Taking care of racehorses

Racehorses have been a source of entertainment for people for hundreds of years. There are many people that are involved to prepare horses for successful careers. Several things are done before and after race day to help the horse perform to their highest potential.

Before the race

A horse trainer is a person licensed by the state to train horses. Several things can be done to help the horse, like ice and heat therapy. Horses also prosper under a daily routine and feeding schedule.

Just like athletes, ice and heat therapy help horses ease their aches and pains. Putting a horse’s legs in an ice bath every day helps with joint and ligament inflammation (heat and swelling). Infrared blankets help the horse by increasing blood flow to the sore area and decreasing aches. Infrared blankets are a type of heat therapy trainers use to soothe soreness.

Horses also benefit from a daily routine. They are exercised in some way every day in preparation for their next race. The grooms feed the horses around the same time each day to stay in routine. Grooms are the people that take care of the horses’ daily needs.

After the race

The work is not done as soon as the race is over. The groom must take care of the horse after the race and make sure everything is normal. You want the horse to be just as sound coming out of the race as they were when they went into it. Soundness refers to being free from injury and having good overall health.

After the race is over, the horse returns to the barn to be "cooled out." The phrase “cooled out” refers to walking the horse until their heart rate returns to normal. After the horse has been cooled out they can go back in their stall. A stall is where the horse is kept when not exercising or racing.

The horse will drink water while being cooled out. However, hay and grain must be kept from the horse for an extended period of time after racing. Eating hay too soon after the race can lead to choking. Eating grain while still hot from running can lead to founder. Founder is a condition where the hooves get hot and are extremely painful. Poultice is placed on the horse’s legs after they are in their stall. Poultice refers to a clay mixture that helps the horse’s legs recover faster from running hard. After racing, the horse will usually get a couple of days off to recover. Once those days have passed, preparation for the next race begins.

The amount of work and preparation that goes into race day is all in hopes of winning a race. Most horse trainers on the backside rely on their horses for their livelihood. The backside is where the barns and facilities are for the horses that run. Proper care of the horses ensures that they have an optimum performance on race day. 

Learn more about equine science