If I was a horseman, I would know that unbalanced Thoroughbred racehorses breakdown. I would look at finish line videos and see that almost every American-trained Thoroughbred racehorse runs slightly slanted to the left, unbalanced in its action and stride. If I was a horseman, I would know or learn how to balance a racehorse. I would know it is impossible to produce balanced racehorses training and racing around left turns only.
If I was a horseman, I would not allow exercise riders or jockeys to ride acey-ducey—putting their weight slightly off center on my racehorses’ backs—adding to unbalancing my Thoroughbreds. Nor would I allow exercise riders to hold a neck strap or martingale (bib) and a rein in one hand, pulling my racehorses’ heads unnaturally to one side contributing to unbalancing my racehorses.
If I was a horseman, I would know that the seven minutes maximum the average American Thoroughbred spends on the training track is not enough training time for developing the bone, ligament, and tendon densities, plus heart and lung strength necessary to withstand the rigors of racing.
If I was a horseman, I would know or learn what type of track work is needed to develop sound, non-bleeding racehorses able to withstand racing’s pressures. I would study the training schedules of old-time trainers during the days of America’s drug-free iron racehorses that raced every seven to 14 days, started 20 times as 2-year-olds, stayed sounder while making more starts, and breezed two or three times a week. I would study modern leading Australian trainers who breeze their horses two or three times per week, sometimes at their full race distances. I would know that breezing once a week does not provide enough race specific exercise to keep my horses race-fit and sound, and to prevent them from bleeding. I would know that using harmful, unnecessary, yet legal race-day drugs—such as Salix, clenbuterol, and Butazolidin—and injecting joints with steroids are negatively affecting my racehorses’ health and racing longevity.
If I was a horseman, I would walk my horses for 15-30 minutes before they go on the training track, starting a correct and necessary warm up process. I would slow jog my racehorses for at least a half-mile before they work, to continue a correct and necessary warm up process; and I would slow jog them for a mile after they work out, providing a correct and necessary lactic acid flush of their muscular systems.
If I was a horseman, I would sand roll my racehorses after every workout, before they are hosed off or washed so that they would not roll in their stalls, casting and injuring themselves unnecessarily.
If I was a horseman, I would hot walk my horses to the left on the day they worked right turns, and I would hot walk my horses to the right on the day they worked left turns to help prevent arthritic back and neck conditions that affect far too many left-turn only American Thoroughbreds.
If I was a horseman, I would know that tree-less exercise saddles cause the sore backs prevalent in far too many American racehorses. I would know that when riders stand up in the stirrups for slow gallops, they are forcing my horses to work off the forequarters (pounding the ground), that if the riders sit down in the saddle (as they do in South America), it would help my racehorses work off their hindquarters, developing more driving power, and helping keep them sound.
If I was a horseman, I would know that a horse (or human) standing unnaturally still and stiff in a tight space like a racetrack stall for 23 hours per day is susceptible to arthritic conditions. I would know that horses need an hour afternoon walk in the sun to keep their limbs mobile and to receive some of the vital natural vitamin D that helps keep horses sound and healthy. I would provide small sun-yards for my racehorses so that weather permitting, they could spend a second hour in the sun each day, rather than spending 23 hours locked in far too small a stall while breathing virus- and bacteria-laden air.
If I was a horseman, I would not overfeed and underwork my racehorses. I would provide good, clean, dust-free hay, clean water, and fresh-cut green-chop for my racehorses.
If only I was really a horseman.
E. Abraham Ola is a Florida farm owner and international racing consultant