Caring for Horses

Before buying a race horse, it is important not only to have the financial means, but also to set aside the requisite time resources before committing to such a responsibility. Practical knowledge is also an indispensable part of the horse ownership equation.


Looking after a thoroughbred race horse leaves room for little else in life! You are justified in thinking that is an exaggeration, but it is closer to the truth than many may imagine. Horseracing is a matter of great passion, and top professionals display unbelievable love and diligence in caring for the animals in their stables.

Caring for a race horse starts with its conception. The best approach is to cross studs and mares from distinct genetic lines, in order to produce offspring with superior capabilities. There is an element of chance in this process because we cannot be certain of the combination of traits that will result in a fetus. A detailed record of expressed ancestral traits can improve the chances of dominant and desirable traits of studs and mares coming together in a foal.

Nutrition and physical exercise are keys in the months after birth of a thoroughbred. No champion can be trained without the right number of calories fed per day and the balanced intake of major and trace elements to build muscle and sinew. Strength and endurance develop as exercise routines are introduced and stepped up in rigor, developing the animal to its fullest potential. Horses are both temperamental as well as intelligent. They are sensitive to treatment and can communicate, albeit in ways different from human speech! Only the most skilled trainers can balance aggression and obedience in a horse and produce a race champion to give the jockey an edge. The interplay between jockey and horse is an important element of mutual mental wellness, and this often becomes the difference between a historic win and a dull place.

Hygiene and immunity have crucial roles in caring for race horses. Straw and other organic material in the stables and grounds are favorite hiding places for microbes, and some bacteria that are harmless in people can be pathogenic in horses. The animals should be vaccinated comprehensively. The living quarters and people who work there should be kept scrupulously clean and free of potential infection.

There is no substitute for the professional care of a veterinarian in order to ensure the physical health of race horses. However, there is no ready formula to develop their personalities and exceptional abilities to perform well in peak and highly stressful conditions. Team formation between trainers, jockeys and top race horses is a difficult but invaluable task in this sport.

Though it makes no impact on race performance, caring for horses has to encompass their years in pasture. There are no controls to prevent ill-treatment and sad neglect of horses that are past their careers and reproductive lives, but true followers of horseracing never abandon a horse that is old or injured, or allow it to suffer pain or deprivation. One should never forget that horses are herd animals, and would never be happy if left alone without company. It is an unfortunate practice to destroy horses after they have passed their productive lives. We should do more to prevent such an extreme and heartless step for the magnificent creatures that give us both pleasure and profit.

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