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The thunder of pounding hooves heralds the field of horses as they barrel down the home stretch and strain for the finish line. Moments later, the winner prances and snorts as he is driven into the winner's circle. The rest of the field retires to the barns. Less than two minutes have determined whether the months of slow, muscle-building miles over the farm training track have brought a racehorse to peak condition, with both bone mass and muscle strength ready for the stress of a race. This race is over, but the training continues day in and day out as each standardbred is prepared for the next harness race. .
Jog the horse three to six miles every day to build a good foundation for faster work. With the horse harnessed to a long-shaft training cart, jog the horse at a comfortable and relaxed speed that will build stamina. Increase the distance as the condition of the horse improves. Occasionally alternate the direction the horse is jogged to keep the muscle strength balanced.
Add faster training miles once the horse has increased his stamina and is jogging several miles with little effort. The first training miles should be only slightly faster than a good jogging mile. A time of 2:10 is reasonable, but slower initial miles are not unusual. The training mile is always done the way a race is run, in a counterclockwise direction. Jog the horse two or three laps before and after each training session to limber up and to cool down. Separate training days with two or three days of jogging to rest the horse and continue to build stamina.
Increase the speed and intensity of the training miles. Monitor the speed of the training mile with a stopwatch. The horse must be capable of racing at the speed listed for the racetrack. This time has to be attained in a qualifying race before the horse is allowed to compete. Training miles on the home track should be timed to match or exceed the qualifying times.
Take the horse to the racetrack to polish his performance and improve his time. The track's racing surface is often better than the surface of a farm training track, and the company of other horses will encourage a horse to improve his speed. Impromptu training races will add intensity to the workout that cannot be duplicated alone on a farm track.
Bathe the horse after each workout, cover him with a blanket and walk him until he stops sweating. Allow only a few sips of water while he is hot. Hose his legs with cool water to reduce any heat from strained tendons. Rub his legs with liniment and bandage with cotton wraps.
Continue the cycle of jogging and training days after the horse begins racing. When organizing the schedule, treat the race day as a training day. The day after a race is his day off. Turn the horse out in a paddock for a few hours or hand walk him and let him graze.
Pushing a horse to compete before he is properly conditioned will result in a lame horse and could delay his first race by several months.
Helmets should be worn when jogging any horse. A strong, high-strung racehorse can be dangerous and should be handled by an expert horseman.
- Care and Traing of the Trotter and Pacer,James C. Harrison, USTA
- The Complete Book of Harness Racing, Philip A. Pines, Arco
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images