Tuesday, August 21, 2007

life of a race horse

The racing career of horses bred for Flat racing typically starts as a two year old. At this age, the Thoroughbred will be able to run over relatively short distances against horses of the same age. From this time onwards, the horse spends the majority of its racing life in the care of a trainer, who is responsible for ensuring the horse runs to the best of its ability.

Once horses have learned the basics of racing alongside other horses, and then learned to stride away from them, their racing career settles into pattern. Routine training is combined with a specific programme of exercise designed to bring the horse to his peak for a race. The trainer will control the amount and intensity of exercise each horse has in his care, and it is unlikely that the horse will gallop every day – otherwise even the best horses would burn out.

Like all modern-day athletes, racehorse trainers take advantage of the latest exercise and dietary regimes. For example, many trainers use equine swimming pools to work horses’ muscles and cardiovascular systems without putting excessive strain on their legs.

Although a horse’s training regime is organised around their racing programme, trainers will work their horses with a serious gallop two days per week. Based on their ability and fitness, flat horses can stay in training up to around 10 years old. However, it is common for top-class flat racehorses to stop racing soon after their peak years of three or four so they can maximise their potential at stud.

Horses destined to race over jumps have, of course, to learn how to handle hurdles and fences, as well as gallop. This process, known as schooling, can be difficult for some horses, and required great patience from trainers.

First off, horses are tried out over a series of small poles without a rider, until their confidence increases. Once they are ready, chasers and hurdlers are schooled at home over the appropriate obstacles.

Typically, jumps racehorses start their careers in extended Flat races – known as bumpers – to get them used to the longer distances involved. The following season, most jumps racehorses will compete in hurdles races. These are smaller obstacles than fences, and hurdles races tend to be run over shorter distances. Depending on the physical attributes and aptitude of the horse, the trainer may then switch him to steeplechase fences.

Like humans, all horses are different. Some racehorses will be able to race a great deal during a short period of time. Others might need lots of time between races to recover. Similarly, some horses are ready to win at the beginning of the season, whereas others may reach their peak fitness after two or three races.

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