Training thoroughbred horses Paul R Earl Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León San Nicolás, NL 66450, Mexico.
What is wanted ?"There's a lot of heat in this horse's legs, Mr Fitz." "They all have to go the same way, son."What this means is that thousands of horses have been sacrificed to get one champion like Eclipse, Man o' War, Gallant Fox, Whirlaway, Citation, Native Dancer or Secretariat.Millionaires can pay the price of getting a real champion.The small man might have nothing but trouble training horses in this hazardous world.
What is wanted is a stake winner that can outdistance (eclipse) his rivals. The horses mentioned all trained themselves! They were SO SUPERIOR to their competitors that they eclipsed them without injury. They all had emerged from their 2-year old racing debute still in one piece. The cost of a champion is trivial to its multimillionaire owner. Next the retired champion makes millions at stud. The real target for training is the early 2-year-old that is developing as an athlete. The older horses are less flexible and require less attention. They need to be kept both fit and sound. Which races they are entered in profitably depends most on the trainer finding the "right" race in the condition book. Example: "For mares & fillies 3 years old and up . . ."
A very small number of sound horses survive training designed for selecting stake winners. Secretariat eclipsed his field by 31 lengths in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. This means that speed and distance could not injure him since he had such powerful reserves. It also means that training methods A, B & C all work! He only lost races when he was pulled.Regardless, you can train horses as individuals and purposefully avoid injuries. Will knowing the heart rate (HR) per speed per distance help you ? Yes! The yearly cost of lameness in the US ranges to $1 billion. Something" is wrong !
Heart rate (40-260 HR) monitoring, and the use of a high speed threadmill are examples of new technical additions to horse racing. They are complementary rather than essential. The treadmill cannot take high speed sprints.Any horse working 3/8ths of a mile wide open might predict its next race. Now the distance by 200 HR (the V200 test) can be found as additionally informative, using a sensor-transmittor belt around the horse in front of the saddle.
The components of a huge worldwide industryThe sport of kings, movie stars and crooks consists of investment money, state taxes and the track's take of perhaps 12 % per race, losses by bucked shins, bowed tendons, sprained fetlocks and other lamenesses like navicular disease, winnings at the races, insurance payments, great auctions and fabulous stud fees, aside from labor including the trainers, jockeys, grooms and vets, maintenance cost, feed and transportation. Insurance premiums are 2-7 % annualy. The cost of administration, taxes and sales round out the picture.
The ONLY cure for real lameness is rest--3 months or more on the farm. It takes 90 days to leg up a horse. How the 2-year-old is made fit to race, and how his bones are modeled for speed is the major proposition. Finally, the cause of lameness is overtraining by the horse trainer.Obviously, the 2 other main components are the private farm and the private track as the supplier of 2-year-olds. However, many owners do not have their own farms and are not members of the horses set or the sniffing set. Many of them need a patron.
Another answer of many questions is racing too young as 2-year-olds. Everybody knows this. Holding them till 3 is terribly expensive ! Another expense is bucked shins. The next complaint is bowed tendons also from too fast too young and can involve sprained fetlocks. Regardless, if 2-year-olds are not exercised ENOUGH!, they will develop less muscle and less combative stiff bone. The collision between the muscle and the bone system is rather obvious. The gains in muscle strength are not matched by gains in bone when speed and distance are increasing.IS THERE TOO LITTLE OR TOO MUCH TRAINING SPEED? IS IT BETTER TO SHORTEN THE DISTANCE THAN LOWER THE SPEED? YES.
Sprints are OKBones generate electric potentials in response to mechanical stress. Wolff's law affirms that bone adapts its structures to meet stress in the best possible way.High speed is this stimulus.In 1892, Julius Wolff suggested this law that states that bone tissue can adapt optimally to the mechanical load to which it is exposed. This is often called remodeling. The optimum has mimum mass/maximum stiffness.Sprints are OK! Let the horse have his head once in a while. Lighten up by shortening the distance not always the speed.
Anatomical pointsIs a horse equal to his forelegs ? It is tempting to say Yes ! He is standing on his middle fingers. Two other fingers of the most distant paleontologic past are the 2 splint bones on the cannon bone. What do you need to know ? See the drawing of the cannon bone (Metacarpal III) & hoof. Does the extensor tendon move right over the cannon bone?Most racetrackers do not know ANY anatomy. Then, communication with the veterinarian is most problematic.
Claiming Obviously, the combination of a hard dirt track surface, lameness, extreme youth and high speed breaks down many horses. All the lame horses of millionaires go to the claimers ($1,000-100,000 or more) just as horses move from Belmont Park, NY to some track few people ever heard of. Most horses spend their lives in the claimers. Geldings have no place to go.
Did the small trainer ever improve his claimer just by letting up on it ? YES ! Everybody knows this! Much of the time, Seabiscuit was too sore to run well and never had a painkiller. Try to understand reluctance to run. Perhaps you don't !Anyone who puts his horse to claim feels the price is a profit over that horse's condition. The groom gets back to the barn with an empty halter, and a problem has been solved. Next time out, that horse may be trying very hard for the bew owner on legal painkilling bute (phenylbutazone). These castoffs are the necessary support for the racing industry. Is this castoff going to breakdown or - When ?
JockeysExcept for veterinarians, the last major component is the jockey. The trainer says, "Why would I ride you back? You pulled that horse last week." "Yes, I know I did. But let me ride him back. I think I can win!" The last resort for a jockey is to jump off the horse.Say a horse is pulled several times and then gets into a lower claimer. The jockey's friends claim it. You know the rest ! The best view of hankypanky in a race shows when the horses fan out after the quarter pole. Binoculars are helpful. Note also that any jockey should give racing room, don't you think ?
VetsGetting along with folkloric trainers is # 1. Practice from influenza on is not of interest here. High interest is focused on the experimental method that contains controls. In racing, many conditions always change. What is a baseline? Of course, horses can act as their own controls, but intuition is the winner.Finding out what applies best via ANOVA (analysis of variance) or other statistics is only some 20 years old for most horse problems. What variables (parameters) have the lowest variance? Sports medicine is quite behind what its assets are. Research is in its infancy.
A guide for the V200 testA trot (jog) at about 250 m/min or 48 s/f produces a HR of about 90 bpmA canter at about 400 m/min or 30 s per furlong produces a pulse of about 125 bpmA canter at 460 m/min or 26 s per furlong produces a HR of 135 bpmA slow gallop at about 550 m/min or 22 s/f produces a HR of approximately 155 bpm, andA slow to fast gallop at about 660 m/min or 18 s/f gives a HR of 180 bpm
What does it mean--to rub a horse ?"Do you know how to rub a horse?" "Yes, sir." "Go on in the barn and tell Sweeney I told you to tell him to give you the pony to take care of."To massage a horse's forelegs is to rub a horse. Probably with linament like Bigeloil. It is a counterirritant having thymol, menthol, methyl salicylate, capsicum, salicylic acid 0.65 %, oils of juniper and pine, and alcohol 75 %. Absorbine and others are also used, of course. Massage in some form dominates the racetrack.Hosing with tap water through to painkillers fit in here. The cause of pain is overtraining. Hosing is an important part of the folklore.
Metabolism and HR testsHow much oxygen passes through the muscles to gain a given racing distance at a certain speed?We can figure this out using simple Newtonian mechanics.What do we have? We have primarily:-Heart rate (HR, pulse)-Percent of saturation of arterial blood with oxygen-Blood pressure
The cardiovascular vs the skeletal systemWe are talking about 2 very different systems: 1) the cardiovascular (CV) system and 2) the bones and ligaments of the forelegs. Gain by exercise in the CV system can be more than lost in the legs by injuries. The guide is speed, not distance. However, a few works will not gain much muscle.A few expert jockeys can time a work such as a mile in 2 min. What is V200? It is a distance likely in meters when the pulse = HR is 200/min.
What are the common track measurements?The US racetrack is about the last fortress in the world for the English system of measurement. A furlong is 1/8th of a mile. It is still the basic unit in the states. Then horses run 11, 12, 13 or more s/f.
AVOID INJURIESBUCKED SHINS: Dorsal metacarpal diseaseBucked shins are a very common cause of forelimb lameness in young horses. Most young racehorses develop shin soreness. If not properly treated, bucked shins may lead to stress fractures. The cause of bucked shins is ‘too much work too fast’ or in other words, THE HORSE TRAINER is the cause. Usually, the bone is quickly remodeling by the stresses of training. Remodeling has its attractions, but the bone can weaken via microfractures. Let up on the horse.
Treatment is palliative, having of cold therapy (hosing with tap water usually) and using the painkiller phenylbutazone--bute. Reduce the work load. Pain killers are obviously beneficial. Example: phenylbutazone lets sore horses race. In some US states any medication may be illegal since it allows MORE damage to the horse. Stress fractures are repaired by either surgically drilling holes around the fracture that act as conduits that supply healing factors (osteostixis) or by inserting a screw across the fracture plane. Healing requires 90-120 days.Almost everything that is tried for bucked shins through to antique pinfiring attempts to increase the circulation, and also often involves reducing pain.
Tendonitis and ligament injuriesIf a tendon is lacerated, the healing tendon will be strong enough to bear weight at a walk in 6-8 weeks. Bowed tendons or suspensory ligament injuries require 6-12 months to heal. Treatment is palliative including reducing pain with phenylbutazone. Sprained fetlocks usually involve the ligaments.Complete recovery of tendonitis is most unlikely and half of these will bow again. Speed may eventually destroy the profitable bowed horse running in the claimers.
Osteochondrosis (OCD)Signs include swollen joints, lameness and progressively developing upright conformation. Diagnosis is confirmed with radiography of the affected joints. The most common areas affected are: hock, stifle, fetlocks, shoulder, carpus, cervical vertebrae, elbow and pastern. Rapid growth of the foal coupled with imbalances in the diet are the primary set of causative factors. Promoting fast growth by feeding high levels of energy seems related to OCD. Most forms of OCD are responsive to surgical treatment in young horses.
What are some treatments for pain in horses?Drug classes are followed by examples of specific drug names in parentheses. Acute pain treatments ·Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs (Bute = phenylbutazone, Banamine, Ketofen) ·Steroids (dexamethasone, prednisilone) ·Local anesthetics (lidocaine, bupivicaine) ·Opiates and their derivatives (morphine, Torbugesic, fentanyl) ·Alpha-2 agonists (Rompun, detomidine) ·Dissociatives (ketamine) ·Shockwave therapy ·Injectable joint protectants (Legend, Adequan)
TRAINING PROGRAMSThe new 2-year-old is exposed to a graduallyincreasing excercise program. Are its bones adapting to the stresses it will live under ?Is the treadmill necessary ? Certainly not. It is still an experimental tool.Is the velocity at 200 HB test necessary, say once a month ? No, but it is extremely helpful with 2 & 3 year olds. Can the excercise boy breeze a given distance at 200 HB rather than control a work at a given number of seconds? How does HB convert to meters/s or s/furlong ? By f, seconds are 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 s. The last is just a fast gallow. For a mile, this is 2: 24 min which is 144 s.
There are many approaches to the same end result. Programs are quite different in Japan, Australia, England and the USA. Here the suggestions on training are just suggestions since different approaches can apparently produce an equivalent result!A training program could have a 2-mile (3.2 km) gallop at 18 f/s = 11.2 m/s daily. The horse might breeze at 14.4 f/s once every 7-10 days increasing the distance to 6 f = 1.2 km. Should you start with a 1 mile gallop ?Note that horses should be jogged 3-5 minutes to warm up before breezes, and especially before races.
A program is now suggested. The main point is that the work load increases as the horse ages to race perhaps in May.New horses are broken to ride in the fall and can gallop a mile at 18–20 s/f by the end of December. The training program is 6 days a week with Sundays off. V200 HB tests can be made before and after any training routine. Teaching horses to use the gates starts early. As simple as A, B, C.
What can you learn from this lecture ?- Understanding the cause of injuries will help you prevent them- Training programs must fit each horse*- Proper shoeing and footing are critical- Bone can remodel in response to the stress of a given training program. SPEED must be accomodated!- Excercise as correct, too much, too little or the wrong kind finalizes as some amount of SPEED. SPEED is the name of the game- While positive training is evinced as a gain by muscle increases like heart size, bone misfunctions may register losses as in soreness or worse.