Prepare to drive horses in races

This unit of competency specifies the outcomes required to drive harness horses in races conducted on racecourses in the harness sector of the Australian racing industry. It requires knowledge of race meeting procedures, planning and preparing for races, acquiring high level driving skills, following safety procedures and communicating with a range of officials and other personnel.To undertake this unit the candidate will be able to apply safe horse handling skills and workplace OHS standards.This unit of competency operates in work environments of racing stables, racecourses and public areas.Licensing, legislative, regulatory or certification requirements may apply to this unit, check with your State Principal Racing Authority for current license or registration requirements.


This unit of competency supports licensed drivers to drive harness horses in registered races.

Elements and Performance Criteria



Follow an appropriate pre and post-race routine.

1. Race gear is prepared and checked for safety prior to race day and immediately prior to a race.

2. Pre and post-race procedures are followed.

3. Starting procedures are followed.

Plan and use appropriate race strategies and driving skills.

4. Form and racing behaviour of own horse and other horses and drivers are studied .

5. Horses are warmed up to and down from racing pace according to trainer instructions.

6. Driving skills are appropriate to a variety of track conditions and situations.

7. Strategies are modified appropriately as required during races, and according to pace and how race is being run.

8. Whip use and technique are appropriate and consistent with rules of racing.

Report on race.

9. Horse's race performance is evaluated and reported.

10. Critical incidents of races are recalled and reported.

11. Protocol for communicating performance is applied.

12. Post-race assessment of own performance is undertaken.

Required Skills

Required skills

anticipating and responding rapidly to changed circumstances in a race, including emergency situations

applying safe handling and work practices when dealing with horses

assessing own performance

communicating with stewards, racing officials, horse trainer and others using assertive communication techniques to gather, interpret and relay information related to driving horses in races

completing duties in accordance with safe operating procedures and nominated time frame

controlling a variety of horses during races at different tracks, and under different circumstances and track conditions

driving horses in races

evaluating track features

following instructions

following rules of racing

identifying horse behaviour and action

identifying and correctly using different items of personal protective equipment

identifying, preparing and correctly using different items of gear and equipment and assessing condition of same in terms of safe use and need for repair

implementing sound race strategies and meeting contingencies during race

judging and maintaining pace

reading and interpreting workplace documentation, including relevant rules of racing

relating to people from a range of social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and with varying physical and mental abilities

reporting problems promptly

using whip effectively, following rules of racing and animal welfare guidelines

written communication skills to complete workplace documentation and reports.

Required knowledge

Australian and local rules of racing and regulations pertaining to race driving

communication procedures with race meeting personnel and wider racing industry

common racehorse behaviour traits

drug testing procedures

form of racing horses

handicapping system

industry terminology related to handling and racing horses

personal protective equipment and purpose for its use

pre and post-race procedures

predicted behaviour or racing style of opposition horses in race

race gear

race driving strategies

race injury to horses

race meeting documentation

racing industry animal welfare requirements

racing industry safety requirements, including safe operating procedures

starting procedures for standing and mobile starts

score-up procedures

track surfaces

types and classes of races

warm-up procedures

whip use.

Evidence Required

The evidence guide provides advice on assessment and must be read in conjunction with the performance criteria, required skills and knowledge, range statement and the Assessment Guidelines for the Training Package.

Critical aspects for assessment and evidence required to demonstrate competency in this unit

The evidence required to demonstrate competency in this unit must be relevant to workplace operations and satisfy all the requirements of the performance criteria, required skills and knowledge and the range statement of this unit and include evidence of the following:

knowledge of the requirements, procedures and instructions that are to apply when driving in races

demonstration of driving skills suitable for race driving and making appropriate judgement calls on driving strategies based on a range of common racing scenarios

implementation of procedures and timely techniques to complete race driving tasks safely, effectively and efficiently

working with others to undertake and complete race driving tasks that meet required outcomes.

Evidence should be collected over a period of time using a range of horses of different ages and sexes, in different circumstances and in different racing stable and track environments.

Context of and specific resources for assessment

Competency must be assessed in a racing workplace that provides access to horses that are being educated and trained in a commercial racing stable under the care of a licensed trainer and the required resources. Assessment is to occur under standard and authorised work practices, safety requirements and environmental constraints. It is to comply with relevant regulatory requirements or Australian Standards requirements.

Assessment of the practical components of this unit will be by observation of relevant skills.

The following resources must be available:

a variety of harness horses that are currently in training

commercial racing training establishments, racetracks and registered race meetings

materials and equipment relevant to assessing candidate's ability to demonstrate race driving skills

work instructions and related documentation.

Method of assessment

Assessment methods must satisfy the endorsed Assessment Guidelines of the Racing Training Package.

The suggested strategies for the assessment of this unit are:

written and/or oral assessment of candidate's required knowledge

observed and firsthand testimonial evidence of candidate's application of practical tasks.

Evidence is required to be demonstrated over a period of time, therefore where performance is not directly observed any evidence should be authenticated by supervisors or other appropriate persons, at least one of whom should be approved by the State Principal Harness Racing Authority.

This unit may be assessed in a holistic way with other units of competency relevant to the industry sector, workplace and job role.

Guidance information for assessment

Assessment methods should reflect workplace demands (e.g. literacy and numeracy demands) and the needs of particular target groups (e.g. people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, people with a language background other than English, youth and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds).

Range Statement

The range statement relates to the unit of competency as a whole. It allows for different work environments and situations that may affect performance. Bold italicised wording in the performance criteria is detailed below.

The range statement provides details of how this competency can be used in the workplaces of the racing industry to prepare to drive horses in races. Workplaces include harness stables and racecourses, training tracks and public areas.

Race gear will include:

horse gear:






head check

hopples (pacing)

hopple pins

hopple shorteners

lugging pole


pull up or down blinds

race bridle and saddlecloth numbers


removable ear plugs or removable hood



shadow rolls



tongue ties


personal protective equipment:



driving boots


Race gear preparation and checking for safetymay include:

checking fit of gear

cleaning gear, including:

cleaning and oiling leather

washing hardware

washing plastic, rubber and towelling

washing sulky

recognising wear and breakage, including:

cracked leather

gear slippage

frayed girths and surcingles

perished elastic, rubber or plastic

rusted buckles

split or cracked points

worn padding

worn stitching

recognising approved gear

replacing worn or broken gear.

Pre and post-race procedures may include:

assessing camber

attending protests and inquiries

checking for track obstacles or possible distractions

complying with drug testing procedures

discussing horse's chances and likely race style with owner

discussing race instructions with trainer

evaluating surface of tracks

evaluating track rating

following parade yard procedures

inspecting track

knowing colours of other drivers

making and announcing a decision to protest

observing distances between turns and straights

observing length of straights

presenting to the start

providing documentation, including:


horse identification documents

driver identification documents

trainer correspondence

relating weather conditions to possible racing conditions

reporting horse performance post-race to trainer and owner.

Starting procedures will include:

asking for assistance when required

following officials' directions

listening for name to be called

moving into and maintaining position at mobile barrier or standing start.

Form of own horse and other horses may include:

assessing performance of horses at a range of distances and on different track surfaces

predicting stages of race where favourites are likely to move

reading form guides

understanding handicapping system

watching horses trial and race to ascertain performance.

Racing behaviour of own horse and other horses may include:

appearing to falter

changing gait




laying in or hanging

not finishing race strongly

not trying

over racing

score-up and start manners

racing wide.

Appropriate driving skills may include:

adapting driving styles to suit individual horses

changing direction

controlling and changing speed

considering variables that influence behaviour of horses, such as:

fences and equipment

other persons or animals


wind and noise

dealing with pressure from other drivers for position in field

following rules of racing

interpreting trainer instructions

identifying emergency situations, for example:

gear breakage

horse fall

horse getting loose

judging pace and position in field

maintaining balance

maintaining control of position and speed

using aids, including:

ear plugs

lugging poles


judging and maintaining pace, including:

knowing sectional times for varying race distances

following trainer instructions

slowing or quickening pace

using speed maps before race to estimate:

own place in the run

which will be hardest to beat

which will be running first, second and third

whether there will be speed in the race

who to follow

using own judgement when race is not truly run.

Strategies may require modification because:

horse not performing as expected


opportunity appears to improve position

horse is slow away from start.

Evaluating and reporting horse's race performance may include:

how horse travelled throughout the race

incidents in the race

reason for not finishing closer

whether horse had cover

whether horse was boxed in

whether horse was caught wide.

Critical incidents may include:

injury to or distress of horse


loss of stamina or reluctance to race

missing the start.

Protocol for communicating performance may include:

reporting honestly, factually and tactfully

providing information using appropriate language and terms of address

reporting to trainer

providing information to stewards or other officials.

Post-race assessment of own performance may include:

discussing drive with trainer or employer

discussing drive with other drivers or mentor

identifying areas where improvement could be made, including:

driving horses of particular classes, experience and racing styles

driving racehorses at trackwork not just at race meetings

practising driving horses working close together

viewing race videos.


Unit Sector

Harness racing code

Employability Skills

This unit contains employability skills.

Licensing Information

Refer to Unit Descriptor