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Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in Ancient Greece, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt.

It also plays an important part of myth and legend, such as the contest between the steeds of the god Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology.

Because each race is very long, trails of natural terrain are generally used.

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Founded in 1972, the American Endurance Ride Conference was the United States' first national endurance riding association.For example, in a normal harness race, the horse's sire and dam must both be pure Standardbreds.Historically, equestrians honed their skills through games and races.Equestrian sports provided entertainment for crowds and honed the excellent horsemanship that was needed in battle.The word "steeplechasing" can also refer collectively to any type of jump race in certain racing jurisdictions, particularly in the United States.

Typically, horses progress to bigger obstacles and longer distances as they get older, so that a European jumps horse will tend to start in National Hunt flat races as a juvenile, move on to hurdling after a year or so, and then, if thought capable, move on to steeplechasing. Some are very short, only ten miles, while others can be up to one hundred miles.

These races are called conditions races and offer the biggest purses.

There is another category of races called handicap races where each horse is assigned a different weight to carry based on its ability.

Fifteen to 20 riderless horses, originally imported from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, ran the length of the Via del Corso, a long, straight city street, in about 2½ minutes.

In later times, Thoroughbred racing became, and remains, popular with the aristocrats and royalty of British society, earning it the title "Sport of Kings".

The popularity of equestrian sports through the centuries has resulted in the preservation of skills that would otherwise have disappeared after horses stopped being used in combat.