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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Feed to Win

It has come to our attention that there's too many race trainers out there who are skimping on feed. We find this very distressing since the health and well being, not to mention the success of a racehorse, depends on careful management, and there is nothing more basic than the nutritional requirements of the athlete.

Why would a trainer skimp on feed? I would only be guessing but have to assume the reason is money, since feed costs are the second biggest expense a trainer has after payroll. That being said, some trainers have very odd ideas about how to manage their horses.

Owners or potential owners should feel comfortable asking their trainer about how their horses are being fed, and definately ask for information about their trainer's overall feed program. I believe that to protect themselves owners should read up on the basic care recommendations for a racehorse in training. http://www.thehorse.com/articles/10331/feeding-racehorses is an excellent article about the feeding of racehorses from a youngster to full training and racing age. We especially like the quote below, because we see far too many racehorses that are underweight and run down. Owners, ask questions - it is your right to know.

"Although a racehorse will perform to his best advantage if he’s not carrying around any excess body weight, there’s a big difference between being fit and being underweight and run down. Far too many racehorses are the latter, unfortunately, and far too many trainers mistake simple ribbiness for good muscle tone! Like any other type of athlete, a racehorse must have stored reserves to run on, or he’ll run out of gas in the stretch. Be sure to provide your horse with enough groceries so that he’s able to maintain some cover over his ribs and spine. If he’s a picky eater, or the nervous type which walks his condition off in his stall, try making his diet more energy-dense by substituting corn or barley or a high fat extruded or pelleted feed for oats or an oat-based sweetfeed. (Don’t neglect regular deworming and dental care, both of which can have a serious impact on a horse’s ability to maintain condition.)"

Another really useful tool we found is a "feed calculator" at http://horse.purinamills.com/products/feedingcalculator/ which includes recommended amounts of "Purina Race Ready", a feed used by many thoroughbred trainers. For a thoroughbred in race training, use "Performance --- very heavy work" for the "lifestyle setting" and 800-900 lbs for the weight of the horse, and the calculator says this horse should have 10-12 lbs of Race Ready feed per day and a similar weight in hay per day.

Friday, January 10, 2014

How to have success picking horses to claim.

My husband is a successful claiming trainer with over 30 years experience. Recently he has undertaken a project to teach his method to other trainers and owners. In this post I want to summarize his method.

The first thing to know is that it takes a lot of time and due diligence. Before he picks a horse out to claim he attends every race, every day at the target track. He believes it is folly to try to pick a horse based on his race record alone.

So the basic steps after committing to watching every race in person are:

1. Handicap the race to determine which horses in the race are worth the claiming price.

2. Watch each horse carefully in the paddock, check off, in the program, the horses that are sound and look the part of an athlete. Make notes next to each horse in the program about flaws such as tendons and joints that have current or past problems, conformation faults, foot problems, and obvious lameness. He will also note if a horse looks dull, has skin problems, underweight or overweight, bad trimming or shoeing, because these things can definately be improved and may allow him to move a horse up.

3. Watch the horse jog off in the post parade to spot bad movers, bad actors, lameness, etc. and make notes in the program again.

Invariably by the middle to end of a race meet, he has chosen several targets to claim and has put money in the office to cover the projected claiming prices.

When a claim target comes up in a race with the projected claiming price, hopefully dropping down from a previous level, he does not drop a claim until after he has watched the horse walk from barn to saddling paddock, or if that is not possible while it is being saddled and has walked off, to make sure the horse is sound.

The experience to spot lameness, old injuries and conformation faults is crucial to a successful claiming program. I'm sure that many trainers and owners claim based solely on past performances, pedigree and "numbers". This method is NOT recommended for the average small scale trainer and owner.