How to Train a Thoroughbred Race Horse

Written by siobhan russell
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How to Train a Thoroughbred Race Horse
Racehorses need to be in peak physical condition, like any high-performance athlete. (racehorses in the turn 2 image by Clarence Alford from

Thoroughbred racehorses have spirited and sensitive temperaments. To train a thoroughbred racehorse you need in-depth horse knowledge, including horse psychology, nutrition, physiology and basic medical know how. A good horseman can understand what his horse tells him, despite the horse's inability to speak. Racehorses need well thought out training schedules, individually tailored to each specific horse. Training a racehorses needs years of equine experience. Beginners should work with a professional to learn the process.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Hire an equine vet who specialises in racehorses. Equine vets specialise in horses, but some of these vets work mainly with racehorses. These vets will have more experience in conditions and treatments that specifically affect racehorses.

  2. 2

    Feed your horse a diet consisting of the correct nutritional balance for the work he has to do. Equine Science professors at Texas A&M University state that trainers need to closely monitor how much protein, vitamins, energy and minerals a horse eats. This diet needs horse-specific adjustments to keep the horse at a body condition rating of 5, meaning lean with good muscle development. The diet must suit the age of the horse and have careful monitoring from the day of birth to maturity to ensure correct growth and bone formation.

    According to Equine Science professors at Texas A&M University, two-year-old horses entering training need 26.5 Mcals of digestible energy, 2.5lb. crude protein, 50g lysine, 46g calcium, 27g phosphorus, 15.5g magnesium and 18,000 IU of vitamin A per day. Racehorses need high-energy diets with easily digestible starch. They need to remain lean, but not "ribby," to make full use of the energy they eat.

  3. 3

    Condition your horse for racing. Racehorses begin their training around age two. Training needs to start slow, in order to build muscle and fitness. Texas A&M's Equine Science professors state that distance work at slow speeds comes first and should last thirty days; some horses will need longer. This training begins with lots of walking and trotting, building up to cantering and a small amount of galloping.

  4. 4

    Increase the intensity of your horse's workout slowly. Begin to incorporate sprint training two times a week for six weeks. Let the horse rest between each sprint and gradually increase the amount of sprinting done in each work out session. Sprinting conditions the horse for speed and prepares his bones for high-intensity use.

  5. 5

    Provide your horse with two rest days per week. Rest days allow the horse to recover from training and gives time for his bones to develop. Racehorse bone conditioning takes longer than aerobic and muscle conditioning. Allow the horse plenty of time outside in a pasture, which benefits his mental well-being, keeping him fresh and happy.

  6. 6

    Warm up and warm down your horse correctly during each work out. Warm up should include walking, followed by trotting and some cantering. Warm down consists of trotting, followed by several minutes of walking. Correct cool down helps remove lactic acid build-up in the horse's muscles, lessening soreness.

  7. 7

    Listen to your horse's heart and respiration rate before and after every training session. According to Equine Science professors at Texas A&M University, a healthy horse's standing heart rate has a reading of 40 beats per minute, with a respiration rate of 8 to 16 breaths per minute. Keep a log of your horse's results. Tracking the results can help understand the progress of the horse's training and indicate potential health problems.

  8. 8

    Examine your horse every day to find signs of injury. Touching the horse in areas that tend to get injured, such as the back and legs, for sensitivity or excessive heat will show you signs of injury.

Tips and warnings

  • Training requires special care, since two-year-old horses still have a lot of mental and physical growing to do. A horse's bones do not finish growing until he reaches age four.
  • Each horse develops differently. Training programs need adjusting to suit the specific horse.
  • Horses have different pain thresholds. Some will show signs of injury early, while others will not.
  • Have your vet examine your horse regularly.
  • Do not overwork your horse. This can lead to injury and lessen his drive to perform.

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