Trotting is one of the biggest sports in Sweden. There are 33 tracks spread all over the country that organise almost 1,000 race meetings every year. The tracks are not owned by private companies but by non-profit organisations whose purpose is to organise races and promote interest in trotting and breeding in their regions.
There are two different breeds of trotting horse which compete in Sweden. One is the standard bred horse which is the most common bred within Swedish trotting and is a cross deriving from primarily American and French horses.
Something that is unique for the Nordic countries is the Nordic standard bred and is a cold blooded breed of trotter. The Nordic standard bred horses mainly race in the north of Sweden and compete in their own class.
On Swedish trotting we either use an auto start or a circular volt start. The maximum number of horses in an auto start is 12. Horses 1-8 are starting in the first tier behind the gate and horses 9-12 are starting in the second tier behind the gate.
The maximum number of horse in volt start is 15. With the volt start seven horses are in the front line and usually post position 1, 3, 6 and 7 have the advantage in the front line while 2, 4 and 5 can increase the risk of breaking to gallop since the horses have to make a steep turn out of the circle before the start.
The most common race distance in Swedish trotting racing is the middle distance of 2.140 meters; however it can vary from sprinting distances of 1.640 meters up to stayer distances, of 3.140 meters.
In a handicapped race the horses start from different distances. Each extra distance is 20 meters. The horses with less money earned start in the first tier at 2.140 meters. Horses that have passed the first limit (money earned) but not the second one start from the second tier and race 2.160 meters. Horses that have passed both first and second limit (money earned), race from two extra distances, thus 2.180 meters. Handicapped races can be held over any distances.
Two tracks in Sweden use Open stretch on the home straight. This is an extra lane to the left of the track, which only can be used on the finishing stretch only. It is forbidden to use the open stretch line before the finish stretch.
In trotting races in Sweden the gaits galloping and pacing are not allowed. The horse is disqualified if it uses a pace that is not allowed:
- More than two times;
- on the final stretch, the last 100 meters;
- is gaining positions; or
- is on that gait for more than 150 meters (once or twice collaborated) or 100 meters during the last 300 meters of the race.
Other important rules are: Careless driving - during a race it is prohibited to disturb other horses or to hinder their speed through for example, lack of attention, driving too close to another, pushing onto another or using the whip (crop) in an uncontrolled manner. It is also prohibited to disturb other horses by decreasing speed. The driver may not also use any loud sounds.
Changing position and giving advance - a driver may not intentionally change position to help another horse improve its position or by any other means give an advantage to other horse and driver.
Home stretch - in the closing straight (inserts) towards the finish, the horse who has not got anyone in front in the same lane must keep the track-wide position as when leaving the last turn.