harness racing


Stepping stones to a rewarding career

Jobs and qualifications

Stablehand Certificate I in Racing (Stablehand) »
Stablehand
Racing Administration
Track Maintenance
Certificate II in Racing (Stablehand) »
Certificate II in Racing Services (Racing Administration) »
Certificate II in Racing Services (Track Maintenance) »
Advanced Stablehand
Trackrider
Cadet Steward
Racing Administration
Certificate III in Racing (Advanced Stablehand) »
Certificate III in Racing (Trackrider) »
Certificate III in Racing Services (Cadet Steward) »
Certificate III in Racing Services (Racing Administration) »
Harness Racing Driver
Steward
Racing Administration
Track Maintenance
Certificate IV in Racing (Harness Race Driver) »
Certificate IV in Racing Services (Steward) »
Certificate IV in Racing Services (Racing Administration) »
Certificate IV in Racing Services (Track Maintenance) »
Steward
Racing Administration
Diploma of Racing Services (Steward) »
Diploma of Racing Services (Racing Administration) »

Career pathways in harness racing

Harness racing, also colloquially known as trotting, is an important spectator sport in Australia. Harness racing in Australia is conducted with standardbred horses racing around a track while pulling a driver in a two wheeled cart called a ‘sulky’, ‘gig’ or ‘bike’.

Pacers contest 80 per cent to 90 per cent of Australian harness races. Races are conducted in an anti-clockwise direction generally over distances from 1,609 metres (1 mile) to 2,650 metres, although some races such as the A G Hunter Cup are run over longer distances.Harness racing tracks typically measure from 700 to 1,000 metres.

Australia has 91 harness racing tracks, which hold over 1,900 meetings annually. There are approximately 2,900 drivers and 4,000 trainers with about 5,000 standardbred horses foaled and registered each year.

Harness racing is administered by Australian Harness Racing with each state’s principal racing authority agreeing to abide by and enforce rules and regulations.

Harness drivers are required to undertake similar training to jockeys, however, their weight and fitness is not quite as important. Drivers are paid a fee for driving in races and receive 5 per cent of all stake money earned by the horse they drive.

To become a driver you are required to work in a harness stable for at least six months and be able to drive pacing horses in track-work. It is then necessary to apply for a C Grade licence – this licence permits a driver to drive in trials.

All trials are monitored and when you are driving with sufficient skill for the stewards to assess you as ready to drive in races you apply for a B-grade licence, which permits you to drive in country races. Some drivers are self employed, similar to a jockey. However, most also train horses and many undertake this as a part-time career and also have an alternate job.

Track Rider

A track rider helps exercise race horses by walking, trotting and galloping them so they are fit enough to ride in a race. Track riders are like jockeys, but they don’t ride in races and do no have to manage their weight in the same way jockeys do.

Most track riders are employed by a trainer, but some work freelance, riding track work for a number of different stables.

There is a growing need for track riders and there are generally positions available at most race tracks around Australia. Track riders generally start work around 4 am avoiding the heat of the day, so they have the opportunity to hold another job or study during the day.

All track riders must be licensed by the respective principle racing association in each state. If you have no previous horse riding skills, there are courses available to provide you with experience and prepare you with the skills you need to become a track rider.

Stable Hand

A stablehand, often referred to as a strapper, is a person who attends and grooms racehorses. In a racing stable a stablehand may be responsible for caring for a number of horses at any one time.

Duties include grooming, feeding, tidying horse boxes/yards and attending races. Duties at the races include looking after the horse, ensuring it is safe and remains calm and also leading the horse around prior to and after it has raced.

There are full and part-time stablehand positions in thoroughbred and harness stables, many people enter stables with no formal training and learn on the job. Most careers in racing start with a period of working as a stablehand to gain the skills and knowledge required to work with racehorses.

A stable hand’s duties include grooming, feeding, walking and attending the races with horses ensuring that they are looked after.

Some stable hands also ride track work. Stables generally open around 4am for the morning shift and re-open around 3pm for the afternoon shift, in order to avoid the heat of the day. Stable hands must be licensed by the respective principal racing authority and are employed by trainers.

Farrier

A farrier plays a vital role in the well being and level of performance in horses – keeping their hooves in good condition and placing the appropriate shoes on horses.

A qualified farrier is one of the most important people associated with the health and welfare of horses. Due to their proven training, skills, knowledge and commitment, almost all racing stables, stud farms and large equestrian establishments employ qualified farriers to care for their horses’ feet.

Farrier training consists of a four-year Australian Apprenticeship studying Certificate III Farriery, comprising on-the-job practical training with a qualified farrier and off-the-job theory study at TAFE.

Equine Dentist

Professional specialist equine dentistry care is required as part of a horse’s regular health maintenance to ensure that the animal is able to pick up and chew it’s food correctly.

This in turn affects the health of the horse and helps to overcome problems where a horse may be experiencing pain with the placement of a bit in its mouth.

To become a certified equine dentist you will need to complete a Certificate IV in Equine Dentistry. It is possible to complete the qualifications through distance education combined with a block of hands-on training.

Steward

Stewards are responsible for conducting race meetings and ensuring that the rules of racing are adhered to. Being a steward involves a wide range of duties in order to properly control and regulate racing. Stewards are employed by the principle racing authority of each state and all stewards start as a cadet steward.

Barrier Attendant

Barrier attendants are responsible for loading of horses into the barriers on race days. Barrier attendants must have experience in handling horses and are employed by race clubs. As it is a job that only involves work on race days, most barrier attendants hold other jobs, some working at racing stables.

* Source acknowledgement: Racing and Wagering Western Australia