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What is Steeplechase Horse Racing?

Hurdling is used to train horses for strenuous steeplechase races.
Steeplechase racing evolved from the European tradition of fox hunting.
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  • Written By: T Thompson
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2014
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Steeplechase horse racing first began in England and Ireland, with the first recorded steeplechase occurring in County Cork, Ireland in 1752. Since church steeples were the tallest and most prominent landmarks, they were used to mark the finish line for the course; hence, the term steeplechase evolved from the simple idea of a "chase to the steeple." The sport evolved from the European pastime of fox hunting, and gave hunters a way to test the speed of their mounts during a cross-country chase.

The first steeplechase courses were often over rough terrain, which meant that horse and rider were forced to deal with whatever unforeseen obstacles might be in their path. The only goal being to get to the steeple first. Both horse and rider had to be very skilled, and able to jump, wade water, and cleverly maneuver their way to the finish line. Needless to say, it was a difficult and dangerous proposition.

As the sport progressed, however, the basic steeplechase course evolved into a pre-determined route, with reasonable obstacles, and a set length. The first organized steeplechase racing began around 1830, and a basic steeplechase course is now 2-4 miles (3.2-6.4 meters) long and consists of a combination of obstacles such as stone walls, water jumps, brush fences, and timber rails.

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A form of steeplechase racing known as Hurdling is often used to train horses for more strenuous steeplechases. The obstacles usually consist of hurdles that are 1 to 2 ft (0.3 to 0.6 m) lower than the obstacles on a steeplechase course, and the races are usually less than 2 miles in length.

The sport of steeple chase racing quickly spread to America, where the National Steeplechase Association was created in 1895. This association is responsible for keeping records, governing promotion, holding races, and licensing individuals and race meetings. Steeplechase races are held at several Thoroughbred race tracks throughout the country, the most significant race being the U.S. Grand National Steeplechase at Belmont Park. Steeplechasing is also still very popular in England, and the most famous steeplechase in the world, England's Grand National, is held annually in Aintree.

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Discuss this Article

browncoat
Post 8

@umbra21 - It's true that steeplechase racing requires skill but so do other kinds of racing. They all have their own particular skill set.

I think steeplechase horse racing is more fun to watch though, mostly because I really like horse jumping and it's more of an adventure to see what kind of obstacles they have to go through and how they choose to do it.

umbra21
Post 7

This sounds like it would be a lot more interesting than just a simple race to see how quick the horses are.

I mean, that kind of horse racing system never seemed to involve much skill to me, other than the skill needed to breed the fastest kind of horse.

And that's mostly genetics, I think, so really it comes down to money. If you can afford to breed your champion horse to another champion horse, then you will end up with another champion.

This kind of racing sounds like it takes real planning and skill on behalf of the rider and the horse.

You couldn't just throw a jockey on a horse they don't know and expect them to do as well in this kind of race.

anon122818
Post 6

Anon356 not allowed post web address so just look up the National Steeplechase Association, and they will give you the complete list of race meets, entries and results and other information. Some race meets are video steamed. There is also a link for past races.

anon30952
Post 5

It would be interesting to see a list of the tracks and dates for steeplechases in America.

anon356
Post 3

I think that you should add some pictures so people can not only read about steeplechase but also see pictures to help them understand better.

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