How to Train a Racehorse
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How to Train a Racehorse

How are racehorses trained. How to train a thoroughbred racehorse. How old are racehorses when they enter training. How do you get a horse ready for a horse race? Learn how thoroughbred race horses are trained. How old are race horses when they are trained? Can I train my own thoroughbred horse to be a race horse?

This article is really only for information, basic information for people who are wondering how racehorses are trained. Nobody who is unfamiliar with horses should consider this an in depth account on how to become a professional race horse trainer. Reading this link alone is not enough to qualify you to buy a Thoroughbred yearling and have it race track ready in a few months (unlike in the movies where things like that do happen), in most countries you must be a licensed professional trainer to have horses at the track.

For the purposes of this article we are talking about Thoroughbred racehorses, and the training they receive prior to arriving at the actual race track.

Foal Training

As weanlings just taken from their dam (mother) a foal learns halter training, and basic manners. It learns how to accept being tied up, have its feet handled, and how to walk when being led. The training for foals rarely is more than 30 days, after which they are usually put to pasture to grow up for a year, handled only for hoof trimming.

Late Yearlings

In the fall of their yearling year (they have passed their first birthday but not second) actual training begins. They are often stabled at night and allowed out in the day, when not being trained.

The first thing a yearling often learns (after reviewing foal training) is how to go on the hot walker. They are hooked up with a more experienced, older, horse, the hot walker is turned on and the young horse learns how to walk. The trainer is ready to give it a gentle tap on the rump if it fails to understand to move forward.

Once the horses learn to walk on the hot walker they learn how to lunge (some trainers train lunging first, and hot walking second). Usually they are first taught in their stall, or round pen. The trainer using their body to drive the horse forward. Once the youngster has mastered this in an enclosed area it is taken into an arena.

The horse is then taught to wear the bridle and respond to rein pressure, this is done by a training technique known as ground driving. Long reins are attached to the bit, run through hoops on a driving surcingle (which goes around the horse's girth area), and to the trainer who stands just to the inside of the horse. The trainer instructs the horse to turn by pulling on the reins.

Once the horse has mastered this, it is ready for the saddle. The horse is lunged around to get use to the saddle on its back. Then the horse is introduced to a rider on its back. If training has been thorough up to this point the horse is calm and does not buck.

Note that lunging and being put on the hot walk are also used to help get the horse in physical condition for the race track, not just for training.

photo source - A UK Thoroughbred trainer conditions his horse by lunging on a hill.  While this looks great, in most places horses would be lunged in an arena.

Note that some horses start training at their owner's farm, others are sent to professional trainers.

Keep in mind that when training show horses, such as warmbloods, this may take several months, and will not start until the horse is 3, 4, or even 5 years of age. In Thoroughbred racehorses, the pressure is on to get them onto the track as early in they 2 year old year as possible, so they are ridden as late 1 year-olds.

As 2 Year Olds

In preparation for the race track the horses face more conditioning. They must build up more stamina. Sometimes they are ponied (led around by a rider on another horse) or are exercised with a rider on their back. The hot walker is also used to condition the horses.

Some trainers have training race tracks, and starting gates, at their home. When they do, the horses are introduced to these as well. Sometimes they are released into their pasture by passing through a starting gate. Mock races may be staged to test a horse's desire to win, sometimes the young horse is allowed to win these mock races to build its confidence.

At this point the horse, if in Canada, or the USA, is moved to the race track where it is prepped more for the race. In the UK horses are trained at home, and often only arrive at the race track a few days before a particular race meet.

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Comments (2)

From your expertise are great as always, I enjoy riding horses but never ride a racing one.

I often wondered about this subject. You have answered some of my questions.