About Harness Racing

Horse racing is an exciting sport, dynamic business and a major contributor to the agricultural economy in Ontario. At Kawartha Downs, we feature harness or Standardbred racing where the horses are attached to a race bike (called a sulky) and are steered by drivers through a one mile race.

Kawartha Downs is a five-eighths mile track which means the races start on the far side (away from the grandstand) of the racetrack, pass by the grandstand and race once more around the track with the exciting finish right in front of the fans and grandstand.

The horses which compete in harness racing have two distinct gaits. Pacers, the most common, move with both legs on the same side operating together. The front and hind legs on the right and left side move together. The majority of pacers wear equipment called hopples which help them maintain their gait.

When a trotter races their opposite legs work together – the front right and left rear come forward at the same time and vice versa.

The Standardbred horse is noted for its versatility and even temperament. Many harness horse that don’t make the racetrack can be found in the Mennonite communities, working as police horses and used in theraputic riding programs. Standardbreds also make great riding horses and can be trained to compete in a variety of disciplines including barrel racing, dressage, etc.