– The Unique Care Thoroughbred Race Horses Require

 You may have recently heard about American Pharoah, the American Thoroughbred racehorse that became only the twelfth Triple Crown winner since 1875 after going wire-to-wire at the Belmont Stakes on June 6th. What you may not know is that the horses involved and the races themselves are only a small part of the massive, $300 billion equine industry. Ranch owners and horse breeders worldwide meticulously work behind the scenes to raise these magnificent animals for racing or auction. The time spent transforming a yearling into a true thoroughbred and the relationship that must be formed between horse, trainer, owner and veterinarian is critical to developing an all-around winner like American Pharoah.

The Early Stages

Training a yearling to become an experienced racer, or to be sold at a public auction, is not an easy or immediate process. Great care must be taken in the specific diet and exercise for every stage of development, and any applied medication from veterinarians must be solely intended for the safety and welfare of the horse. To ready yearlings for races, trainers must teach them to accept:

  • Bridle and headstall
  • Surcingles on their backs (straps that apply pressure)
  • Saddle and girth
  • Weight of a rider

Once they are accustomed to these racing essentials, trainers move them to pens and paddocks where they can learn how to breathe and move with gear on. Moving with a rider on their back follows shortly after, and then responding to steering commands, jogging, and finally galloping. Time must be spent getting a horse used to the race gate as well, which is pivotal to ensuring a racehorse’s success down the line.

Horses that are to be sold at auction should be regulated in the same way as those intended for racing. Often, these thoroughbreds were racehorses earlier in life and are now ready for breeding purposes or to become pleasure horses. A similar diet regimen and medical application solidifies the horse’s safety as well as the integrity of the sales process.

The Relationship Between Owner, Trainer, Veterinarian & Horse

Developing these thoroughbreds takes honest and consistent communication between owner, trainer, and veterinarian. All must share the same philosophies regarding the care of the horse and know that every decision made must be in the horse’s best interest. To establish complete transparency:

  • Trainers should work to include owners in all training and health-related matters.
  • Owners should know precisely what the trainer’s philosophy is in regards to the horse.
  • Veterinarians should provide both the trainer and owner with as much information as possible, and be ready to consult and discuss all medical treatments as needed.

It is important to remember that every horse is different, and so necessitates a different approach to training, treatment and ownership. Following the guidelines above benefits every individual involved, especially the horse itself, and that should always be the ultimate goal. The unique care that thoroughbreds require is exactly why they are the amazing creatures we see sprinting down the racetrack.


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