What does ‘pulled up’ mean?

In horse racing parlance, ‘pulled up’ simply means that, for whatever reason, during the course of a race, a horse was brought to a halt by its jockey, thereby taking no further part in the race in question. Horses being pulled up is a common occurrence in National Hunt racing, particularly in long-distance steeplechases – of which the Grand National is the prime example – but, although less frequent, is by no means unknown in Flat racing.

Denoted by a letter ‘P’ in the form figures on a typical racecard, ‘pulled up’ is really just convenient shorthand for the act of bringing a horse safely to a halt. Jockeys are true horsemen and women and, as such, know better than anyone that pulling or tugging on the reins may frighten a horse, rendering it oblivious to any further signals to stop; steady, even pressure on both reins is really all that is required.

Pulling up is a precautionary measure taken by jockeys in the event that as horse is distressed, injured or otherwise unable to continue to race safely. Of course, this could include a situation where the horse in question is outclassed and/or exhausted and, hence, so far behind its rivals that is has no earthly chance of being involved in the finish. In fact, such horses may risk injury if asked to continue racing. Likewise, tack malfunctions, such as a snapped girth, or slipping saddle, can render a horse dangerously unsteerable, so pulling up, if possible, may be the only safe option.