Horse racing in Georgian England

Writing stories set more than a hundred and fifty years ago, especially stories with characters who have a penny or two, means writing about horses — if only to mention them in passing. Many of my books include journeys, so ‘in passing’ has meant researching carriage and riding horses, including how they were bred and stabled. Along the way, I somehow managed to end up with at least two heroes who were horse breeders: almost the only ‘trade’ a gentleman could engage in without attracting social censure.

This week, I went a step further, when a subscriber-only story for my newsletter turned out to be about the heiress to a racing stud, whose marital fate will be decided by a horse race.

But what kind of horse race in the years just after Waterloo? What were the rules? How long was the course likely to be? Even, as it turned out, what might a villain slip to a horse to prevent it from running, and what symptoms of poisoning would the horse show? (Probably night shade, my vet and author friend Lizzi Tremayne and I decided.)

Here are some of the sources I consulted when writing The Fifth Race, which will be available in the newsletter I send tomorrow.

18th Century foundation of the Jockey Club, and silk colours by owner

Going to the races

Horse racing on the Georgian index

Regina Jeffers on Thoroughbred Horse Racing

Training the 18th century racehorse