How do you keep a thoroughbred racehorse fit and firing? Equine veterinarian Dr Ian Church shares his insights.

A day at the races conjures up images of designer suits, cocktail dresses, fascinators, $100 bills flying around and champagne overflowing.

But the road to the racetrack for horses and their stable hands can be anything but glamorous.

Owners and trainers know too well the early rises and the hard work required just to get thoroughbreds to the starting gates.

Only a small margin of error can be the difference between sharing the winner’s circle with your pride and joy and watching them succumb to serious injury.

Here are some of the most important considerations that will help keep your racehorse ahead of the field.


An athlete follows a strict diet designed to maximise performance, stamina, muscle strength and recovery and your racehorse should be treated no differently.

A mixed diet of oats, soy oil, mashed sugar beets and maize is ideal while alfalfa hay is also rich in calcium, protein and calories.

Take care not to overfeed them and ensure fresh drinking water is always on hand.

Check they have eaten all their food and watch their legs for any changes such as heat or a little filling.

Hoof health

Horses’ hooves bear the brunt of around 450kg and can be a real barometer of their health.

They play a big role in blood circulation, keep cartilage strong as well as aiding flexibility.

Clean them regularly to remove stones, mud and manure which can lead to thrush and potentially lameness.


Now your horse’s hooves are clean, make sure they are fitted with quality horseshoes.

They help to prevent disease, provide traction and protection as well as improve your racehorse’s performance.

Farriers are expertly trained in fitting horseshoes.

Your racehorse will also benefit from the occasional breather out of their shoes, particularly if a check-up with the vet is scheduled.

Bone remodelling

Horses’ bones have to adapt to the enormous stresses put on them during races.

The cannon bone bulges into an egg shape to accommodate the extra load as racehorses begin competing.

Bone strength is absolutely crucial while ligaments and tendons must also grow to support their legs.

Close observation of a racehorse’s legs is imperative as some catastrophic injuries often begin with very minor undetected fractures.

Many chips and condylar fractures can be successfully treated with surgery.


Regular grooming sessions are an important part of a racehorse’s routine.

This should be done daily to monitor a horse’s health and can be done around their workout, beginning before the session and finishing up afterwards.

Take a close look at your horse’s hooves as well as their coat, keeping an eye out for any skin problems, especially cuts, infections or swelling.

Horses love the personal attention and regular grooming helps to build a special bond with their handlers which often translates into a better performance.

Mental conditioning

A winning horse is a happy horse. Take it to the bank.

Talk to them, treat them with kindness.

Understand they are creatures of habit so get them into a regular daily routine so they know what to expect.

Also, like human athletes, a little confidence goes a long way.

Don’t overwhelm them with challenges they can’t achieve or races they can’t win.

Build them up gradually with encouragement and reward.

Monitor their workload

Racehorses need to train at certain levels to improve and keep fit, just like human athletes.

But overtraining them will risk injury, fatigue and a drop in performance.

If your horse is looking slow and disinterested or has a dull coat, it might be time to pull back and schedule some rest.

A horse massage specialist may also help fend off some of their aches and pains.

Contact us today

Whether you are an owner or trainer, it’s important to have an accomplished racehorse veterinarian in your corner.

Caring for and preparing your racehorse is a full-time job and regular maintenance of their health is absolutely essential.

Dr Ian Church and the Newmarket Equine team can also help you identify minor injuries and health issues before they evolve into major ones which can potentially lead to tragic consequences.

We provide a dedicated service to the thoroughbred racing industry, and are renowned in Australian polo.

Contact us today to book an appointment.


The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your horse’s individual needs. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your horse’s needs, and seek professional advice from a qualified vet.



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