Do you want to win more races? As a trainer, owner or breeder, of course, you do. There are two powerful holistic methods that are often overlooked in training to condition and develop the Thoroughbred athlete into peak performance.
Conditioning consists of many interconnected anatomical components. Trainers must consider all the physical mechanics in place and their functions, such as the cardiovascular, respiratory, skeletal and muscular systems. And ever deeper within these categories that concern racehorse conditioning is the connective tissues (ligaments and tendons), neural pathways and the issue of thermoregulation which pertains to the cardiovascular system. The emotional state of a horse also plays a part in conditioning and performance as well.
This post focuses on the muscular aspects of improving racehorse performance. Conditioning the musculature system of the racehorse properly is vital to winning. The primary function of training the equine athlete is to increase aerobic capacity. The intention is to promote muscle growth, strengthen muscles fibers and to increase endurance and flexibility.
When horses are galloped, breezed or open galloped, the purpose is to increase fast twitch muscle fibers (type II). The production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is essential, as it is the energy source from which the muscles draw upon to function at high levels. In this case, it would be to fuel the horse while it’s racing. The goal is to condition the horse properly, increasing ATP while avoiding lactic acidosis buildup resulting in the horse becoming "tied up."
Equine sports massage focuses on constricted and tense muscles that are unable to release on their own. Excessive or improper use of a muscle can manifest itself in a horse as “sensitive to the touch.” This is often an indication that the muscle isn’t functioning properly.
Racehorses, in particular, are equine athletes that tend to have more muscle related injuries due to the competitive and stringent nature of training. However, with regular sports massage therapy and core exercises many muscle related injuries due to improper muscle use could significantly be reduced.
If a trainer, exercise rider, jockey or groom detects the horse is “off’ in their movement it’s best to first call a veterinarian to properly assess and diagnose the horse.
When a horse is using their muscles improperly, over time the repetitive strain if left untreated will most likely result in injury.
Horses will adjust their movement and compensate for an area that is in pain. Often times this manifests in a horse with an awkward way of going such as: not changing leads, lugging in or out, etc. This compensated way of going compromises the horse's best chances of winning. A shorter stride due to poor muscle function results in losing races.
Many of these muscle problems decreasing the range of motion can be addressed with regular sessions of sports massage therapy. When muscle constriction is not addressed it can lead to a continued decline in racing performance or more devastating, catastrophic injuries due to a loss of range of motion. Sports massage is a holistic and cost-effective investment you can provide for your racehorse, especially when you consider the alternatives.
Sports massage aids the equine athlete in regaining and improving range of motion by granting freedom to restricted muscles.
Adding core exercises to a racehorse’s training can also improve performance and running times. The deep core muscles can be reached and activated to stabilize and enhance the equine athlete’s posture. A strong and developed core is an essential key to cross-training and offers a winning edge. When core muscles are functioning at the optimum, the racehorse will be less compromised due to the utilization of improper muscle function and have an increased range of motion. This can result in a longer stride, more flexibility and faster running times. Not to mention the horse will stay sounder which offers longevity in its career as a racehorse.
Science has proven that massage can increase the range of motion. Increased range of motion for a racehorse means improved stamina, which equals a lengthening of the stride for faster running time.
Disclaimer - Equine massage and or core exercises or other physical conditioning exercises is never a substitute for veterinary care. It can improve the quality of life, general well-being, and performance of a horse. If your horse is experiencing lameness or illness, please consult your veterinarian.
Raina Marie Paucar is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist Specializing in Equine Sports Massage, Stretches, Core Exercises, Kinesio Taping and Laser Therapy.
Serving Cleveland, Youngstown, Western PA and surrounding areas. For more information about package deals, group discounts or to book an appointment contact here.
Join the mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. Your information will NEVER be shared.
type your name and your best email to access the free pdf guide.