The Process of Preparing a Horse for a Race

For generations, the thundering hooves of racehorses have drawn people to the grandstands. They come for the beauty and the excitement of the sport. They may even be there to gamble on a horse. But for many fans, the most important draw has been the promise of pay day that might lift them out of poverty for a week, a month or, if a long shot won the big one, forever. This promise is why so many people still go to the track, whether they bet every day or just occasionally.

For trainers, the process of preparing horses to race starts long before the first practice on the track. The horse’s history, pedigree and potential are studied. Trainers must also understand that horse racing is a risky business. Regardless of the quality of the training, there is no guarantee that a particular horse will win a race.

Most horses are bred to race and not to be pets or work animals. These horses are expensive to raise and train. They must compete in numerous races to earn a living and can often be injured during the course of their career. Because of the high cost of breeding, trainers and owners try to make sure that their horses are placed in races where they will have a chance of winning. This is done by creating a schedule called a condition book. A condition book sets the amount of time that a horse will be trained for and identifies the best races for that horse to enter.

The conditions for each race are based on factors such as distance, age of the horse, sex and gender. The most prestigious races are called stakes races and offer the highest purses. Horses are also assigned a weight to carry for fairness in the race. Usually the weights are based on a horses performance but in some cases they can be influenced by the position of the horse in the starting gate, the sex and gender of the horse, the jockey and the training.

In the walking ring before a race, bettors look at the horses’ coats to see if they are bright and shiny. A bright and shining coat indicates that the horse is ready to run. That is not the case with Mongolian Groom, who balked in the gate.

When a horse balks it is often because it is in the middle of a fight response, a chemical reaction caused by adrenaline and cortisol that results from a horse’s sense of danger and its inability to escape. Black says that if a horse is not allowed to express its natural instincts it will lash out like a fighty animal.

Because horses are constantly moving from country to country, state to state and from racetrack to racetrack they rarely get a chance to develop any kind of bond with anyone. They are usually trucked, shipped or flown to the thousands of races they participate in each year. Often they are never at the same racetrack for more than a couple of days.