How to Prepare Your Horse for a Race

Horse racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in the United States and it contributes $15 billion to the country’s economy. However, behind the glamorous facade of fancy outfits and mint juleps is a world of broken bones, drugs, and gruesome breakdowns. As humans, we are often attracted to competition and adrenaline, but the sport of horse racing is especially challenging for animals that are forced to sprint-often with whips-at speeds that can cause severe injuries.

Before a race, trainers often work or breeze their horses over a short distance in order to increase the speed and stamina of their runners. Generally, the faster they can run over a set distance, the more likely a horse will be to win a race. As the horse becomes conditioned, the trainer may ask for a little more in their workouts. They might start to exercise at a quicker pace, or if they’re feeling good, might let the horse run fast for longer, which is called an exhibition race or a heat.

A runner who is suited to running at a particular distance will be listed in the condition book, which is the schedule of races for a certain period of time (such as a few weeks or month). It’s important for trainers to develop their training regimen around these dates. However, sometimes the condition books don’t fill or an extra race might pop up on a race day. This can throw off a trainer’s plans and can be incredibly frustrating for owners who have made travel arrangements and train their horses specifically to run on a certain date.

As the race comes to a close, horses begin to tire and must find a way to channel their energy effectively through each turn. To do this, they must learn how to change leads on cue. As North American horse racing takes place in a counter-clockwise direction, a runner will be on their right lead during straightaways and their left lead rounding each of the turns. Changing leads is an essential skill and requires a lot of mental focus.

Bettors often watch the horses’ coats in the walking ring before a race to determine whether or not they look fit to run. A bright and rippling coat is thought to be a sign that the horse is ready to go, but when a horse balks at the starting gate, it’s not because they are eager to run but rather because they’re frightened and angry.

A horse’s jockey must be able to read their mood in the midst of this chaos and know when to use the whip, and when to hold back. They must also be able to keep track of all the other horses that are running and make adjustments as needed. All of this is done in a very short amount of time, which means that the rider must be very focused on what’s going on around them. If a horse’s jockey is not paying attention, the horse might be caught up in a traffic jam, causing it to lose momentum.