Race Horse Preparation Strategies
Winning horses, like successful human athletes, must consistently train in order to be at their competitive peak when it comes time to perform. Trainers will carefully formulate a specific training schedule that ensures each horse will be well-rested and capable of performing at their best on race day.
Preparing a horse for racing must be done carefully because overtraining will tire the race horse while under-training often leads to cramps, strains and injuries during the event. To many casual observers, it may seem odd that horses are pampered, massaged and exercised with such care, but when a horse like “Seabiscuit” or “Secretariat” is a proven winner, the extra care put into race preparation is well worth the investment when the horse stands proudly in the winner’s circle.
Although the trainer primarily devises each horse’s race preparation schedule, it is left up to the groomers to report back to the trainer if any problems with the race horse are noted. Other responsibilities of horse groomers is to properly “shoe” each horse as well as to administer any nutritional supplements, medications or inoculations. The latter care regimen is especially important, since the use of a prohibited medication or ingredient may, if discovered during pre-race or post-race testing, lead to a disqualified horse or sanctions imposed on the trainer and owner.
In addition to exercise, nutrition is an equally important part of race preparation. Feeding a thoroughbred race horse a simple bag of oats and a sugar cube simply will not lead to optimal performance. Some pet food supply manufactures cater to the needs of race horses by marketing nutritional lines of specially formulated “competition feeds”. Such foods are designed to give race horse sustained energy and help with muscle rebuilding and repair after strenuous workouts and training sessions.
Specially formulated feed for competitions are easy to digest and store. Most competition feeds for race horses are comprised of a blend of fats, fermentable fiber, vitamins and minerals, and water-soluble sugars and starches (carbohydrates). Unlike humans or domestic pets like cats and dogs, horses are herbivores that require little protein in their feed.
Each trainer will decide on a complete preparation program that combines precise levels of physical exercise, good nutrition and proactive medical care. The preparation of a winning horse and the results of successful trainers require a careful balance of preparedness, nutrition, training and rest not only for the track but also to insure the healthy lives of race horses.