therapeutic riding practice. Because of Liz’s dedication to equine assisted therapy, Amy and many other patients have seen significant benefit from the therapy the horses provide.

“Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of individuals with and without special needs experience the rewarding benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). A physical, cognitive or emotional special need does not limit a person from interacting with horses. In fact, such interactions can prove highly rewarding. For instance, experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse can be very beneficial. Riding a horse moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

Whether it’s a five-year-old with Down syndrome, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury, a senior citizen recovering from a stroke or a teenager struggling with depression, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in EAAT can experience physical and emotional rewards. For individuals with emotional challenges, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem. For teams in the corporate workplace and any individual seeking better leadership, team building or communication skills, working with horses provides a powerful new paradigm.” Quoted from PATH International.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding

For participants ages 5 and up, therapeutic riding is a recreational activity that provides opportunities for physical, emotional and cognitive benefit through horseback riding. All participants work towards individualized goals in a safe, fun and compassionate environment. The horses’ natural movement engages the human body in a manner that simulates walking. It is not uncommon that a student who has mobility limitations before riding will show improvements in their ability to ambulate after their lesson due to the improved core strength and flexibility derived from riding their horse. Whereas physical therapy in a room may be a chore, riding becomes a treat. Students have an opportunity to work on life skills, concentration, following directions, and working with others through horseback riding skills. You can learn more about therapeutic riding here!

Equine Assisted Learning

Equine-assisted learning (EAL) is an experiential learning approach that promotes the development of life skills for educational, professional and personal goals through equine-assisted activities. PATH International provides standards of professionalism and safety for people working in the EAAT field and guidelines for those providing EAL.

In an EAL setting, the experiential approach integrates equine-human interaction that is guided by a planned learning experience to meet the identified goals or desires of the participant(s). Working with equines provides opportunities to teach critical life skills such as trust, respect, honesty and communication. Equines use mostly non-vocal communication and are in-tune with human behavior. This can help participants to better understand and learn how our non-verbal communication might be impacting or influencing others in their lives. Equines ask people to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Through interactions with the equines, participants learn a heightened self-awareness. Self-awareness is important in order to reveal patterns of behavior and gives participants the opportunity to think in a new way. Furthermore, participants gain self-esteem and self-confidence while learning how to work with such a large and powerful creature. In all, equines provide us with a way to see our internal landscape and modes of operation exposed. They offer us the opportunity to experience humility, compassion and challenge – all critical elements to supporting self-growth and self-awareness.

What is Polo?

Polo is a ball game played on horseback, and one of the world’s oldest known team sports. The game is played by two opposing teams with the objective of scoring using a long-handled wooden mallet to hit a small hard ball through the opposing team’s goal. Each team has four mounted riders, and the game usually lasts one to two hours, divided into periods called chukkas or “chukkers“.

Polo has been called “the sport of kings” and has become a spectator sport for equestrians and high society, often supported by sponsorship. The concept of the game and its variants date back from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD, originated from equestrian games played by nomadic Iranian and Turkic peoples. The sport was at first a training game for Persian cavalry units, usually the royal guard or other elite troops. A notable example is Saladin, who was known for being a skilled polo player which contributed to his cavalry training. It is now popular around the world, with well over 100 member countries in the Federation of International Polo, played professionally in 16 countries, and was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1936.

Riding Toward Love