Limiting Race Training Distances Can Reduce Injury Risk

Standardbreds training over shorter distances lost fewer training days to injury, but still raced successfully.

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When it comes to racehorse training, balancing workload with horse soundness is critical. Too much training, and you’re likely to see injuries. Too little training, and the horse might not be physically prepared for race day.

Researchers on a Swedish biomechanics team are looking into the science of that balance, finding out how to reduce injury risks while keeping performance levels up. And they’ve recently discovered that, at least in Standardbred horses, a 30% reduction in training distances compared to current industry standards might be a good recommendation.

Two- and 3-year-old trotting Standardbreds in their study had fewer lost training days on the reduced-distance program, but were just as likely to qualify for races as horses on a standard training program, said Sara Ringmark, PhD, of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Biochemistry, in Uppsala.

While the horses in the reduced-distance group did show signs of lower levels of cardiovascular response (measured in terms of recovery heart rate, resting heart rate, and hematocrit–a measure of the volume of red blood cells compared to the total volume of blood–levels), that difference could work itself out in the overall balance of the racehorse’s training health, said Ringmark

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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