Dutch horse races in local streets recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Short track harness racing: the winner continues, loser goes home

Horses competing in street race in the town of Medemblik

Horses competing in street race in the town of Medemblik

Horses at the start of a street race in the town of Santpoort

Horses at the start of a street race in the town of Santpoort

Short track horse racing in the public streets of the Netherlands has earned recognition as Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).

HEEMSKERK, THE NETHERLANDS, March 23, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — A spectacular type of horse racing in the public streets of the Netherlands has earned recognition as intangible cultural heritage (ICH, a qualification derived from the description in the 2012 UNESCO Convention). More than 25 of these races are being held annually in as many towns and villages in the Netherlands. In several communities, these traditional events have been held and fostered for hundreds of years, the oldest races dating back to at least the 1750s. To date, 13 races on the calendar have been registered in the Dutch Cultural Heritage Inventory, with the aim to conserve them for future generations within the local communities.

The most remarkable characteristic of these short track harness races, in which the horses are pulling a sulky with a driver on it, is that they are not held on the typical oval racetracks: instead, once every year in every location, a stretch of 300 metres of public street is prepared with sand tracks to ensure safe trotting paths for the horses. The tracks are fenced off, so audiences of thousands of enthusiasts can watch the races from close by. Up to 24 horses compete in every event, racing in pairs in a knockout race scheme all the way to the finals to decide a winner and a runner-up.

Professional sport

The races are supervised by the Dutch Trotting and Flatracing Association and all have to comply with very specific requirements and regulations with regards to the health and safety of horses, participants and the public. Veterinary supervision, professional betting facilities and electronic start and finish monitoring are also in place to ensure the integrity of the sports. As the street races are commonly held in town centers, they typically attract thousands of spectators who are not regular visitors of race tracks. Therefore, short track harness racing in the Netherlands is commonly considered to also promote the broader range of equestrian sports in the country.

Gerard Post Uiterweer
Dutch Short Track Harness Racing Association
[email protected]

Video impression of a short track race and surrounding festival in the town of Heemskerk


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