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History of Steeplechasing

Steeplechasing is said to be originated during the late 18th century. The word ‘Steeplechase” owes its origin to two English words: Steeple (because originally a steeple marked the finishing point across the country) and Chase( as in racing).

Steeplechase Water Jump

Steeplechase was a horse race run on a racecourse having ditches and hedges as jumps

History Of Steeplechasing
Modern-day Steeplechasing

which now is a running race in which runners must clear hurdles and water jumps. The Horse earned all the praise for winning the race.

Origin of the Word Steeplechasing

The evolution of steeplechasing is from horseracing across the countryside that provided challenging barriers both man-made as well as natural such as fences, hedges, and man-made courses. But the exact origin oscillates between two tales :

First: During the mid-1800s English villages were separated by large distances having farms or wildlands between them, and in the Christian society, there were magnificent churches with a church tower and spire called “steeple” rising above trees and rolling hills that guided the travelers and target for horseriders.

History Of Steeplechasing
18th Century sport of Steeplechasing

Since the Society back then had various hierarchies and classes the one with a fast horse used to show off which therefore challenged another villager or rider to race to the next village along that route containing fences, a stream, and a bog in the shortest time possible.

Another advantage of such an activity was that the long tedious journey became exciting and was completed before the stipulated time.

Steeplechase Horse

Though it was quite popular among horseriders for years, the ones who didn’t own a horse claimed to beat the riders on horseback. Soon it became typical for men to leave the horse in the barn and compete against one another on foot.

Steeplechase Horse
Steeplechase Horse Jump

Another story belongs to the students at Exeter College, Oxford, One of the students fell from his saddle and exclaimed to run the races on foot which sparked the idea of a race on foot, over a course designed to place barriers in the path of the competitors which lead to the first men’s steeplechase event held in Binsey, Oxfordshire in 1850.

Steeplechase Olympics

It has been an Olympic event since the inception of the modern Olympics, though the format of the race has distinctly changed with varying lengths.

Steeplechasing In Other Countries

Modern-day steeplechase means differently for different countries. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, it refers only to races run over large, fixed obstacles, whereas in the rest of the world, it refers to any race that involves jumping obstacles.

Victorian Era Adventure parks having Steeplechasing
Victorian Era Adventure parks having Steeplechasing

The most famous steeplechase in the world is the Grand National run annually at Aintree Racecourse, in Liverpool, since its inception in 1836.

History of Steeplechasing in France

The first French steeplechase was staged at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1829. Jump racing in France has never enjoyed the same level of popularity that it does in Britain and Ireland.

It lags behind Flat racing in terms of popularity and also has to contend with trotting, which is widely supported.


Hurdles are not collapsible, a large hedge up to 8 ft (2.4 m) tall that horses have to jump through rather than over. Auteuil in Paris is perhaps the best-known racecourse in France for French jump racing.

History of Steeplechasing in the Czech Republic

The Velká pardubická Steeplechase in Pardubice in the Czech Republic is the location of one of the longest steeplechase races in Europe. The first Velka Pardubice Steeplechase was held on 5 November 1874 and it has been hosted annually since.

History of Steeplechasing in Australia

Australia has a long history of jumps racing which was introduced by British settlers. In 2007 it was discontinued due to economic unfeasibility.

The first steeplechase in South Australia

There is an emphasis on safety in Australia which has led to a reduction in the size of obstacles.

Present-Day Format Of Steeplechasing

The format is: It is a 3km race having 28 barriers and 7 water jumps or A 2km steeplechase having 18 barriers and 5 water jumps. In order to shorten or lengthen the laps, the water jump is placed inside or outside of the turn.

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