The thoroughbred, often called the hot blood breed, is popular in the horseracing for its swiftness, athleticism and sturdy body. What makes Thoroughbreds unique from other breeds? Well, they are very speedy and can cover up to 41 miles per hour. Their muscular and athletic bodies allow them to jump and sprint effortlessly.
Life stages of a Thoroughbred racehorse
Thoroughbreds are highly spirited horses with distinctive genetic characteristics. This breed is specialized in racing, show jumping, and polo. Due to their remarkable speed, endurance, and elegant physical features, they are bred to produce horses with exceptional genetic potential. The Jockey Club requires all thoroughbreds to be bred under "live cover". This means the sire and dam must be together for copulation and artificial insemination (AI) is not allowed. This allows the breeders to know the bloodlines of the horses being bred. Where AI would allow access to any mare, including ones with poor confirmation or health conditions. These mares would be producing foals who have faults.
We can divide the life of a racehorse in following distinctive stages.
Foal-Life at Stud
A foal is the early phase of life, similar to a newborn, until it reaches the six months mark. This golden period is significant for the young horse as they need constant support and attention. They are on their mothers milk but also might need additional supplements for their growth. When the foal reaches 6 months, it is weaned or separated from the mother.
The weanling is too young for training, but can go to auction at this age. They can be familiarized with simple things like fly spray, handling of the feet, and halter training. At this age, they have a limited attention span and can become frustrated easily. It's best to limit the training to short periods.
Yearlings are the young horses between the age of one and two years. During this period, yearlings are highly energetic and in high physical growth phase. They are slowly trained to prepare for future races. In horse racing, the yearling age is the best age for the breeders to sell them to the highest paying bidders.
Training and Exercise Routine
The racehorse training begins at an early age of 18-24 months as horses can participate in formal racing at two. Young horses undergo gradual training, including swimming, walking on various surfaces, and jumping hurdles to enhance their speed, endurance, and balance. They are slowly upgraded to bigger pools and difficult hurdles to adapt quickly.
Most horses start racing at a formal level at 2 years old. Some start racing before two years, which can be dangerous for the horse as it is still developing. These young horses, called juveniles, usually compete against each other because they are not yet fast enough to compete with older horses.
There are four primary horse racing types: flat, endurance, harness, and steeplechasing.
The standard flat races are the ones we think about when we hear the words: thoroughbred racing. These include the famous Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. These flat races start out at shorter distances and gradually get longer throughout the season.
Three year olds, or sophomores, are eligible to run the previously stated famous races. They get more attention than the younger horses because they can compete with older horses. Horse owners can also determine if their racing career has progressed or decreased from their races as a 2 year old. This will help decide if the horse continues to be a racehorse or becomes an OTTB.
A typical day in the life of a racehorse
A typical day in the life of a racehorse revolves around three to four feeding sessions, plenty of exercises, getting checked over by vets and trainers for any possible injuries, nap time, and night checks. These horses have a routine daily schedule and have a busy and fulfilling life. Let's break down their day to help you better understand their routine.
Racehorses have early mornings and can be busy until nighttime.
5 am: First early feeding is given by the caretaker at this time. Around this time, horses are taken out of their stalls for a morning walk.
6 am: They are groomed and prepped for a gallop. During this time, exercise riders ride the horse for a mile or a half and are returned to the stables shortly after.
9 am: Horses are trained at least four times weekly, including galloping and breeze.
3 pm: Fresh water is provided after their extended training, and a bath is prepared, after which they are walked for twenty minutes till, they dry off. Second feeding is given along with some more water.
5 pm: At this time, horses take a quiet nap, eat lunch, or walk. After an hour, they are examined by the vets to see any new wounds or pain and are returned to the stables. Horses are given their third feed of the day.
8:30 pm: Around this time, horses are done with their daily activities and have a sweet time sleeping. Caretakers come around late at night to check if everyone is okay and healthy.
And the days go on…
Life of an Off the Track Thoroughbred (OTTB)
The racehorses' career in racing is often short-lived mainly due to their health or inability to win races. What happens after their retirement? The castrated horses can have a long racing career as they can't be used for breeding, while off the track thoroughbred racehorses (OTTB) can make a career in these two paths.
The prosperous and fertile horses are sent to breeding farms to become studs. In Fact, horse breeders often cut their racing careers short of earning a hefty amount from their breeding. As a stud, they breed several mares to produce top-quality foals with good genetic potential.
Successful mares can become dams to future racehorses. These mares are bred live cover to successful studs. The gestation time for a pregnant mare is 11 months. This means that the mare can only have a foal once a year. While studs can sire multiple foals with many mares in the breeding season.
The sterile and unsuccessful horses can make a career by learning a different discipline or participating in various challenges. Many people like to adopt or purchase thoroughbreds for different disciplines because of their athletic abilities and versatility. Some of these sports include:
Jumping: This skill requires more of an athletic and slender body. Racehorses are known to have a good balance. A little training to improve their posture and boost their confidence can thrive higher.
Dressage: Dressage requires attention, strong communication, and excellent balance. The OTTB can take part in a dressage competition after learning the skills.
Polo: Healthy and swift racehorses are an absolute fit for polo as it requires the skill already present in racehorses.
Barrel Racing: Some horse owners like the use of thoroughbreds for speed sports. They are agile enough to maneuver around barrels or poles and quick enough to run back to the start for a quick race time.
Steeplechase: Horses compete against each other around the track, like flat racing, but the sport also requires them to jump over hurdles or obstacles.
Some great American racehorses
Secretariat, the record-breaking thoroughbred racehorse representing America, has created a revolutionary history by securing several awards and jaw-breaking victories. In his short two years of a racing career, Secretariat has proudly taken popular racing awards to his name, some of which are