Just like the world’s best athletes, racehorses have to be well looked after to ensure they are in the best condition for when they hit the track. Whether you’re an animal lover or someone who enjoys online sports betting and you are curious to know more about what goes into the care of a prime racehorse, you can find out more right here. Here’s more information about all the care that’s taken to ensure these fine animals are in tip-top shape.
No matter what type of horse racing a horse is involved in, the first thing to come to mind is the physical care necessary to keep a horse performing optimally. To ensure the horse is able to perform at its best, here are the different components of its physical care routine.
Regular physical and veterinary checks
A racehorse’s body obviously undergoes incredible stress over the course of a race, which could lead to injuries. For example, horses can develop fractures that are affected by numerous factors, such as the strength of their bones, the bones involved, as well as the size or age of the horse. One particularly common type of fracture in racehorses is a chip fracture, where tiny pieces of bone break off, particularly in the horses’ joints.
Considering the massive impact an injury could have on a horse, it’s unsurprising that many racehorse owners spare no expense in ensuring that a horse receives regular physical assessments to ensure it’s healthy.
In fact, this is usually done every day by the horse’s caretaker or trainer, who’ll perform a basic physical examination to check for things like swollen muscles in the legs, whether the horse has its usual appetite or any other unusual changes in the horse’s physical condition that could be a sign of a bigger problem. This helps identify any problems early on so the horse can receive the necessary treatment, should it turn out to be an ailment such as a respiratory infection or another issue.
While a racehorse’s hooves are assessed as part of daily grooming, a horse’s hooves have their own care routine that is strictly followed to not only ensure a horse is able to run as fast as it can but that it can do so without any risk of injury. This is particularly important as Thoroughbreds are known to struggle with weaker hoofs than other breeds. To ensure a racehorse isn’t put at risk, a number of different care practices are performed, such as:
- Trimming to ensure the hoofs are at the correct length and angle
- Horseshoes correctly fitted and in good condition
- Hoof conditioner applied to ensure optimal hoof health
- Supplements provided to encourage keratin growth
We are what we eat, and the same concept is applied to racehorses, whose diets are strictly controlled to ensure they are as fit as possible. Most racehorses are fed a combination of hay, which provides them with the necessary roughage they need and concentrated feeds, including grains such as oats, corn or barley, provide them with the carbohydrates they need to keep their energy levels up.
Even though racehorses generally have access to hay at any time of the day, the timing of their carbohydrate-filled meals is also important to ensure the horses are not training on a full stomach.
It goes without saying that even if a horse is getting regular checkups and good food, if its living conditions aren’t up to scratch, it still runs the risk of getting sick or simply not being rested enough to race at its best on any given day. This is why stabling is another hugely important factor when it comes to taking care of a racehorse.
Modern stables for racehorses are regularly cleaned, suitably warm, ventilated and have adequate drainage and bedding. This not only helps the horse avoid any mild or serious illnesses but ensures they don’t need to spend any excess energy maintaining a healthy body temperature.
Mental health care
Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can be very detrimental to any creature, but as you’d expect, it can be particularly damaging to a racehorse, which is expected to be able to give its best on a race day. Past The Wire, a horse racing column, highlights the issue in their article “Horse Athletes: The Physical Impact Of Emotional Stress.”
“Performance stress can be as real for the horse as it is for the human, and is among the primary dividers between preparation and execution. Being practiced and prepared doesn’t always translate to being able to execute when the time comes “for real.” How many athletes have looked great in workouts, but when there is the addition of competitive stress, they begin to show the earmarks of faltering under the pressure? Stress unfiltered psychologically will suffocate competitive edge and when antagonistically expressed physically, greatly affects efficiency of motion, neither of which are performance-enhancing tendencies.“
This is why owners don’t only ensure their horses get good physical but also good mental care. In order to keep a horse’s mind in good shape, trainers may turn to the following solutions.
- Companion animals: Horses are co-dependent herd animals by nature, which is why trainers will provide a racehorse with a companion animal, such as another horse, a donkey or a goat if they think it is getting lonely or depressed.
- Stuffed toys: If a companion animal isn’t the first choice, some trainers may choose to start off with stuffed toys. These may provide a horse with enough stimulation to help manage any negative mental health issues that creep up.
- Providing or increasing turnout time: While racehorse owners may prefer to keep their horses in the stables most of the time to avoid any unnecessary risks, this may negatively affect some horses who need more time outdoors to stay mentally fit. Trainers will then provide or increase turnout time accordingly.
- Ensuring a strict routine is followed: Change can make a lot of creatures anxious, including horses. This is why trainers make sure that a strict daily routine is followed. Horses will be fed, trained, turned out, groomed and have other tasks done at a very specific time during their day to ensure they get used to the routine and aren’t caught off guard by any changes that may make them anxious.
- Adapting a routine if problems arise: Routines are not a one-size-fits-all solution, and some routines may need to be adapted to suit a horse, particularly if it’s having a negative effect on its mental health.
- Noise desensitization therapy and therapeutic music: A stable and training environment is very different from the hustle and bustle of a racecourse during a horse racing tournament, which is why some trainers take steps to help horses get used to these busy environments using noise desensitization and music therapy. Playing the sounds that a horse might hear during a race during their training can help minimize any increase in stress that could occur on a race day, while playing music to horses while they’re in their stables can help horses relax.
- Medication: Medications like tranquilizers, sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs and even supplements are all used to help racehorses stay in tip-top mental shape, particularly during situations where they may become excitable and accidentally injure themselves.
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