Training A Horse For Racing: Basic Tips

We spend quite a bit of time on this site discussing basic horse training tips and for an owner or trainer, it’s really a never-ending discussion. A responsible owner understands that caring for a horse‚ and keeping him or her healthy and fit‚ involves what often feels like constant care. And that’s just basic training! So what happens if you decide you want to begin training horses for a particular event or lifestyle?

Specifically, it’s the idea of racing that tends to capture so many owners’ imagination. Take the Cheltenham Festival coming up shortly in the UK. This four-day racing event doesn’t take place until mid-March, yet already there’s a great deal of interest when it comes to which horses will be racing and what sort of condition they’re in. At sports/betting site Betfair, you can even place bets already on some of the headline races for Cheltenham. Not only that, but you can browse through the latest news regarding the competitors! Betting odds and news will continue to shift as the event approaches, but the interest is already there. It’s that particular intrigue that leads many owners and trainers to consider the idea of training a racehorse themselves.

Now, it’s not exactly as if you can simply take a horse you already have and suddenly turn him or her into an accomplished racehorse. But if you’re taking on a new horse and you’re serious about the idea of training, here are a few tips to get you started regarding how to prepare him or her for a race.

  • As Horse Racing Help notes, endurance is key. Horses are naturally fast, but to finish a race‚ even a short, two-mile burst format‚ endurance needs to be the main focus. There’s nothing tricky about the process of building endurance. Simply take it slow in the beginning and gradually increase running distances to help your horse adapt.
  • Speed comes second. In the interest of health and condition, it’s absolutely necessary to build endurance first. And once your horse is comfortable with consistently running longer distances, you can begin to slowly push the horse to run those distances more quickly. Again, it’s simply a process of gradual progress.
  • Be sure to allow adequate rest. Many humans, when trying to get into shape, will push themselves day in and day out. Not only is this generally a bad idea for you and me, but it can be harmful for your horse. A bit of activity daily is fine, but you need to follow high intensity workouts with lighter days. That’s especially true with speed training.
  • Finally, you’ll want to work on acceleration. In order to be successful on any racing circuit, your horse will need to grow comfortable with the idea of getting up to speed quickly from a standstill. This is best worked on once endurance and speed have already been built significantly.

These are the very basic ideas, along with the order of training, that can get you started. Mind you, racing a horse in any sort of professional forum requires licensing, so be sure to look into those details, too, before you simply start training. But otherwise, have fun!

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Three Simple Horse Training Rules

You see that rider that enjoys her horse, and her riding seems so effortless.  But there is a lot of work that goes into making it effortless.  A lot of riders spend their valuable time fighting with their horse instead of enjoying them.  In order to be successful with your horse follow these three simple horse training rules.

1.  Follow a Routine

Horses are creatures of habit.  They like a reliable routine.  Set a time, days and the amount of time that you will spend training with your horse.  Athletes need training.  Horses are athletes and they thrive on a steady training program.  You can’t expect an athlete to perform his best if his training program is sporadic and inefficient.

2.  Hire a Professional

It’s best to hire a trainer to help you construct a program for you and your horse.  A good horse trainer will keep you on track to your goals and help you to stop any bad habits.  You can practice every day but if you are practicing things incorrectly you won’t improve.

3.  Be Teachable

When you allow yourself to be teachable you can really learn a lot.  Horses are the best teachers and when we listen and pay attention to what they are telling us with their responses to our direction we can become great partners.  Never stop learning.  Even the best trainers in the world continue to learn.  That is why they are the best trainers in the world.  Horses are so simple yet so complex that they can teach us something new everyday.  That trainer you hired will really appreciate it too if you are a teachable student.  A know it all cannot really learn because they already know everything, when in reality they know nothing.

By following these three simple horse training rules you can turn an ordinary horse into an extraordinary one.

For more information on how you can implement a great training program check out my eBook Six Weeks to a Better Horse.



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Learn About Horses – When NOT to Feed a Horse

Horse Grazing Naturally

Horse grazing

I love to learn about horses and the best place to really learn about horses is by observing them in the wild.  In the wild horses graze free range all day when they are not traveling.   Horses also travel up to 20 miles a day when they are in their natural habitat.  We have domesticated our horses and taken away those possibilities.  Because of this, a lot of horses have issues around food.

We generally feed our horses twice a day one big lump amount of food.  Horses get very anxious around feeding and the reason is because they are fed unnaturally.  There really isn’t too much we can do about that, but we can be sure we don’t feed (pun intended) into that behavior and add any extra stress.

When NOT to feed a horse:

  • Right after a work out and not for the reason you think.  Horses shouldn’t be fed right after a workout even if they have been properly cooled down because they will want to rush through the training session in order to get fed.  The focus will be on food and not the rider.
  • Right before a training session.  Horses need to be able to finish their meal and relax and enjoy it.  A horse will resent you if you take him away from his meal and don’t allow him to finish all of his hay.  He should also be able to digest his food before a work out.
  • As a training reward.  Feeding treats just isn’t what professional horse trainers do and the reason is, it just doesn’t work.  Horses stress out way too much about food for this to be a good way to train a horse.  Pat the horse on the neck and he will be focused on the reward coming from you and not food.

There are 24 hours in a day, and maybe you spend one to three of those hours working with your horse.  That means you can feed him any of those other 21 hours.  Ideally you would have a large area outside for your horse to graze for a few hours a day.

 What you can do to help your horse have a healthy relationship with food:

  • Give him access to lots of quality hay.  If hay is garbage, your horse is going to waste a lot of it.
  • Feed your horse three times per day if possible instead of two, even if that second feeding is just hay.
  • Work your horse often and hard enough.  If he has a job to do and food isn’t his only focus he will be a much happier horse.

By following these simple tips you too can have a well-adjusted horse.

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5 Ways to Correct a Spooking Horse

You know the drill, a horse sees a dog barking and he spooks.  The wind blows a bag and the horse will spook.  A car drives up the driveway and there he goes again.  This is extremely common behavior and can be corrected.  Horses are prey, and their instinct is telling them that they are going to get eaten.  They also have instinct to trust the herd leader.  If you are the herd leader then they will not worry about the goblins in the mailbox because you are always in control and make the herd feel safe.

1)   Exude confidence. A horse can feel what you feel, if you feel nervous or scared your horse will feel that.  If your horse scares you every time you ride him that will create a snowball effect and the two of you will feed off of each other’s fears.

2)   Go back to the basics of groundwork. If your horse is jumpy on the ground, he most definitely will be just as jumpy in the saddle.  Something is missing from your program, fill in the missing parts and then take it to the next level of riding.

3)   Longe your horse. Longe him with a purpose, don’t just let him run around in a circle dragging you all over the place.  This type of behavior is counter-productive and will not allow your horse to feel confidence that you are not only the herd’s leader, but an excellent one.

4)   Practice, practice and then some more practice. Don’t expect to go out to the barn once and a while and for your horse to have gotten better.  The only way for your horse to get better is by putting in lots of time on the ground and in the saddle.  Expose your horse to as many scenarios and things as possible.

5)   ABT – Always be training.  If you are not training your horse you are un-training your horse.  Start being the leader from the moment you get your horse from the stall or pasture until the moment you put him away.

If you do these five things, and do them correctly I guarantee you will no longer have a spooking horse, but a calm confident friend.



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