What’s in a name? "Sulky"

As some of you who know me know, my minor for my degree is in Classics. Classics is essentially the study of classical cultures. Ancient Greeks, and Romans and the other cultures surrounding that time. (I know, Anthropology major, Classics minor, good life plan Char.)

For one of my classes I gave a lecture on chariots and modern racing for my term project. It was called, “Insights into Chariot Racing from Modern Harness and Chuckwagon Races.” My class really enjoyed it and had a number of questions about modern racing and my thoughts on ancient chariots.

One of the questions I found most interesting was from my professor who asked where the name ‘Sulky’ came from when referring to the race bike used in harness racing.  I honestly had no idea and had always just accepted that was what it was called. After sending a couple text messages to people I knew in the industry, and some Googling, I came up with an answer.

The term ‘sulky’ is meant surprisingly literally. That is to say, since the race bike only carries one person, the driver, that person must be sulking and therefore prefer to be alone. Which is why he would drive that type of cart instead of one that could carry a companion or multiple passengers.

I ran this information past someone I knew in the harness industry here to see what he thought.  He didn’t agree with it. He didn’t liken driving a ‘sulky’ to being sad, but rather to freedom.  This is similar to how I feel while riding. For those few minutes you can’t worry about anything else. You can only worry about what’s right in front of you. It was also pointed out that you’re not alone. Your horse is there with you, constantly interacting and communicating with you. Sometimes that communication is a little more tense than others and sometimes it’s flawless, but you’re certainly not alone.

It’s an exhilarating break from everything else going on in the world with one of the best companions you can find.  Unfortunately, ‘sulky’ is the nickname that stuck to describe something so few people truly get to enjoy.

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