Taking care of the health and welfare of your racehorse should be the number one priority for any racehorse owner.
As well as taking out the appropriate racehorse insurance and addressing the basics of care (such as ensuring your horse is properly and consistently fed, watered, rested, groomed and exercised), it’s important to find a skilled and capable trainer who you can trust to provide quality care and advice on all aspects of your horse’s individual needs. Here are a few key considerations for keeping your racehorse healthy:
Arrange regular health checks
As well as arranging regular health checks by a vet, you can keep an eye out yourself for signs of illness. Early detection of any illnesses or disease can prevent other horses living at your stable to become affected – some racehorse diseases can spread fast.
So, what do you look for when examining your horse? Firstly, a healthy racehorse will have a sleek, shiny coat as well as bright eyes, a clear nose, and pliable skin. The horse will take an interest in its surroundings and appear content as well as displaying a healthy appetite. It will also display a regular stance or gait.
It’s also important to check the vital signs of your horse on a daily basis. The normal temperature should be around 37-38°C and the pulse should average 30-40 beats per minute. Additionally, check the horse’s legs for heat first thing in the morning and after it has cooled down from exercise – heat can indicate health issues that’ll need to be diagnosed by a vet.
Feed your racehorse correctly
A racehorse needs a special diet plan to keep it at optimum health. Without high enough energy food, it simply won’t have the fuel necessary to compete; feed it too much forage (grass or hay) and you might find you weigh it down, affecting its performance. However, the starchy grains that are necessary for fuel can also adversely affect a racehorse’s digestive system, leading to issues such as colic.
It’s essential to find the right balance between performance and welfare – seek expert advice on diet suitable for the size, weight and energy needs of your specific horse. Generally, this will involve a good source of forage such as hay, a high energy carbohydrate like oats and a suitable fat source like cod liver oil, though vitamin supplements may be given too to ensure the horse receives all its nutrients. Keeping the feed simple and as natural as possible will keep your horse at its best.
Provide an exercise plan
Just as with the diet plan, it’s important to establish a regular, consistent exercise plan for your racehorse. A good training stable will put together a tailored plan for training and preparing your racehorse to compete and maintain their physical fitness. The correct exercise plan will help your racehorse build its strength up gradually, increasing endurance and stamina. It’s also important to make sure your horse is properly warmed up and cooled down to prevent injury.
Allow for adequate rest and after-race care
Your racehorse is a hard-working athlete and properly scheduled rest days are crucial to allow its muscles and strength a chance to recover and minimise the risk of injury. Proper sleep is also essential for the emotional welfare of the horse, just like humans. Trophyhorse.com recommends races are scheduled five days after a horse’s last workout or race, with one or two post-race workouts planned in to help the future performance of the horse.
Providing the right care for your racehorse will keep your animal happy, healthy and operating at optimum performance for the races. If you’re hoping your horse will become a champion, be sure to treat it like one.