Today we look at the role of the starter.
Courtesy of the BHA, we reproduce at Q & A on the role of the official starter.
Q: What does the Starter do?The Starter is there to ensure that each race begins on time and as fairly as possible, with each horse and rider given the greatest possible opportunity to perform well.
Q: Why do we use Starting Stalls on the Flat and a Tape over the Jumps?As races are shorter on the Flat, it’s important that the participants begin in as straight a line as possible. For longer races (and that includes some long Flat races as well as all Jump races), riders often want to take up a tactical position that they believe offers their horse its best chance to perform well. For some, that might mean going out in front, whilst for others it might mean taking a lead from another horse or dropping in at the back of the field.
Q: What goes on beforehand?The Starter will arrive down at the Start about ten minutes before the scheduled off time for the race. They will test the Stalls, and brief the Stalls Handlers on any horses that are likely to need special treatment. This might mean using a blindfold on a horse, or putting it into the Stalls late on in the loading process.
Q: And once the horses arrive at the Start?The Stalls Handlers will check each of the horses’ girths to make sure that the saddle won’t slip during the race. When it’s time for the load to begin, the Starter calls out the draw, the horses go behind the Stalls, and the Stalls Handlers – under direction from the Starter – will begin to load them. The normal loading procedure is for horses drawn in the odd numbered stalls to go in first, followed by those drawn in the even numbered stalls. Generally, horses that need blindfolds are loaded first, and certain horses are given special dispensation to load late, due to their past behaviour.
Q: Starting the raceSometimes horses refuse to enter the stalls and will be withdrawn from the race. Horses can also be withdrawn from the race if they become fractious or unruly in the stalls. The Starter will always have horses’ welfare in mind and if a horse has been unruly in the stalls it may have an injury that is not readily apparent. In these cases the horse will be withdrawn as it is not possible to have a full clinical assessment at the start. In all such instances , the Starter will officially withdraw the horse involved and an announcement will be made over the public address system.
Once the Starter is satisfied that all horses and riders are ready, he will alert the riders and press the button on his rostrum to open the stalls and start the race.
Some horses are loaded with blindfolds and it is the responsibility of riders to remove them before the race is started. In starting the race the starter also activates the official timing system, which enables the Judge to record the time taken for each horse to complete the race.