How Trainers Keep Their Horses in Peak Physical Condition

horse racing image to represent Shishkin racehorse - note not a picture of the horse Cheltenham Races

How Trainers Keep Their Horses in Peak Physical Condition

The highlight of the National Hunt season is fast approaching. On the 16th March, the Cheltenham Festival will take place over four days. Here horses, ranging from champions to underdogs, will put their best hooves forward in hopes of mastering the course and its obstacles to win a trophy.

Besides sourcing a fancy hat and outfit to grace the event, horse fanatics and strategic bettors are researching the horse and jockey duos to determine which ones are worthy of a wager.

Research often entails examining the horses’ trainers experience, whilst also analysing the Cheltenham festival betting odds to determine which horse is the least and most favourite to win. Odds vary depending on a range of factors; one of which is how the horses are being kept in terms of physical fitness. Behind every champion is a rigorous training routine and healthy diet plan, not that different to human athletes. Ongoing training is the only way to ensure a horse’s jumping skills, energy levels, stamina, and confidence are plentiful.

Here’s a fascinating account of an average day in the life of a racehorse; accompanied by the types of exercise and conditioning they endure to get them ready. Also, we will describe the diet that gives them the capacity to thrive while training and racing.


A Typical Day in The Life of a Racehorse

First Feed: A typical day begins bright and early, with the horses receiving their first feed from staff around 5 a.m.

Exercise: After feeding time, the horses are ridden and exercised for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. During peak season, the exercise regime usually entails a fast gallop workout twice a week and cantering and trotting for the rest. 

Second feed: Following exercise, the horses will break for their second feed around 12.30 pm. 

Time to Rest: From 1 pm to 3.30 pm, the horses rest and recuperate after their morning training. 

Grooming and Checks: Between 3.30 pm and 5.30 pm, the training yard staff check the horses over for injuries. If all is clear, the team will groom the horses.


Last Check and Feed: At 8.30 pm, the staff will once again check on the horses to ensure each one is in good health. Some horses will also have a third feeding.

On Sunday, the training grounds are closed to allow the horses a full day’s rest. However, if a race is due shortly, a horse may continue its ordinary training regime. 

As depicted above, a consistent routine with training, nutritious food, grooming, and health checks are essential to keep racehorses in peak physical condition.

Compulsory Exercise: Aerobic and Anaerobic Conditioning

Readying a horse for the festival requires a trainer to add aerobic and anaerobic conditioning to their training regime. The exercise regime should promote a horse’s respiratory system and oxygen exchange rate while also curtailing the risk of injury and distress.

Here are how and why trainers use aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. 

Aerobic Conditioning

Trainers ease horses into aerobic exercise gradually over a long period. A steady introduction is essential for younger horses with a smaller lung capacity.

Depending on a horse’s age, and condition, aerobic conditioning will build a horse’s muscles and improve bone strength over time. During exercise, trainers use heart rate monitors to ensure the horse’s heart rate rises to a conducive figure for aerobic conditioning. 

Aerobic conditioning is advantageous for racehorses because it reduces the recovery time needed following a workout in preparation for a race. Furthermore, it prevents a horse from needing to rely on anaerobic energy sources too soon on the racecourse.

Anaerobic Conditioning

A heart rate over 150 beats will enable horses to activate and consume anaerobic energy.

To increase a horse’s anaerobic capacity, they must spend time sprinting as part of their training regime. Trainers tend to incorporate sprinting into their horse’s schedule twice a week, with subsequent rest periods.

Racing horses need a combination of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning to increase lung capacity, muscle strength, energy levels, and stamina. 

Racehorse Diet

As expected, a horse’s diet plays a pivotal role in keeping its physical form healthy. Roughage and carbohydrates are the primary nutritional sources provided to racehorses. 

Roughage is essential for providing protein building blocks, energy, and fatty acids. At the same time, carbs are a crucial energy source. 

The feeds are rationed to prevent under and overfeeding. Two feeds a day, one in the morning, and around midday, is usually enough for racehorses. However, as mentioned above, some horses require a third feed in the evening.

How Trainers Keep Their Horses in Peak Physical Condition 

It’s usually eye-opening for bettors and horse racing fans to see how much work horses go through to get ready for the season. This often sparks a newfound respect and admiration for the sport.

As highlighted above, a consistent routine that entails anaerobic and aerobic conditioning and a healthy diet are crucial for keeping racehorses in peak physical condition. 

For instance, too little or too much exercise, rest or food, could be detrimental to a horses’ success at the Cheltenham Festival course. Additionally, the horse could be prone to a fatal injury. As such, trainers have a vital duty to uphold to ensure their horses receive the utmost care at all times. 

This information is worth bearing in mind when choosing a horse to bet on. Checking a trainer’s experience, as well as how they look after and exercise their horses will play a significant role in determining which horses are likely to win at the races.


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Author: Suzanne Ashton Founder, Everything Horse Ba Hons Marketing Management email:

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