Daily Archives: February 25, 2019

Royal Ascot. Felicity lesson 3



Ascot is a small town that lies 30 km west of London. Ascot is famous for its race course. Races take place there twelve months a year because it almost never snows there.

Horse races have taken place at Ascot since the 18th century. It is perhaps the most famous race track in the British Isles. There are flat races at Ascot and there are steeplechases (i.e. with jumps).

Horses line up at the start. They are said to be ‘under starter’s orders.’ Then a gun is fired to indicate the start of the race. This is because the report of a gun is so loud that no one can doubt whether they heard it or not. If it was a word shouted then someone might not hear it or mistake another word for the word that signals the start. The horses are behind a rope under the gun goes off  – then the rope is dropped.

The race course is about 5 km long. It only takes the horses a few minutes to finish the race. There are roughly 30 horses in each race. If there are jumps then a few riders fall off. A horse has to have a rider on its back to win! Sometimes the jockey falls off the the horse keeps on running dutifully over the finish line. This does not count.

There is a winning post – a poll beside the finish line. This makes it clear from a distance if someone won or not. Sometimes a horse clearly wins. It can be said to have won by a length if it was 2 m or more in front of the next horse. The length of a horse is roughly 2 metres long. A horse might win by more like win by two lengths or three lengths etc… Sometimes the horses are neck and neck at the finish line – very close together. This is a photo finish. It is hard to tell who won. They have to look at photos of the finish to see who crossed the line first.

Until the 20th century cameras were not good enough to tell who won when the race was very close. Sometimes a ‘dead heat’ was declared. That means that two horses were said to have crossed at the same time and both were considered winners.

There are stewards who are in charge of the race. They investigate any misconduct by jockeys. Over use of the whip is not allowed.

In the middle of June there is a period of five days called ‘Royal Ascot.’ At Ascot Race Ground there are three levels of spectating. The most exclusive is ‘Ascot Royal Enclosure.’  It is called ‘Royal’ Ascot because Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family attend.

To get into Ascot Royal Enclosure you must be invited by a member of the enclosure. A member is someone who has been there at least four times. He or she can invite one new person per day. Royal Ascot runs from a Tuesday to a Saturday inclusive. So let’s imagine Philomena was a member of the Royal Enclosure. She could invite Phyllis on Tuesday, Susan on Wednesday, Phyllis again on Thursday, then she invites Michael on Friday and lastly she invited Serena on Saturday. Or you could invite the same person all five days. If you are a member of the Royal Enclosure you do not have to invite anyone.

You can write to your embassy or high commission. Each diplomatic mission has a number of invitations it can issue each year. They can get you into the Royal Enclosure if you ask on time. You should apply several months in advance. Remember if you go for 7 years you  become a member of the Royal Enclosure and can start inviting people yourself. You must be over the age of 15 to go. You can go for all 5 days in Royal Ascot Week or 4, 3, 2 or just one day – as you wish.

To get into the Royal Enclosure you must dress appropriately. Men must wear morning dress. This means a black or grey tailcoat. They must wear black or grey trousers – usually striped. He must wear a top hat – black or grey. He must wear a collared shirt. Most men wear ties some wear a stock which is like a tie. They must wear black shoes – they can be laceup or slip on.

Ladies have to wear a dress to get in. A lady must also wear a hat which covers the crown of the head. Ladies really go to town wearing fantastically creative and crazy hats. They have fascinators which keep the hat on her head. Ladies invariably wear high heels.

You will receive a badge with your name on it a week before Royal Ascot. You must wear it to get into the Royal Enclosure. That is your ID! They will not ask you for a passport. The security guards will simply see the badge and nod you in.

The gates open at about 12 noon. The first race is not till about 2 o’clock. Plenty of people get there well before 2 o ‘clock. There are 6 or 7 races a day. A race lasts roughly ten minutes. There is about twenty minutes between each race. The last race is around six o’clock.  People often stay for hours after that to socialise.

There are paparazzi photographing famous people on their way into the Royal Enclosure. These celebrities are princes, princesses, models, actresses, politicians and billionaires.

People are not allowed to use mobile phones inside Ascot Royal Enclosure. You are not allowed to take photos, film or record sound inside the Royal Enclosure. You may bring phones with you but they must be switched off. There are many VIPs there and they want to be able to relax and have fun without being photographed and filmed.

You are not allowed to make a phone call, look at texts or use the internet. You are there to watch horse racing and to socialise. You are not there to use a phone! Many people comment that it is so refreshing to go just one afternoon a year without using a phone. If you need to make a call you can go out of the Royal Enclosure and make that call then come back in. You can go out and come back – go out and come back as many times as you want.

People watch racing. They lay bets. They eat and drink. There are bookmakers there, bars and restaurants. You do not have to lay any bets. Most people ‘have a flutter’ which means that they bet some money just for fun even if they know little about horse racing.

The Royal Enclosure is about 1 km long and 1 km wide. There are several thousand people there.

There is also the Golden Circle. You do not have to be invited to get into the Golden Circle. You simply have to buy a ticket. This is like the Royal Enclosure but there is no dress code and no rule against cameras or phones. If you have a badge for the Royal Enclosure you can go into the Golden Circle. People with a golden Circle ticket are NOT allowed into the Royal Enclosure. Although there is no rule about what to wear in the Golden Circle in practice most people dress formally – morning dress for men and dresses with hats for ladies. The food and drink is cheaper there.

Then there is the Silver Ring. This is like the Golden Circle but cheaper. There is no rule against phones or cameras here. There is no dress code and people wear whatever. You just need to buy a ticket to get in. People with Royal Enclosure badge can go into the Silver Ring. People with a Silver Ring ticket cannot go into the Golden Circle or the Royal Enclosure.



  1. Which country is Ascot in?
  2. When did horse racing start in Ascot?
  3. What is a steeplechase?
  4. What does it mean to be ‘under starter’s orders’?
  5. Why does a gun go off at the start of the race?
  6. How long is the race course?
  7. What is the dress code for men in the Royal Enclosure?
  8. What is the dress code for women?
  9. Which month does ‘Royal Ascot’ take place?
  10. What is a photo finish?
  11. What is a dead heat?
  12. How many days does Royal Ascot take place for?
  13. How do you get a badge for the Royal Enclosure?
  14. Are you allowed to use a phone in the Royal Enclosure?
  15.  Is it ok to take photos in the Royal Enclosure?
  16. What does it mean ‘to have a flutter’?
  17. What is the Golden Circle?
  18. What is the ‘Silver Ring’?
  19. If you have a badge for the Royal Enclosure are you allowed into the Golden Circle?
  20. If you have a ticket for the Golden Circle are you allowed into the Royal Enclosure?
  21. If you have a ticket for the Silver Ring are you allowed into the Golden Circle?
  22. What is the dress code for the Golden Circle?
  23. Are you allowed to use a camera in the Silver Ring?
  24. What is the minimum age to get in to the Royal Enclosure?
  25. Can embassies invite people?
  26. Would you like to go? Why or why not? Five marks.

Felicity 2. more on horses



Centuries ago we started to breed horses. That means we put male and female horses together to breed. We wanted to produce horses with certain desirable characteristics. Size, speed, colour etc… are heritable traits. If we breed a fast mare with a fast stallion the likelihood is that the foal born to the mare will also be fast.  This is ‘selective breeding’ because we choose the mare and the stallion because of their good characteristics. We do not let just any mare and any stallion breed.

Horses sleep standing up. Foals learn to walk within hours of birth. A long time ago horses were predated by wild beasts. A horse had to be able to move to keep safe.

Different breeds of horses emerged. In the British Isles a thoroughbred is one of the best kinds of race horses. We also have breeds like a Clydesdale horse. These came from near the River Clyde in Scotland. ‘Dale’ means valley so ‘Clydesdale’ is like saying ‘Clyde Valley’. A Clydesdale horse is huge – very tall, very broad and extremely strong. But they are not fast.

Charve horses are large draught horses from Belgium. By ‘draught’ we mean they were uses for pulling carts. They were not ridden much. The back is so broad it is uncomfortable to sit on.

A ‘dray’ is a horse that pulls carts of beer.

In Arabia there were small, fine boned horses that were very fast. We called these horses ‘Arabs’. However, the word ‘Arab’ can also mean and Arabic speaking person such as from an Arab country like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iraq or the UAE etc… So to be clear say ‘Arab horse’ so we do not get confused with an ‘Arab person’.

Most horses are of an even colour  as in all black, all grey, all brown etc… Some horses are pie balled which means they are a complete mixture of two or more colours. Some people considered a pie balled horse to look unappealing.

A pony is a type of horse that is small. It is exactly the same species as a horse. The only difference is that a pony even when an adult is below a certain height.

Some people were nomads. That means they moved from place to place. Many nomads moved on horseback. This was the case in Central Asia in lands such as Kazakhstan and Mongolia. They had herds of hundreds of horses. They moved in search of fresh pasture.

The nomads of Kazakhstan lived off the horse. They ate horse meat, drank horse milk and horse blood. They made their clothes, tents shoes, utensils etc… from horse hair, flesh and bones.

Equestrianism is a smart word for ‘horse riding’. It comes form the Latin word ‘eques’ meaning ‘horse.’ An equestrian is someone who is an excellent rider. In the case of a woman it is ‘equestrienne’. This word comes from French which is why it has a typically French ending. Sometimes we called equestrianism ‘equitation.’

In mediaeval Europe people invented dressage. This was a fancy type of riding. They taught horses to walk backwards and sideways. They taught a horse to ‘rear’ – this means to stand up on the two back feet. The horse learnt to walk on only two feet. People still learn how to do dressage. It is an Olympic sport.

Spain was the best at dressage. The King of Spain became Emperor of Austria. He set up the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria. Dressage declined in Spain. However, it flourished in Austria. The Spanish Riding School still exists in Vienna.

In the old days ladies never wore trousers. They wore dresses and skirts. They had to ride on a special saddle so that both legs came across onto the same side of the horse. This is called ‘riding side saddle’. It is uncomfortable on the back.

In the 19th century Westerners found out about special riding trousers from the Indian city of Johdpur. This type of trousers became known as ‘johdpurs’. They are skin tight and they are comfortable for riding. In the 20th century is became acceptable for women to wear trousers.

The Queen of the United Kingdom is Elizabeth II. She learnt to ride as a child. She is commander in chief of the British Army.  Although wearing johdpurs was accepted by then at official ceremonies she wore a skirt. At army parades she rode side saddle. Her favourite horse was named ‘Burmese’. At the age of 60 the Queen stopped riding at military parades.

In the United States they often say ‘horse back riding.’ In the United Kingdom people are surprised to hear this. We simply say ‘riding’. ‘What other animal would you ride? An elephant or a camel?’  As for the word ‘back’ – of course you would ride the horse’s back. You would not ride its belly!

We can use to verb ‘to ride’ in relation to other forms of transport. ‘Ride the bus’ or ‘ride the train’ or ‘I gave him a ride in my car’ etc… At a fairground there are ‘rides’ such as a rollercoaster.

In the 19th century other forms of transport were invented. Horses became less important. In the First World War soldiers put up barbed wire two metres high. This was too high for horses to jump over. Machineguns also ensured that horses could be killed from a long distance away. Horses were no longer used much in combat. However, they were still used for transport. Men rode to an from battles sometimes but they fought on foot. Horses also pulled carts full of supplies.

Many people had a stable in their house in the 19th century. A stable is a building for a horse to live in. An ‘ostler’ was the man or woman paid to look after the horse. Notice the ‘t’ in ‘ostler’ is silent.  We sometimes call him a ‘groom’ because he had to groom the horse. ‘To groom’ is to look after including to brush and clean.

In the 20th century stables were usually converted into garages to park cars.

Horses slipped on very smooth surfaces. So road were made from cobblestones – many rectangular stones fitted together. This uneven surface was better for horses.

Horses wear metal horseshoes. These are semicircles that are nailed onto the hooves. A farrier is the man who makes horseshoes and fits them on. There is a superstition that there is luck in the horseshoe. People would put the horseshoe on the wall. It is in the shape of a letter ‘U’. The horseshoe had to be up in the shape of the ‘U’ so the luck would stay in. If people put the horseshoe upside down in the shape of a small ‘n’ then the luck would fall out.



  1. What does it mean breeding horses?
  2. How do horses sleep?
  3. When do foals walk?
  4. What is a Clydesdale horse?
  5. What is a draught horse?
  6.  What is a dray?
  7. What is an Arab horse?
  8. Where is the Spanish Riding School?
  9. What is dressage?
  10. What is riding side saddle?
  11.  What are johdpurs?
  12. What is the name of the Queen’s horse?
  13. Why do British people not say ‘horse back riding’?
  14. What else do we ‘ride’ besides animals?
  15. Why did people no longer use horses in battle after the First World War?
  16. What is a stable?
  17. What is an ostler?
  18. Why did people turn stables into garages?
  19. What are cobblestones?
  20. Why did we have streets made of cobblestones?
  21. What is a horseshoe?
  22. Which way up does a horseshoe need to be to keep the luck in?
  23. What is a farrier?
  24. Where do johpurs come from?
  25. When did the Queen stop riding at parades?

felicity lesson 1. Horse racing.===========================================



A horse is an animal. There is a common saying, ”all horses are animals but not all animals are horses.” A horse has four legs. The feet are called hooves. The singular is hoof.

There have been horses for million of years. Mankind learnt to domesticate them thousands of years ago. Horses are one of the fastest land animals. They are large and strong. There were obvious advantages to taming a horse.

People began to ride horses. This allowed us to travel faster. It also meant we could travel great distances. A person can run perhaps 60 km a day – very few people can manage that far. A horse can easily go over 120 km in a day.

Horses can swim. So a person on a horse can cross a river. If the stream is shallow the rider will not get wet.

Horses are ruminants. This means that they eat grass and other plants.

The life expectancy is about 20 years. A horse reaches maturity about the age of 5.

A baby horse is called a foal. A young male is called a colt. A young female is called a filly. A mature male is a stallion and a mature female is a mare.

Some males are neutered. They are called geldings because they have been gelded.

In the old days horses were vital. Rich people had horses and most people did not own a horse.  Horses also pulled ploughs, carts and carriages. There were chariots that were used in racing and in war.

Only in the 1820s was the train invented. Then the train became the fastest means of transport. People even called the train ‘the iron horse.’

In days of yore men challenged each other to horse races. In 18th century Ireland the first ever steeplechase was run. A steeple is the tower of a church. Every village had a church. One Irishman challenged another to a steeplechase – to ride their horses from one village to another and see who came first. They had to ride through the open countryside. There were many natural obstacles and fences to jump over.

Horse racing is a popular spectator sport. Many people pay to come to a race track and watch. The races are also shown on television. This has been going on for centuries.

People sometimes called the horse race track a hippodrome. ‘Hippo’ is ‘horse’ in Ancient Greek. (Hippopotamus means ‘water horse). ‘Dromos’ is ‘way’ in Greek. So hippodrome is ‘horse way.’

There are flat races – without jumps. There are steeplechases with jumps. People lay bets on who is going to win.

A jockey is a person who rides a horse in a race. Until the 1970s women were not allowed to be jockeys. Men jealously guarded the right to be jockeys. Jockeys said that women would be too badly injured. A female jockey might be pregnant without realising it. If she fell from the horse this could cause her to have a miscarriage.

People rarely bet even money. Even money is like this – if you bet $1 that a horse called Bounder will win then you get your $1 back and you get $1 from the person who bet against you if Bounder wins. That would mean you get $2. Your original bet was $1 so your gain is only $1 more.

Bookmakers are people who run gambling business for a living. They are experts on horse racing. They know which horse is likely to win and which ones are almost sure to lose.

A bookmaker will try to get people to place bets by offering attractive odds. For example, 2:1 (pronounced ”two to one”). If you bet $1 and you win then you get $3 back i.e. you get the $1 that you bet plus you get $2 extra.

A bookmaker is commonly called a ‘bookie’. A bookie will try to attract you in by offering you very good odds like 5:1, 10:1 or even 99:1. Can you imagine? If you bet $1 and you are right then you win $100. The bookie will only offer 99:1 on a horse that he is sure will lose. It is a racing certainty. We say ‘racing’ certainty because nothing is absolutely for sure in horse racing. Why offer 99:1? That is because this horse is known to be slow. Why would anyone bet on a bad horse? There is very, very little chance that this horse will win. So the bookie offers very nice odds on the horse because if by any miracle the horse wins then the person who bet on this horse will win a lot.

There are always a few upsets. Supposing a horse is a hot favourite called ‘Kinta’ – that means people believe that this horse will win. Bookies have ‘studied the form’. This means they watched races before and have read about the horse and jockey in the newspapers. They know this horse is excellent and has performed very strongly in recent races. The odds on the favourite are 2:1. The bookies are not offering alluring odds on this horse because it will probably win. The bookies do not want to have to pay out more than they can afford to.

The race begins and ‘Kinta’ falls and breaks her leg. The race goes on and another horse wins. No one could have foreseen that Kinta would fall and break her leg. That is why we say that Kinta was a ‘racing certainty’ because nothing in horse racing is certain. There are events that nobody was able to predict.

There are men and women who go to horses races called ‘faces’ in the United Kingdom.  A ‘face’ in horse racing is someone who is a professional gambler. Bookies fear these people. A face will spend most of his or her time studying horse racing. They know which horse is having a good season and which is having a bad season. They know about jockeys and trainers. They can tell you which horses do best in flat racing and which ones are better at steeplechases. They also take into account the weather. Some horses have no problem with cold weather but others are badly affected by it. If it has rained before the race this will soften the ground which is bad for some horses but beneficial for others. Particular horses do well on dry ground and others do not. A face can make a good guess which horse will win. He or she can make lots of money by betting on the right horses.

People look at the bloodline of a horse. Who was the ‘sire’ as in the father of this horse. Who was the ‘dam’ meaning the mother of this horse.

Horses are registered by year of birth. A horse is counted as one year old as soon as it is born.

We have other words for a horse such as ‘steed’ and ‘mount’. ‘This is my mount’ can mean ‘this is my horse.’ ‘To mount’ means to ‘get on top of the horse.’ The word ‘mount’ is a bit like ‘mountain’.

‘I like this steed’ is saying ‘I like this horse.’


  1. How many legs does a horse have?
  2. Complete the saying ”all horse are animals…”
  3. Why did people want to domesticate horses?
  4. What is a baby horse called?
  5. What is a young male called?
  6.  What is a young female called?
  7. What is a mature male called?
  8. What is a mature female called?
  9. Can horses swim?
  10. What do horses eat?
  11. What is a steeplechase?
  12. What is a flat race?
  13. What is a jockey?
  14.  Are women allowed to be jockeys?
  15. What happens if you bet ‘even money’ on a horse and win?
  16. What is a bookmaker?
  17. Why do bookies offer high odds like 99:1?
  18. What is a racing certainty?
  19. What is a ‘face’ in horse racing?
  20. What was invented in the 1820s that is faster than a horse?
  21. Why were women not allowed to be jockeys until the 1970s?
  22. If you want to know if a horse will win the race what should you study?
  23. What is the life expectancy of a horse?
  24. What is a steed?
  25. What does ‘to mount’ mean?