Have you read your 2016 spring condition books yet? Wait… you don’t know what a condition book is? A condition book is a listing of all of the races for the season. If you are a junior looking to race, the first thing you’ll need to do is get your hands on one of these little babies and see what opportunities lie ahead for you and your mount. If you are used to horse showing, this would be the equivalent of a collection of prize lists and if are an event rider, this would be similar to an omnibus. Conditions books list all of the particulars (rules, race options, etc) for the different types of steeplechase races. Wait, wait, wait… you didn’t know there are different types of steeplechase races? Well, yes, there are! Here are the types of race meets:
Hunt Meet: Steeplechase races at a venue in the country that are sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association (NSA). These are not typically an oval track, but more of a 2-4 mile cross country course with timber and/or hurdle fences. Owners, trainers, and riders participating in a Hunt Meet, must be licensed with the NSA and all horses must be registered with the Jockey Club. Prize money is given for the top finishers in a sanctioned race. Amateur or professional riders may compete in these Hunt Meets, but only a handful of sanctioned meets have “unsanctioned” races for juniors. Callaway Gardens, PA Hunt Cup, Grand National, and High Hope are just a few who host pony and/or junior horse races before post time of their sanctioned races.
Point-to-Point: More informal than a Hunt Meet, but over similar types of courses. Horses and horseman do not need to be registered and there are often race options for junior and young riders. Point-to-points are typically located in the mid-Atlantic region, with a point-to-point occasional found in the mid-west or upper eastern seaboard states. They are also often associated with a foxhunt and used as a fundraiser for their club.
Races are also held at racetracks where flat horses run. These types of races are typically referred to as a “Race Meet” or “Meet” proceeded by the racetracks name.
Anyway, get yourself a condition book and read it! Read ALL of the rules! Rules may change from organization to organization, so make sure you are prepared for your race day and there are no surprises. Make sure you and your horse/pony are qualified for the race you plan on entering. Some associations require a measurement card for ponies, some require proof of your mount having foxhunted, some require you attend a preparatory clinic, whatever the requirement, make sure you meet it before you enter the race. It would be a shame to get all the way to the races and discover you are not fully qualified to enter the race and are not permitted to run. Yes, that CAN happen!
If you are a junior, there will be a clinic Junior/Young Rider Steeplechase Clinic sponsored by the MSA this Sunday, March 13th at Pleasant Prospect Farm in Brookeville, MD. Visit www.marylandsteeplechasing.com for the full details of the clinic. Clinicians will be read to answer all of your questions about the great sport of jump racing and help you learn to pilot your own mount around a course! And guess what, everyone who attends will be provided with their very own condition book!