While the lads have been on an extended holiday in the heat, I have been doing some investigation into the horse racing industry and it’s effects on the horses and potential ways to prevent injuries in unpredictable climates.

Icy conditions on the UK racing scene have been reported by racing site ‘Paddy Power’ and with a lead up to the 2013 Cheltenham Festival horses will be experiencing some of these extreme weather conditions. With this in mind, I’ll start with a look into racing in icy conditions.

Preparation for Horses working in ICY conditions:

WARM UP!! – This is a no brainer really, cold muscles equals tears, muscle cramps and damage if a horse is asked to move quickly without a suitable warm up routine.

The warm up before fast work become even more important. Recent studies have shown that the intake of large volumes of very cold air during pre-dawn track gallops can increase the risk of Inflammatory Airway Disease (AD). It can take up to 6 weeks of rest to settle down the damaged lower airways. If the early moming air is below 8oC ensure you only work at a trot or light canter for l0minutes before attempting to gallop

Avoiding Winter Chill – The ‘chill factor” of cold, windy weather can sap energy away from muscle energy stores to help maintain body heat, with a subsequent loss of finishing ability in a race. Always provide a windproof, lined rug and a sheltered area away from the wind in horses tumed out into yards or paddocks under winter conditions. An extra lkg cracked corn to boost energy intake for the last 3 days before racing, can help “top-up the tanks” before racing in cold conditions (Research courtesy of Kohnkes Own).

Now to beating extreme heat on the track…

Light Warm Up – Have the horse ready for work. There is a fine line between being warm and overdoing it in hot conditions, be careful! In addition, ensure that if horse boots are worn in warm up that they do not overheat the legs as this can be a cause of many leg injuries.

Hydration and electrolyte balance – Muscle, nervous, pulmonary, cardiac, and joint function are susceptible to electrolyte imbalances. Most electrolyte imbalances in thoroughbreds are caused by excessive pre-race anxiety and perspiration (washing out). Potassium is one of the critical electrolytes depleted by washing out, as are sodium and chloride. Ensure horse have adequate electrolyte levels and are hydrated!

Stay calm! Easier said than done with thoroughbreds, although calm horses can generally maintain a normal body temperature and minimize sweating utilizing their ability to remain quiet and relaxed. In hot weather, anxiety-riddled horses can become electrolyte imbalanced before the race begins.

Know if you have a ‘hot’ horse – hot horses redistribute blood flow to the skin in attempt to cool the blood off. This combination results in less blood being available for critical racing muscles, resulting in muscle weakness and cramping, weakness that may become especially noticeable in the last crucial moments of a race.

It seems Bax has had his fair share of injuries during his career on the track, as short lived as it was! So hopefully we can help a horse or two here!


Photo courtesy of Paddy Power