Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Speedwork Plus Less Drugs Equals Faster Horses

OK, last few posts dealt with the stagnant thoroughbred winning times over the past 80 years, but what about other countries?

Let's go to France, where reader Gina at GallopFrance.com recently gave me some details on training regimens in her country. That got me thinking, what has gone on in the Arc de Triomphe, their flagship race, over the past century?

A glance at the above chart shows that the improvement in winning times, averaged over a decade, is nearly 500% greater than that of the American classics. 12.7 seconds is the improvement in the Arc, while the American races averaged a 2.7 second improvement.

Coincidentally, or not, a previous post regarding American winning times in the Hambletonian found very similar numbers:

Again, thanks to Ms. Rarick, we find that horses in her care in France are subjected to bursts of speed from 2-3 times each week. Also, training on the farm allows her to spend an hour a day per horse and she uses no raceday drugs, which are illegal in France.

Sound familiar?

I can only assume the great majority of the French trainers, like Freddie Head with the brilliant Goldikova, condition likewise. Slightly off topic, Goldikova will continue to thrill us in 2011 while Zenyatta is in the breeding shed, another casualty of the economics of racing in the US.

As discussed earlier, nearly all US based horses train trackside, going at speed once every 7-10 days, exercising a total of 12 minutes or less on average, and competing with Lasix and Bute.

I don't want to praise or condemn any country or style, but simply find what is the best for performance. For instance, there is no use of a stopwatch in France, while Americans use it for each breeze - I like this practice very much.

So all of you on here finding this site while searching for 'interval training for the thoroughbred' need to first make sure you are putting sufficient speedwork into your charges 2-3x per week before even worrying about such advanced conditioning matters.


  1. lasix and bute only?
    you left out at least 20 known drugs that aregiven on raceday by the trainer and the groom, either by i.v. or by tube.
    they do not make a horse go faster.
    add the drugs that affect their central nervous systems(those are the horses that refuse to load but burst out of the gate at full speed).
    best example, quality road, b.c. 09.
    probably life at ten this year also.
    kiss racing goodbye in north america. the 1% of the crooks have ruined it for the honest ones.
    what owner will buy a horse, give it to an honest trainer and watch the $$$ go down the drain?

  2. What you have failed to identify is that trainers in the US can't get their charges out of the stall without a vet on the payroll. "Training" racehorses is big business in the US and has become 'conveyor belt' at best. There are a handful of true 'horsemen' training racehorses here in the US, but in other countries, because it is still the "Sport of Kings", horses are given a bit more priority and training is much more individual.

    Throw out timed works, especially at the 2-year-old in training sales, and go back to being 'horsemen'.

    Get rid of slots and let horseracing do or die on its own. Tough love? yes, but the alternative is just a slow, painful death.

  3. If you are using the Arc as an example, I would like to point out that this year's Arc winner, Workforce, was English trained and last year's winner, Sea The Stars, was Irish trained. It is not just the French who are training like Ms. Rarick but the English and Irish as well. I have personally seen them on the gallops at The Curragh in Ireland, Maisons-Laffitte, Chantilly and on the beaches at Deauville in France. What could be more pleasant for a horse (or rider for that matter) than walking through woods as a warm-up, working on a straight course, and then a nice cool-down walk back to the stables. It beats going around and around in a circle for ten minutes or so. I have been involved in racing in the U.S. since 2002 and am getting out of U.S. racing mainly because of all the drug use. I love the training methods in France, England and Ireland and horses do NOT race on any medications. After attending races in those three countries for the past six years, I decided it was time to get involved there. I now have a horse in training in France. By the way, my trainer is Gina Rarick.

  4. I agree with El Cab lets get back to basic horsemenship,cut out all the drugs.The problem will be is that 90% of the trainers wouldn't know how to coup with a sore horse without giving them a drug.They probable never heard of or used ice,or poultices.Most of the new generations of trainers are more concerned about cashing a ticket then the well being of the horse.

  5. I agree,emphatically with all the comments.The trainers of the past 10-15yrs.-neophytes to me-are mainly concerned with keeping their stalls filled and making the owners happy by running them back waaay too close,regardless of how they came outta their last race.Lots of them don't know a shin buck from a bow-and tap&inject joints like there's no tommorrow-which ,unfortunately is the case for alot of horses who only need some time off.I've seen horses mainlined with vodka,elephant juice,and enough DMSO to keep them outta their feed tubs for weeks and ultimately dying a slow death from kidney and liver failure.As far as I'm concerned only two types of drugs will actually move a horse up:ones which help a horse with wind problems and ones to prevent bleeding...there are safe and legal ways to use these drugs theraputically-along with the time off necessary for the lungs to heal.Just keeping a horse HAPPY and comfortable plays a huge part in how they run,along with the best feed hay and supplements you can afford.Nothing will actually make a horse run faster.Asore horse is running on pure adreneline and tons of heart.