Types of Races

Types of Race

In the UK, there are 2 main types of horse race; jump and flat.

Jump Racing/National Hunt Racing

Jump racing is also referred to as National Hunt racing (presumably, since before the fox-hunting ban came into effect in the UK, hunts would chase a fox through the countryside and would be required to jump hedges and similar obstacles in their pursuit).

As you might have already worked out from the name, in jump races, the horses, and hopefully but not always the jockeys as well, jump over a series of obstacles in order to complete the course. Although there are other types of race that exist within the jump category, there are 2 main sub-categories of race:

  • Hurdles – In this type of race, the obstacles are wooden/timber fences (at least 3’6” in height) that look kind of like the bristles of a giant broom that has been buried in the ground up to its brush. This gives a degree of flexibility which enables the fence to give slightly if the horse brushes against the fence whilst trying to clear the obstacle.
  • Steeple Chase – This type of race has different types of jumps along the course, including:
    • Plain fences – much like hurdles, but are set at a minimum height of 4’6” on the take-off side of the fence.
    • Water Jumps –Shorter than a regular jump, these surprisingly enough, have a shallow pool of water that the horses land in after the jump
    • Open Ditches –

Due to the nature of these races, the courses are usually a lot softer than for flat races (see below). This is to help look after the horses. However, several countries have banned jump racing as horses can be badly injured if they fall at a hurdle or a fence, and in some cases will be put down right there and then as it is the kindest thing for the horse (for various anatomical reasons, horses don’t cope very well with broken legs – the end decision to put the horse down is always made by a highly qualified vet after having examined the alternatives).

Flat Racing

Flat racing is a lot like jump racing, but with no jumps, and the course is slightly firmer, and it’s still got horses in it. Seriously though, flat racing is considered to be the more exciting of the 2 types of races and this is reflected in the prize money that is up for grabs.

Flat racing is also more widespread than jump racing, with races held worldwide, whilst jump racing tends to be more popular in Britain, France and Ireland. Some of the most prestigious flat races are held in the UK including The Epsom Derby and the St Ledger.