Frequently Asked Questions
In order to help explain some of the language used on this site and in horse racing in general I am compiling a Frequently Asked Questions document. The answers mostly apply to US racing. Please add your question to the comments and I will address it on this page.
- If a horse is "rank", what does it mean?
- What are the different types of stride / gait?
- What is the measuring proceedure for a horse
- What is a pony?
- What does the term "switching leads" mean?
- What is the benefit of having horses switch leads in their races / gallops?
- What does "on the bridle" and "off the bridle" mean?
- What is a distaff?
- How long is a furlong?
- What is meant by "rating a horse"?
- What is "propping"?
- What is the role of the outrider?
- How do you deal with a horse that rears?
- What does it mean when a horse is described as sour?
- What is "cooling out"?
- Can a horse drink water with a tongue tie on or a shank in its mouth?
- What is a massage blanket?
- What does it mean to say a horse has good / bad form?
- What does "turn of foot" mean?
- What is wheeling?
- How do you keep horses calm via plane travel?
- What are run downs, and how are they avoided?
- What type of dental care is necessary?
- Do horses have to be 100% thoroughbred to race as thoroughbreds?
- What does "off" in the left front mean?
- What is "pinhooking"?
- How tall is Barbaro?
- How fast does a horse's tail grow ?
- What does it mean when a dirt track is sealed?
- What are dirt tracks and how do they vary?
- How are racehorses named?
- What is meant by the term "clean eye"?
- Do racehorses get time off, and if so what do they do?
- Why do some horses mouths get "foamy" when undertack?
- Why are some breeding fees listed as "private"?
- How long does it take to train a horse to the races?
- What are the different roles performed in a racing barn?
- What is the difference in weight between an exercise rider and a jockey?
- What about a steeplechase jockey?
- Why don't jockeys work the horses out? Don't they need to "get to know" the horse?
- What is a really fast furlong?
- How long can you expect a horse to maintain top speed in a workout?
- How many furlongs are horses usually blown out for?
- How many strides back is a horse that is 1 second slower?
- What is a breeze?
- What does the rank mean listed by a work out, i.e. 5/18?
- How fast do racehorses gallop?
- What is a shedrow?
- What styrup length do you use as an exercise rider?
- What is gate schooling?
- Do horses that bite get a muzzle when they are groomed?
- When bathing horses, what is the temperature of water and what kind of shampoo is used?
- Why do you train so early in the morning, why not later in the day?
- Do you train year round, what happens in the winter months?
- What are dogs (not the woof kind)?
- Why do some riders gallop stood upright while others crouch down like a jockey?
- What is meant by the term "hacking"?
- What changes are made in training when training during the winter months in the north?
- How long are racehorses exercised during the morning exercise?
- What are the typical types of races?
- How are races scheduled and filled?
- Who writes the races for a racetrack and what determines the types of races run and the purse structure?
- What is a scratch?
- How are jockeys engaged for the race?
- How are jockeys paid?
- Why do some horse's run from the back of a race, and some horses stay closer to the pace?
- In a race, what is the reference to "poles"?
- What are the typical racing surfaces?
- What are the Beyer Speed figures and how should they be interpreted?
- How are "rabbits" used in a race?
- What is a detention barn, test barn, receiving barn?
- What is lasix used for?
- Does whipping a horse when riding a race finish hurt?
- How is it decided if a stakes race is graded, and what grade a race gets?
- What does "never run a race in other than condition" mean?
- Who is not allowed to bet?
- What is a track bias?
- How and where can you learn about horses running at the races?
- Why would a vet scratch a horse at the gate before the start?
- What is a neckstrap?
- What is a tongue tie?
- What are the different bits used?
- What are the different nosebands?
- What is the long black saddle pad I see Peter using under his saddle in the picture of him riding Bobby?
- What is the difference between an exercise saddle and racing saddle?
- What is the purpose of a shank?
- What purpose do blinkers serve?
- What is the purpose of the knot in the reins?
- What are bell boots?
- What are the different leg wraps / bandages used for training and travel?
- What is a porta pad / round pen?
What are the typical types of races?
Gender: Races are for Fillies / Mares or open (either sex, but basically colts and gelding run).
Age: Restricted races are for two year olds and three year olds. Other races are for three year olds and up.
There are a number of different types of races, but those below are the majority of races run.
Maiden: For horses who have not won a race. They are "Maiden Special Weight", which is the equivalent of an allowance race, where the condition is "never won a race"; or "Maiden Claiming", where the horse is entered for a claiming price depending on the race. Maiden Claimer's at the high end are about $50,000, at the low end, $5,000.
Claimer: The majority of US races are claiming races. Claim slips need to be made before the race. Once the horse starts the person putting in the claim owns the horse (but not the purse money for that race). If multiple people put in a claim slip for one horse there is a "shake" to determine who owns the horse after the race. Only those owners registered at the racetrack can put in a claim slip for a horse. Claiming races can be very low ($3,500) to high ($75,000). Claiming races also have conditions, these conditions determine what type of horses can run for that claiming race, and it is based on either number of races won lifetime, number of races won within the last x months etc. Think of claiming races as a means for owners and trainers to "self-handicap" their horses. They select a claiming race that they know their horse can compete, yet it is not so cheap a price that they will lose their horse (unless of course their intent is to try to move the horse on to another barn).
Allowance: Allowance races allow horses that have their conditions (i.e. have not won too many races) to compete without a claiming price. The allowance conditions are based on the number of races won (i.e. there are races for horses that have won one race, two races, three races) and often those conditions exclude races such as their maiden and any claiming races (i.e. a race "never won two other" than means a race for horses that have not won two races other than a maiden, claimer or starter handicap).
Stake: These are the major races. They can be graded (grade 1 to 3), grade 1s being the glamour races (Kentucky Derby, Breeders Cup races); non-graded but open (to all horses); or restricted to the state's breeding program (Maryland Million races for example).
How are jockeys engaged for the race?
Most jockeys will have an agent. It is the agent's task to book the jockey's mounts and deal with potential double-calls etc. Trainers do prefer to keep loyal to a few jockeys, some trainers simply try to book the best jockey available for a particular race. Thus there is a relationship (although sometimes tenuous) between the trainer and the jockeys that the trainer might engage for his / her horses. Sometimes the owner also has a particular preference, and they are able to influence the trainer. You may notice that a horse is often ridden by the same jockey for consecutive races.
How are jockeys paid?
Jockeys earn a riding fee for the race. If the jockey finishes in the first three they get a percentage of the winnings. A jockey's agent gets 25% of the jockey's earnings.
Why do some horses run from the back of a race, and some horses stay closer to the pace?
Some horses are known as closers (Better Talk Now for example) and will only run their race if they are held up at the back of the field and then produced with one run close to the end of the race. These types of runners do best if the early pace is fast, and therefore the front runners do not have any speed left when the closer begins his run. Sometimes, but rarely, a closer will have a "rabbit" running to ensure a good early pace (Better Talk Now often runs with Shake the Bank for this purpose.)
Other horses prefer to be on the lead or close to the lead to do their best running. These horses prefer a slower early pace so they are able to sustain their run throughout the race.
In a race, what is the reference to "poles"?
We think in terms of eighths or sixteenths of a mile. Thus when someone references a pole, they are noting the distance from the wire (the end of the race). For example, a horse that makes a move at the quarter pole is starting its run a quarter of a mile from the wire. There are usually phsyical poles marking each eighth of a mile. Most racetracks are uniformly the same, one mile around, so a jockey will know which pole he / she is passing by its placement on the racetrack. Of course Belmont can throw off an "out of town" rider as it is a mile and a half round.
If a horse is "rank", what does it mean?
Some horses pull hard and are head strong. They are difficult to gallop and to relax in a race. These horses are said to be rank. It is quite an art to try to settle a horse when galloping and breezing, but if they are truly rank its next to impossible. You will see the rider leaning back, perhaps visibly pulling on the reins, and often the horse's mouth is wide open. There is certain equipment used to try to "contain" rank horses. Perhaps a "ring bit" (which is quite severe) and a figure-eight noseband (to keep the horse's mouth closed and stop the horse from locking his jaw).
What are the different types of stride / gait?
Walk: just like us, one foot on the ground at a time.
Jog: Also trot. This is where the right front and left hind hit the ground together (right diagonal) and then the left front and right hind hit the ground (left diagonal). A horse can jog a mile in about six minutes at a good jog. Before a horse does his gallop / breeze he will jog first, perhaps about a half mile.
Gallop: The rest of the type of exercise is simply determined by the speed of what the horse is doing. A steady gallop is usually something between 18 and 20 seconds per eighth. An open gallop is 15 seconds an eighth and a breeze is about 12 seconds an eighth (racing pace).
What are the different roles performed in a racing barn?
Owner: Owns the horses a trainer trains. Trainers typically have multiple owners, although some trainers are "private" trainers, training for one owner only (Shug McGaughey and the Phipps stable for example).
Trainer: He / She is in charge. Manages everything. Depending on the size of the operation the trainer may be very hands-on (performing the roles of exercise rider, groom etc.) or hands-off (overseeing, observing etc.).
Assistant Trainer: Bigger trainers will have an assistant, or multiple assistants, to help run the operation. Michael Matz has multiple assistants, as does Graham Motion (for example). These assistants may also perform the role of exercise rider, or groom, especially if they are helping run a barn where the trainer is ever present. Sometimes trainers will have a string of horses in another location, and will use an assistant trainer to manage things in his / her absense.
Shedrow Forman: Some trainers will also have a shedrow forman (also known as head lad), who will manage the grooms and essentially the entire operation of the shedrow. The shedrow forman will also have a few horses to groom most likely.
Exercise rider: The exercise rider will ride about 6 horses a day for the trainer. Often times it will be the same horses each day. A trainer may have salaried exercise riders, or may hire freelance exercise riders who only get paid per horse the rider rides. A freelancer will typically work for multiple trainers.
Groom: The groom is closest to the horse. He / she will take daily care of the horse which includes cleaning the stall, grooming the horse and doing any "therapy" work on the horse. A groom will typically look after four horses, and the same four horses during the time the horses are in training.
Hotwalker: A hotwalker will cool the horse after it has trained. A hotwalker thus does a lot of walking around the shedrow each morning.
The larger the outfit, the more defined these roles are. Smaller outfits a groom may also double as a hotwalker, a trainer as a rider, no assistant trainer etc.
What is a neckstrap?
A neckstrap is a strap that goes around the horses neck, there is a piece at the bottom that then goes between the front legs and attaches to the girth. This is a strap that can be used by the exercise rider to hold on. Many exercise riders never let this strap go, it is critical to keeping balance.
What is a tongue tie?
A tongue tie is a piece of equipment that is used to tie the tongue down so it cannot get over the bit that is in the horse's mouth (this makes it very difficult to stear the horse and control the horse in general). It also helps with a horse's breathing. Most horses that race in the US will have a tongue tie, these will also be applied for breezes, but not usually for regular gallops. In other racing juridictions around the world tongue ties are not as commonly used, i.e. in the UK.
What are the different bits used?
A plain bit is called a snaffle bit. It has two pieces in the mouth joined together in the middle. Other common bits used are a rubber bit (the metal in the mouth is covered with a rubber surface) which is used for horses with more sensitive mouths, and a ring bit, which is more severe and preferred by some with a horse that pulls quite hard (is rank).
What are the different nosebands?
Not all horses have nosebands as part of their equipment (part of the bridle), but many do. A plain noseband is essentially a strap that goes across the nose, above the nostrels, and is attached to a head piece that goes behind the ears (much like a bridle's head piece). Some of the other more popular nosebands for racing and training include a "figure eight" (also known as a cross noseband). This is used to keep the horse's mouth closed, which helps prevent the horse from getting its tongue over the bit, or prevents the horse from "locking its jaw". Basically put a figure eight on a horse if it pulls hard. A "shadow roll" noseband (also known as a sheepskin noseband), warn by Barbaro, can either be used for show (in Barbaro's case), to help keep a horse's head lower when galloping (cannot raise its head too high when it cannot see over the noseband), or to stop the horse from seeing shadows on the track.
What is the difference in weight between an exercise rider and a jockey?
Exercise riders can weigh anywhere from 90lbs to 160lbs. For those who remember seeing Smarty Jones train, his rider was quite big. Consider there is dead weight of a rider and "balanced" weight, thus a rider may actually ride lighter than she / he appears. Some of the heavier exercise riders perhaps do not do as much breezing than their lighter counterparts. Sometimes jockeys are used for the breezing, although that is not always the case.
What about a steeplechase jockey?
A steeplechase jockey will weigh from 125lbs upwards. They usually have to ride at about 140lbs and this includes the saddle and their riding clothes. Quite a few ex steeplechase jockeys make good exercise riders.
Why don't jockeys work the horses out? Don't they need to "get to know" the horse?
A jockey really does not need to know the horse, but certainly trust the trainer and others associated with the horse so as to follow the instructions the trainer provides. Sometimes jockeys do breeze the horses in the morning, but certainly not everytime. You will find jockeys on the backside of the racetracks in the mornings, with their agents, going from one "client" to the next, and they will be breezing for the trainers. In the case of Barbaro, he was never breezed by a jockey (either Jose Caraballo who rode him in his first couple of races or Edgar Prado).
What is the long black saddle pad I see Peter using under his saddle in the picture of him riding Bobby?
This is a black "shammy"-type pad, these are designed to prevent the saddle and pads slipping. Often a trainer will use a smaller pad that is not visible, but does the same thing.
What is the difference between an exercise saddle and racing saddle?
A racing saddle is designed to be very light weight, this is not the case for an exercise saddle. Thus an exercise saddle provides more support. This is necessary given that during exercise racehorses can do some quite tricky things to unseat the rider.
What is a really fast furlong?
When breezing consider 12 seconds an eighth (furlong) to be a strong pace. The longer the breeze, the harder it would be to maintain that speed. Green Monkey, who was a record setting sales auction horse because of the speed he breezed, breezed in about 10 seconds for the eighth of a mile. Races typically publish the speed of the first quarter, for sprint races you might see a time of 21 seconds and change (change refers to a fraction of a second).
How long can you expect a horse to maintain top speed in a workout?
Breezing 3/8ths in 36 seconds is not hard for many horses, as they stretch out beyond 3/8ths of a mile it will get tougher. A half mile in 49 seconds is quite good, 5/8ths in a minute and two (seconds) would also be decent.
How many furlongs are horses usually blown out for?
This depends on whether the breeze is to set a horse up just before a race (perhaps three days before, doing a short "pipe opener" which may be a quarter or 3/8ths of a mile), or its part of the breezes used to get a horse back to the races, or to the races for the first time. The first breezes will start at an eighth, or a quarter of a mile, and gradually progress. It is unusual to breeze a horse beyond 3/4s of a mile. Alternatively we might "open gallop" instead of breeze. This is also called a "two minute clip" or half speed gallop. For that we go 15 seconds an eighth and this can be for a longer work (up to a mile).
How many strides back is a horse that is 1 second slower?
At racing pace its usually four horses lengths per second (I think).
What is a breeze?
This is exercising a horse at racing pace. This can be anywhere from an eighth of a mile to about 3/4s of a mile. Before a breeze a horse will be galloped (about 18 - 20 seconds an eighth) for about a mile, and jogged about half a mile before the gallop. This is standard, but different trainers vary this. A horse may breeze one day a week when in full training, but of course this will also be dependent on his / her racing schedule. A rider can give a horse an "in hand" breeze. Basically an easy breeze where you do not push the horse out. You let the horse literally run in your hands. Alternatively the rider may urge the horse by pushing agressively from the saddle and with his / her hands. The rider can also use the stick for further urging, usually in a breeze this may only be once or twice. You typically want the horse to progress during the breeze, so the slowest eighth of the breeze is the first eighth, the best running should be at the end.
How fast do racehorses gallop?
Anywhere from a very slow, hack gallop, to a decent gallop, which would be about 18 seconds an eighth. Much faster than that and it would be considered an open gallop (15 seconds an eighth.)
What is the measuring proceedure for a horse
Horses are measured in hands, a hand is equal to four inches. We use a measuring stick and measure from the ground to the top of the horse's withers. A typical racehorse would be about 16 hands tall.
What is a pony?
A pony, as the term is traditionally used, is a small horse, a horse under 14 hands 2 inches. For racing however, a pony is a horse used by trainer to ride among the racehorses while they are out training. The pony might actually be accompanying one racehorse (as was the case for Messaging and Barbaro) or the entire string. A pony is also used to escort the racehorses down to the start for their races. Ponies that are escorting horses are essentially being used to make sure the horse stays calm and under control. These ponies (and riders) are different from the ones used in the morning training. The ponies are typically of horse height, they may be x racehorses (Messaging) or of other breeds (Tim's Luke). If a horse and rider is "being ponied" it means that they are being escorted by a pony and pony rider.
What does the term "switching leads" mean?
When a horse gallops it will lead with one of its front legs, left or right. When we train horses for racing we teach them to be on their inside lead (lead with their inside leg) when going around the turns, and then switch leads to their outside lead when they are galloping down the straightaways. Thus when you watch horse racing you will see the horses lead with their front right leg going down the lane (and along the backstretch), switch to their inside leg going into each turn and switch back to their outside leg coming out of the turns. A jockey (in a race) and exercise rider (in the morning) will give a horse a cue to switch leads, although some horses will do it automatically, once trained to do so. The cue may be as subtle as a slight movement of the appropriate hand, or a tap on the shoulder with the whip.
What are the typical racing surfaces?
The typical racing surface in the US is dirt (a sandy base). Each race track will also have a turf track, and one or two races a day may be scheduled for the turf. If the weather is wet races that were scheduled for the turf are usually moved to the dirt, thus horses that prefer a soft turf course rarely get a chance to run on such going in the US. Only major stakes might stay on the turf if the turf is soft. With wet weather the dirt track can be "sealed" which makes the racing surface quite hard. Since the dirt is not uniformly consistent (due to weather) it is important to note what type of dirt track a horse prefers to run on.
What are the Beyer Speed figures and how should they be interpreted?
The speed figures a considered an objective measure of the performance of the horse for that particular race. They take into account all the race conditions, and also compare the race with other races run that day at the same track. I am sure someone knows how to compute the figures, but the important point is they are an objective representation of the horse's performance for that race. Beyer figures over 100 are exceptional and clearly signal a stakes performer. Figures in the range of 60 - 90 would probably represent decent allowance caliber horses.
What is the purpose of a shank?
The shank is used to lead a horse, either around the shedrow, outside grazing, going over to the races etc. It provides a little more control over a lead rope as it can be attached either:
a: over the nose (standard application)
b: in the mouth
c: over the top lip
It is standard equipment for racehorses in the US.
What does it mean when a horse is described as sour?
A sour horse is a horse that no longer wishes to do what it is supposed to do. A horse can be described as "racetrack sour", it no longer enjoys being around the racetrack. The only solution is to give the horse some time away from the environment from which it is sour.
What does "on the bridle" and "off the bridle" mean?
A horse is considered "on the bridle" if he / she is taking a nice hold of the rider while galloping, breezing or racing. Thus the rider / jockey has a nice hold of the reins and has plenty of horse (energy) underneath. You would hope that horses at the beginning of races are "on the bridle". If a horse is "off the bridle" then the rider / jockey is urging the horse along, pushing with his / her hands etc. The one exception to this is if a horse is so relaxed it is "off the bridle". This can be a good thing during gallops and early parts of races.
What is a shedrow?
A shedrow is the space that the trainer occupies with his horses in the barn, this includes the area in front of the horses' stalls. The shedrow also refers to the entire circuit within the barn that passes in front of the horses' stalls. It is used as a place to cool the horses out after they have exercised. In inclement weather horses may be exercised in the shedrow (i.e. stay inside rather than go outside). Shedrowing a horse means it is being exercised in the shedrow.
What purpose do blinkers serve?
Blinkers are a piece of equipment that look like a hood with large cups over the rear of the eyes. They are designed to limit the vision of the horse to what he / she can see in front only. They help a horse concentrate, and are used for horses that have obvious problems concentrating. Horses that will duck and dive at things they see in their periferal vision. You can have full cup blinkers (which obviously still allow for forward vision) or the cups can be cut back to allow wider vision. Sometimes holes are cut in the cups to allow a horse to see other horses coming at him / her (in a race). Saint Liam wore blinkers.
What is a distaff?
A distaff is a female horse.
How long is a furlong?
A furlong is an eighth of a mile.
What is the purpose of the knot in the reins?
When an exercise rider gets on a horse there are three things he / she will check. The girth (make sure it is tight enough), the styrup length and the knot in the reins, not necessarily in that order. A rider prefers a particular type of knot, some really bunch the end of the reins with a huge knot, others just do a simple one cross over knot. The knot adds a little weight to the end of the reins which provides a little balance to the reins and where they fall behind the rider's hands. The knot limits the length of the reins so if the rider's grip on the reins comes lose he / she can recover via the knot. For some odd reason, the knot is actually very important!
What is meant by "rating a horse"?
Rating a horse is limiting the horse's speed so as to save some energy for a later run. Thus horses that break from the gate and then taken back are considered to be rated by their jockeys. It is good to rate a horse early in a breeze to ensure the horse has plenty of run left for the last part of the breeze.
What is propping?
"Propping" is when a horse suddenly stops forward motion and plants either momentarily or long term its front or hind legs in an effort to stop doing what it has been doing. Horse can "prop" only for a millisecond while looking at something new that caught their eye. Or they can downright stop and refuse to move on again in an act of defiance or independence.
What are bell boots?
Or also called overreach boots. They are made of rubber or neoprene or sometimes even soft ovc. They are placed on a horse around the hoof. The idea is to give a protective layer so horses don't 'overreach" or grab their heels. We use them sometimes when we turn horses out into the paddock, or when riding them outback. Its always wise to use bell boots in new enviornements when a fit young horse may react and hop up and down and accidentally step on himself.
How long does it take to train a horse to the races?
Well this is really a tough question, and whoever you ask is likely to give you a different answer. Some of it will also depend on whether the horse is getting ready for the races for the first time, or whether returning to the races. Typically when a horse is at a race track it comes in with a certain level of fitness already (perhaps it has been jogging on a farm etc.) The following is a very rough idea of progress (and very simplified) for a horse coming into a race track that is ready to start galloping, and has raced before.
a. Gallop about two weeks, begin jogging a mile, galloping a mile. Build the galloping up to about a mile and a half.
b. Third week end with a short breeze, probably a quarter of a mile. Gallop about a mile and a half each day before the breeze day.
c. Each subsequent week include a breeze at the end of the week, increasing the breeze's length every second week.
d. The horse will likely be ready to run after it has completed three 5/8ths breezes, and then finished up about three - four days before its race with a short, sharpening breeze, perhaps 3/8ths.
Some gate work may be necessary, especially if the horse has not run for six months (need to get a six month gate card, which will likely mean breaking and breezing from the gate). If a horse has not run before then a similar schedule may be appropriate with frequent visits to the gate (once or twice a week) so the horse is comfortable breaking from the gate, in company with another racehorse.
What is the role of the outrider?
The outrider is there to make sure everything runs smoothly. Basically if there is a loose horse on the track the outriders will be charged with trying to catch the horse so as to prevent the horse hurting itself or others. You have outriders in the afternoons at the races, and in the mornings during training hours.
How are "rabbits" used in a race?
Sometimes, to ensure a strong pace for the race (for a horse that likes to close at the end) a trainer will run another horse that will be used to help set the pace. Shake the Bank has been used by Graham Motion to ensure a good pace for Better Talk Now for quite a few successes.
What styrup length do you use as an exercise rider?
An exercise rider may be breezing a horse (in which case he / she would ride short like a jockey); galloping a strong horse (again, short like a jockey); galloping a young green horse (dropping the irons for additional balance and leg on the horse); or jogging a horse (some may still ride short doing this, but the longer you ride, the longer you ride, as the saying goes). Basically different exercise riders have different preferences in how they ride, but for breezing, you need to ride short.
How do you deal with a horse that rears?
The problem with horses rearing (going up on their hind legs) is that sometimes they will loose their balance (or the rider will lose his / her balance which in turn compromises the horse's balance) and fall over backwards. This outcome is not really very good. So it is important when a horse rears that you keep the horse moving forward and encourage him / her to quit rearing! There really is no easy answer as to how to stop a horse from rearing. A few horses do it out of feeling a little too well, and once they have it out of their system they are fine. It is rare that you have to deal with a habitual "rearer", for racehorses it is mostly young two year old colts and they soon get over it.
What is "cooling out"?
Cooling out occurs after a horse has trained or raced. Basically a horse will get a bath (except in the winter months) and will be walked around the shedrow for 20 - 40 minutes depending on the nature of the exercise. During the walking the horse will be offered a drink of water, either every turn of the shedrow or every second turn. The hotwalker only allows the horse to take a certain amount of sips of water (8 - 10) and then continues walking the horse. If the horse has breezed or raced, the hotwalker will put the horse in its stall after a certain amount of cooling out to see if he / she wants to pee. Once this is done, the horse is the brought back out to cool out further and see if he / she wants more water.
What is a detention barn, test barn, receiving barn?
The detention barn, much like the receiving barn, is used prior to the races for those running that day at the racetrack. Most horses that run at a track are already stabled at that track. For some of those tracks (like the New York tracks) the horses are required to be at the detention barn a fixed period of time before their race (six hours for New York). Those horses that ship into the track to race (all Fair Hill horses would need to ship to a track to race) will ship into the receiving barn prior to the race. This barn serves the same purpose as the detention barn. After a race the winner, and usually one other horse, are selected to go to the test barn and cool out there. This is where post race tests are run to make sure the horses are not carrying any illegal substances in their system.
How are races scheduled and filled?
When racetracks take entries for their races they basically have about fifteen races they try to fill for the day. Some of those races are called "extras", and they will be used if they fill and one of the pre-scheduled races does not fill (the pre-scheduled races appear in the printed condition book, the extras are published shortly before entries are taken, perhaps a few days before via the published entries of a previous day). If a race fills (maximum number of entries is usually twelve) the additional horses in the race will be designated "also eligible", and will only be included in the race if there are scratches up to scratch time, which is usually sometime the day before the race. Stakes races are a little different, an owner / trainer needs to nominate a horse prior to when entries are taken. The nomination usually costs money.
What is a scratch?
A scratch is when a horse is designated as not racing in a race it was entered to run. A trainer can scratch a horse for veterinary reasons, and needs a vet to sign off on the scratch. Sometimes scratches are allowed due to the weather conditions. Scratches can occur if a horse is designated to run "main track only" for a turf race that stays on the turf, or if a race switches to the main track from the turf for a horse that will only run on the turf. Horses that are on the "also eligible" list are automatically scratched by the racetrack if they do not draw into the main body of the race by scratch time (the day before the race). If a trainer seeks a scratch for a horse that there is no apparent reason for the scratch (no vet scratch etc.) then the horse will receive "days", i.e. it won't be eligible to run at that track for a certain number of days.
What is gate schooling?
A racehorse needs to learn how to break from the gate. This takes multiple visits, starting with simply showing the horse the starting gate for the first time, and perhaps just walking through it. After 2 - 3 visits to the gate the horse will be ready to be closed in (walking in with the front gate closed, the back gate closed once in). The front gates will be opened (manually) and the horse will walk out first, and then in subsequent visits jog out, canter out, gallop out and finally breeze out, in company with another horse. The key to helping the horse become a good gate horse is to always focus on keeping the horse straight as it exits the gate. During each of the visits to the gate the gate crew will get the horse familiar with a person climbing around the gate. A horse needs to acquire a gate card before it is approved to run for the first time. If a horse has not run in six months some racing jurisdictions will require a six month card, which may require the horse to break from the gate again. If a horse is adding blinkers to its equipment, then a blinker card is required (i.e. the horse has to come to the gate and be approved by the gate crew with the blinkers on).
What is lasix used for?
Lasix is an anti-bleeder medication. It helps prevent horses from bleeding through the nose, a result of broken blood vessels. The majority of horses in the US run on lasix. A horse has to be approved by a vet in order to go on lasix. A horse running on lasix for the first time may "move up" if there was a problem with the horse bleeding in its prior race.
What are dogs (not the woof kind)?
Sometimes you will hear the phrase "the dogs were up" (or similar). This means that horses that were galloping / working that day were doing so around the dogs, which essentially are cones used to keep the horses away from the inside rail. It is common when a dirt track gets a lot of rain that training will take place with the "dogs up", so as to avoid having the dirt track wash away along the inside. Sometimes they will also put the dogs up on the turf track just to protect parts of the turf course.
Do you train year round, what happens in the winter months?
Racing and training does occur year round in the north. For example New York racing goes to Aqueduct in the winter months. Within close range of Fair Hill we will have racing in Maryland, Philadelphia and Penn National. Thus some outfits do stay at Fair Hill year round to train, others (some would argue the more sensible ones) go south. For example, Michael Matz has taken his entire string from the north and relocated south for the winter months for the last couple of years (and likely longer). Graham Motion takes many horses south, but leaves some up north. Tim Woolley remains in Fair Hill year round.
Why do you train so early in the morning, why not later in the day?
Training early in the morning is probably a function of a variety of reasons. Tradition is one reason, we have always done it, so will continue to do so. Those that train on racetracks (majority of training in North America) need to have completed training by a certain time in the morning (usually 9 am or 10 am) so the racetack can be closed and be prepared for racing that day. In the summer months it is simply more pleasant for horse and rider to train early. Finally for trainers, it makes sense to be able to train horses in the morning, and then attend the races in the afternoon / evening.
How is it decided if a stakes race is graded, and what grade a race gets?
I think the grade of the stake is determined in large part by the quality of field the stakes race attracts. Thus if a grade two stake is won by a horse who goes on to be a dominant horse, and other horses in that race are similarly strong, that race may be considered for an upgrade in its status, especially if this occurs over the course of a few years. Similarly if the quality of horse winning a race seems weak then the race may be down graded. Thus it is not simply a function of the purse, although one can consider there is a correlation between offering lots of money and attracting great horses. Note: my knowledge here stems from my curiosity as to why the Delaware Handicap is not a grade one race, when there are grade one races for fillies / mares with much smaller purses.
What is a porta pad?
A porta pad is a portable paddock that is used to turn out horses. They are not very big (large enough for a buck and squeal) and the portable nature allows a trainer to move them about so once the grass has been eaten they can be located to another area.
Can a horse drink water with a tongue tie on or a shank in its mouth?
Certainly not with a shank in its mouth, and I doubt it with a tongue tie either. There would be no need to attempt to let a horse drink with a tongue tie on as the tongue tie is only used for breezing and racing and is removed very shortly after the horse has finished running (and before it needs to start drinking water while cooling out.)
What are the different leg wraps / bandages used for training and travel?
The three types of bandages used in racing are:
a. standing bandages, used for applying some kind of therapy to the horses legs and left on while the horse is in the stall during the day and over night. Standing bandages are also applied when a horse travels to make sure the horse does not do any damage to itself.
b. polos / exercise bandages, used when the horse does its training. Some horses need them for a little support, or to prevent them hitting themselves (back legs crossing a little etc). They can be used for any kind of exercise (walk, jog, gallop, breeze).
c. vet wraps (with run down patches applied), used for breezing and racing. They are more secure than polos, and provide a little more protection.
When bathing horses, what is the temperature of water and what kind of shampoo is used?
Depending on the climate, we vary the water temperature. Thus in the summer a cold hosing might be appropriate, but in the late spring, early fall a warm bath may be better. In the winter, no bath. Baths occur after training and before cooling out. Typically we will bath them with soap (special equine soap) and then rinse them. The (liquid) soap is designed to be less iritating to the horse, but needs washing out afterwards.
Does whipping a horse when riding a race finish hurt?
For the most part a few smacks is not going to hurt (not that I would really know). Horses are generally pretty thick-skinned. That being said over use (and thus abuse) of the whip does neither the horse or the rider / jockey any good. There are rules to how many times a jockey can hit a horse, and how a jockey can hit a horse. A horse that is left a mark on the skin certainly would have felt the whip, but most times the jockey's use won't leave a mark (a mark = slight swelling, no blood).
Do horses that bite get a muzzle when they are groomed?
No, the groom just needs to be smart enough to avoid being bitten.
What type of dental care is necessary?
Horses, like people, have baby teeth that are then replaced by a new set of teeth. This typically happens between the ages of 2 and 4 1/2. An adult male horse has 40 teeth, and female horse has 36 teeth. You often here the term "caps", these are baby teeth. A horse dentist should work on a horse's teeth every sixth months to a year. Wild horses grind their own teeth with their constant grazing, so have no need for a horse dentist. Only horses taken out of their natural habitat need a dentist. You can also determine a horse's age by looking at its teeth, although this means of determining age becomes less accurate the older a horse gets. The phrase "floating a horse's teeth" is commonly used when a horse is being worked on by the horse dentist.
What are run downs, and how are they avoided?
Run downs are abrasions that can occur on the heal of a horse, burn marks from the dirt track. They do not occur (or are much less likely) on turf courses. They are avoided by applying bandages, either polo bandages or rundown bandages.
How do you keep horses calm via plane travel?
Typically plane travel, nowadays, for horses is quite common. They are put in a "crate" along with other horses and their attendees. Aside from take-off and landing, the travel is actually very smooth, and horses can relax and fall asleep. Of course the take off and landing can be a little bumpy. Typically you cannot apply any drugs (for relaxation) for horses traveling (as they might be traveling to race), but there will be a means to tranquilize a horse, if necessary, during mid flight.
What is wheeling?
Wheeling is when a horse turns sharply, when it should not. Usually it is spooking away from something. A horse can obviously wheel to the right or to the left.
Who is not allowed to bet?
While this may change from one jurisdiction to another, I think it is universally accepted that jockeys cannot bet. Other than that, most others connected to horses can bet, and some do.
What does "turn of foot" mean?
This is a common term, used in british racing. Basically a horse with a good turn of foot has good acceleration, the ability to quicken its pace quickly.
What does it mean to say a horse has good / bad form?
Form, in this case, can refer to its previous races, or the way the horse is currently training. Basically good form would mean it either has run well lately (the horse has good form), or is training well (is in good form).
What does "never run a race in other than condition" mean?
Many races (especially allowance races) are run with specific conditions. The above consition refers to a race that is open to any horse that has only won its maiden, a claiming race or a starter handicap. Thus it has not won its second allowance condition.
What is a massage blanket?
A massage blanket is designed to stimulate the horse's body, much like a massage chair a person who is sitting in the chair. It is placed over the horse, and plugged in. It will only be left on the horse for a short period of time (perhaps 20 - 30 minutes).
What does the rank mean listed by a work out, i.e. 5/18?
When a work is published it is usually accompanied by a rank. All horses that work the same distance that day on that track are ranked by the overall time of their work. Thus 5/18 means the horse was the 5th fastest of 18 workers at the distance the horse worked.
What does "off" in the left front mean?
This means the horse is lame in his left front leg (near fore leg). Similarly a horse can be "off" in his right front, right hind or left hind.
What is "pinhooking"?
This is the trade of buying a young horse with the sole purpose to resell that horse at a later sale. Most commonly pinhookers buy yearlings, break them, and resell them in two year old in training sales.
How tall is Barbaro?
According to Michael Matz he is currently about 17 hands (October '06). He has grown a little during his time at New Bolton.
Who writes the races for a racetrack and what determines the types of races run and the purse structure?
A track will have a certain amount of money alotted for its purses. It will be up to the racing secretary to write the races and get the races filled. He / she does this by assessing the horses that are running on the track and the types of races most likely to "fill". A condition book will be written so trainers know aheand of time what races are available. "Extras" are written (additional races) closer to the racing date as a means of being a little more adaptable in terms of what are the best races to run to ensure a competitive card. (Also see "How are races scheduled and filled").
How fast does a horse's tail grow ?
About the same speed as a person's hair grows.
Why do some riders gallop stood upright while others crouch down like a jockey?
Standing upright in the saddle while galloping is refered to as "skiiing". You may see quite a few exercise riders doing that in the US, less so in europe. Sometimes it helps relax a horse more if you stand upright and give the horse its head. Othertimes you stand upright because the horse is a very strong puller and its the only way the rider can persevere for the entire gallop. It is only done at the gallop, when breezing an exercise rider will crouch down like a jockey.
What is a track bias?
A track bias occurs when a certain type of racing creates an advantage on that track. A bias might be for horses running close to the rail, or off the rail. For a horse running on the front end, or closing. A perfect racetrack should not create a bias, the best horse should be able to win regardless of its running style.
What does it mean when a dirt track is sealed?
Basically the dirt track is packed down very tightly by heavy rollers. This is done to avoid letting too much moisture get into the track and literally wash the dirt away. Inevitably the track surface is pretty hard when it is sealed.
What is the benefit of having horses switch leads in their races / gallops?
A horse will get tired on one lead so when it switches it will have additional energy.
How and where can you learn about horses running at the races?
The Daily Racing Form will allow you to see entries at tracks 2 - 3 days in advance, depending on when the track takes entries. In order to follow horses that you want to see run, you can add them to a virtual stable, and have the Daily Racing Form alert you to when they are entered or when they have a public work.
Why would a vet scratch a horse at the gate before the start?
If a horse appears to be visibly lame in the warm up the vet will scratch the horse. The jockey may also request the vet to look at the horse to see if he should run. A vet also checks the horse the morning of the race to see if it is sound to run.
What are dirt tracks and how do they vary?
While I am not sure of the composition they are a sandy-based material. They are reasonably consistent from one track to the next. What effects them is the weather, and what the maintenance crew decides to do with the track in terms of harrowing the track (typical if the weather cooperates) or roll the track (when sealing due to inclement weather). The maintenance crew can also determine how deep to harrow the track. Tracks are usually harrowed at least once, and often twice during training hours, and between each race.
How are racehorses named?
The owner at the time names the horse. The name needs to be approved by the Jockey Club. There is a limit on the number of characters that can be used for a horse's registered name.
What is meant by the term "hacking"?
Hacking is a form of exercise for the horse. We can take a horse out hacking (ride the horse across the fields), or take the horse for a hack (the same). Mostly it will include walking, jogging and cantering.
What is meant by the term "clean eye"?
A "clean eye" means the horse looks good in the eye and it is a signal that the horse is feeling well. The eye is clear and bright, there is no dullness to it.
What changes are made in training when training during the winter months in the north?
When the weather cooperates then there really is not much changed to a horse's training regiment. If the weather does get very cold then less time is spent outdoors, so you might get too and from the racetrack a little more quickly. The temperature needs to drop below about 20 degrees before trainers consider not training outdoors, and perhaps use the indoor shedrow. Much will also depend on the wind condition (windchill), and percipitation (rain, snow and ice). Racetracks themselves can be winterized, but even that has its limits. Ice is the toughest condition to deal with. A racetrack can be in good condition, but the horsepaths may be unusable (with ice for instance). Its tough to train while it is snowing, but once it has finished snowing its relatively easy to blow the snow of racetracks and horsepaths.
How long are racehorses exercised during the morning exercise?
In the US thirty minutes is a decent amount of time for the exercise. Fifteen minutes going to and from the track, fifteen minutes on the track. This does vary of course. In the UK, exercise is typically longer in duration, but they spend less time cooling horses out (the cooling out is done at the end of the exercise instead).
Do racehorses get time off, and if so what do they do?
Yes and No. It depends on the trainer, owner and somewhat on the circumstances. Time-off obviously costs money, so those who are in the business purely to generate money are not going to provide facilities for time-off, they will unload the horse once it is not able to run competitively etc. Turf horses that remain in the north in the winter will get time-off, as there is no turf racing in the winter. Horses that run in top class races are generally campaigned throughout the year to then allow some time-off to regroup for the following campaign. Horses that sustain injuries may get time-off to recover. Owners who have their own farms are able to provide a place for horses to have time off when it is necessary. Horses that have time-off generally will be relocated to a farm and be turned out during the day (weather permitting) and brought in at night.
Why do some horses mouths get "foamy" when undertack?
Some horses chew on the bit and this can generate a frothy substance.
Why are some breeding fees listed as "private"?
Not entirely sure, but assume this gives the breeder more room to negotiate the fee. The reason why all fees for one horse are not the same is because stallion owners want to be able to attract really good mares to their stallion which can increase the likelihood of better off spring and improve the stallion's reputation and thus increase the fee long term.
What is "grass sickness" ?
What is a "tie back"?
What is pin firing?
What is a "gaited" horse?
What exactly are mud calks?
Travel to Florida, how is it done?
How many days off does a horse get after it races / works ?
What is "pulling a horse's mane" and why not just cut it?
Why does it appear a racehorse has its head laid over the pony in the pre race warm up?
How do you prepare a horse for its first turf race?
How do you keep horses warm in the very cold of the winter?
How do you compare claiming race purchases versus auction purchases?
As an exercise rider how can you judge how fast you are going?
update through: Posted by: amber at February 28, 2007 11:06 PM
through: Cheryl Jones at December 18, 2006 6:43 PM