Successful racehorse trainers have many years experience preparing horses to race. Most trainers start as assistants to other trainers and learn from their mentor. Undoubtedly what some might describe as instinct, comes from years of watching and learning and developing experience. More recently, training horses has become a lot more scientific and trainers will use equipment like heart rate monitors to measure performance as well as doing blood tests to check health and fitness levels. There are lots of other factors to consider which we will discuss here.
Most racehorses are Thoroughbreds although there are separate races for Arabs too. In the Thoroughbred world, there are flat races as well as jump races and horses are usually bred to compete in one or the other. Some horses bred to flat race may progress to hurdling which are smaller fences but it is rare for a horse bred to compete in National Hunt races to be successful on the flat. Breeding usually also determines the best length of race the horse is suited to. A trainer will know this and tailor the horse’s training to reflect whether they are going to run over longer distances for example.
When deciding whether a young horse is good enough to race, a trainer will watch them on the gallops and see how they compare to other horses both in terms of speed and stamina. Many never get as far as a race because they lack the raw talent.
.Once a trainer has decided they are good enough to invest in they will be training them to improve their strength and fitness but will also be looking at the horse’s mental desire and will to win. There are definitely some horses that want to be at the front!
Strength and Fitness
If a horse has been trained to compete, you will be able to tell just by looking at it. A racehorse will have r large, well-muscled hindquarters, as this is where their explosive power comes from that allows them to run at speed. You’ll notice that distance horses tend to be taller and leaner whereas those bred to sprint will have larger hindquarter muscles for power.
The trainer will also be looking at the horse’s recovery time when deciding if they are fit enough to race. Once they have reached a level of fitness then it’s a case of maintaining them at their best until race day.
When training a horse to be competition-ready, horse feeds and nutrition are a key element. A racehorse needs to be able to sustain a rigorous fitness regime so that it can build up stamina, speed, and power. The goal with a racehorse is balancing their health with performance as high energy feeds can have negative impacts on the digestive system. Forage should make up at least 1.5% of the diet although many trainers try to get away with less than this so they can put in higher energy feeds. A balanced diet is essential as vitamins and minerals are part of energy metabolism and aid recovery. Oil is used as a concentrated energy source but as it can only be used when the horse is working at low intensity it can’t be the only source of fuel. Therefore cereals which provide carbohydrates such as starch will be included in most racing rations to some extent.
All of these factors go into producing a horse fit to race!