This weekend, I received the following letter from Norway which expouses the advantages of racing under saddle (RUS), commonly known as monté racing outside of North America. I am reprinting Romund Østbø's (Racing Secretary at Biri Racetrack) letter here in its entirety with his permission.
I appreciate Your relentless efforts to promote RUS in the US.
My impression is that the ingrown conservatism in all racing, and harness racing especially, keeps any "new" ideas on the shelf indefinitely.
Here in Norway we introduced "montè" around the Millennium, and it soon became popular and brought very many young girls on to the track.
After a while, many of these girls also took up driving races, Nowadays, there seldom is a harness race in Norway without at least one female driver.
I think this gives a whole new dimension to the sport, although I know many "important" people in our sport see it otherwise.
You mentioned one important aspect of RUS in Your latest blog: That a lot of horses in Europe (we now have RUS in all the important Harness Racing countries like Sweden, Finland and Denmark as well as France and Norway).
At my hometrack, Biri, we introduced a special race ten years ago, The Biri All-Round, where the same horse with the same rider/driver competes in two races on the same day, one under saddle and one with sulky.
There is no doubt that many horses enjoy the switch between the two forms of racing.
In 2011, the ex US horse Moon Dreamer (by Dream Vacation) won under saddle in 1:54,4. Two hours later he came back with 21-year-old Kristine Kvasnes in the sulky and won in 1:56 flat.
Some of the girls now ride around 100 races a year and have become terrific "jockeys". The quality of the horses racing under saddle could have been a lot better here too. It's still something of "last chance" for many conservative owners and trainers.
Race secretary, Biri Racetrack, Norway