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Training (NAT)

Trainer Profile - Dennis Collins

Training (NAT)Web Master

Accepting reality is a lot more difficult when you’re on your back in a hospital bed. When your whole world has crashed. When you realize the rest of your life will be spent in a wheelchair.

Asked when he was able to wrap his mind around that, Dennis Collins, a 53-year-old jockey with 2,287 victories who was paralyzed in an accident at The Downs at Albuquerque in 2016, said, “The third day. I said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be. Why bitch and moan about it? I’m not going to walk again. But I’ll always have my own chair in a restaurant.’”

Collins, who recently began training horses with his fiancée Heather Brock – his lifeline, his saint, and his best buddy – has already scored a victory by not letting an accident take him out of racing and away from his passion, one begun whenever his parents, who had no connections to racing, took him out for a drive from their home in Gloucester City, New Jersey. “When I was a kid, every time we’d drive by a farm, if I saw a horse, I’d scream and cry,” Collins said. “We’d stop, and I’d go pet him. They’re beautiful animals. I’ve always loved horses. It was in my blood. I knew if I was short enough” – and at five-feet tall, he was – “I wanted to get into horse racing.”

Brock is so glad he did.

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Training Yearlings: Schools of Thought Around The World

Training (NAT)Web Master

Consider throwing a 13-year-old school child into a university environment straight from prep school.

The child would be faced with sights, sounds, and influences that the young mind would struggle to compute, with physical rigors on the sports field that would either disappoint the mind or cause physical damage. I cannot think of any parent that would choose this for their adolescent. Yet we often do this to the young horse, plucking them straight from the sleepy pastures of their nursery into an environment that is measured upon its production of top-level runners. Perhaps we send them via the sales…an entrance examination of sorts.

When put like this it is clear that, as custodians of young bloodstock, we might consider a period of preparation during which the horse would be introduced to saddle and rider and taught the basic lessons that would allow it to fit into the program of the trainer that its owner chooses. These early lessons would also give each individual a careful conditioning of the physical stresses that will be tested further upon his or her graduation to the greater strains required to reach race fitness.

For the sake of this article pre-training will be considered to be the safe development of a horse towards its first joining a trainer or returning from a break not enforced by injury, as opposed to rehabilitation. The American racing industry has the perfect phrase for this: “legging up.”

While there has been a constant uptick in the number of commercial pre-training yards in Europe over the last 25 years to satisfy a growing demand for this service, this is something that has been a longstanding practice further afield, particularly in countries where there is stabling pressure at the racetrack or in metropolitan stables, not to mention numerous larger owners who employ a farm trainer or establish their own pre-training division.

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Isn't Training Thoroughbreds Hard Enough? - Overcoming Adversity

Training (NAT)Web Master

Nearly 30 years before paralyzed jockey Dennis Collins turned to training Thoroughbreds to continue his lifelong passion with horses, Donna Zook took that journey, one she’s still on. Racing primarily at Mountaineer Park and Charles Town Races in West Virginia, she has saddled 205 winners from 2,617 starts, with earnings of nearly $1.5 million, all after her terrifying riding accident nearly took her life.

Her journey – made even harder by prejudices against women trainers - gives hope that others can also train Thoroughbreds from a wheelchair. And others have, indeed, followed that incredibly difficult path.

Isn’t training Thoroughbreds hard enough? “I wouldn’t tell anybody to become a trainer,” said California trainer Dan Hendricks, whose successful career has continued despite a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed in 2004. “It’s a tough way to make a living. It’s 24/7. And it’s become harder, much harder to start out than when I did.”

He had considerable success before his accident, but two of his best horses, Brother Derek and Om, came after Hendricks was forced to train from a wheelchair. “The one advantage I had is I had been training for a while,” he said. “I had owners who stood with me. I didn’t lose a single owner.”

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The morning riders who make the afternoon horses

Training (NAT)Web Master
  By ED GOLDEN    Exercise, as described by that consummate wordsmith, Noah Webster, is “an activity that requires physical or mental exertion, especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness.”    To that end, one could say exercise riders are a Thoroughbred’s personal trainer.    They spend considerable time with the horses, and are responsible for riding them during their exercise runs on the track, be they jogs, gallops, or breezes.    They work closely with each horse’s trainer to keep the steed at peak performance level and provide feedback regarding its condition. Exercise riders can be hired by a trainer, a stable, or work freelance.    Trainers also employ jockeys to work horses, but there are beneficial differences to using an exercise rider.    “Jockeys are lighter in weight than exercise riders and horses breeze a little bit faster with them on,” said former jockey Art Sherman, who trained two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome. “If I don’t want my horse to work too fast, I like exercise boys on them for slower works, because they are heavier (weighing as much as 30-to-40 pounds more than a jockey).    “If you want a faster work and put a jock on, that’s fine, but prepping for a race, I like to have the exercise boy on.”    Trainer Peter Eurton’s stepfather was trainer Steve Ippolito, for whom Eurton exercised horses before weight issues ended his career as a jockey, so he knows first-hand the value of an exercise rider.    “They are one of many people who are really important to your barn,” said Eurton, who runs one of the most diversified and successful operations in California. “They’re your last source of information. As far as working horses is concerned, you need a good work rider at your barn and fortunately we have one in Pepe (Jose Contreras).    “Jockeys are okay, but sometimes they can be a bit apprehensive giving you the news straight, especially if it’s not what you want to hear. In a sense, they have a vested interest, so you have to take what they say with a grain of salt, although for the most part, riders do a really good job.”    One such jockey is ‘The Man with the Midas Touch,’ Mike Smith, North America’s leading money earner through June of 2017 with more than $14 million, and that’s not counting the $6 million gleaned when he rode Arrogate to victory in the Dubai World Cup in March.    Smith’s horses have earned enough purse money this year to balance the budget of a Third World country.    The Hall of Fame member, still in peak form as he turns 52 on August 10, maintains that horses are creatures of habit and benefit from a solid foundation, the first level of which is laid by exercise riders.    “I use this analogy,” Smith said. “If you send your kids to a bad school, they’re not going to learn what’s right. You’ve got to send them to the best school possible, and it’s the same with horses and exercise riders.    “They’re teaching them everything they need to know for the afternoons. If they’re not receiving proper instructions in the mornings, they’re certainly not going to get it right in the afternoon.”    Bob Baffert, trainer of $17 million earner Arrogate and a barnful of other blueblooded stakes winners, recognizes full well the contribution of exercise riders.    “They communicate with the horse, understand how it feels, and report that information to the trainer,” Baffert said. “The exercise rider is accustomed to getting on the same horse every day, so he’ll readily recognize changes in their gate and demeanor.    “It’s very important they get along with the horse. We don’t want them to be tough on a horse, but at the same time, we don’t want them to spoil it.    “We try to pick the right rider for the horse. Every rider has different strengths, so if necessary, I’ll make a change.    “The best I’ve ever had is Dana Barnes (wife of Baffert assistant Jim Barnes), who galloped and breezed our horses for years, and although we don’t let her work too many now, at one time, she was the best.”    Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill employs as many as five exercise riders at his mega barn of about 100 runners, including some promising babies.    “We strive to have continuity between the man or woman on the horse on a daily basis,” O’Neill said. “I’ve seen some magical things happen when horses are handled the right way, and that can be priceless.    “Each exercise rider is special in his or her own way, particularly on a skittish or high-strung horse. The bottom line is you need someone who will go with the horse and not fight it when need be and reserve it when the occasion calls for it. There’s a happy middle ground.”    Added long-time O’Neill assistant Leandro Mora: “Jonny Garcia is our main guy but we also have a few freelancing at $15 a head. Ten rides a morning for each rider is about the right number, I’d say. More than 10, they’re pushing it.”    Being an exercise rider is not without its inherent dangers.    Just ask Diego Sotelo, who started riding at age seven in his native Mexico, “to go hunting with my dad,” but retired as an exercise rider three years ago after an accident that still mystifies him.    Now 52, Sotelo was barely out of diapers when he first rode donkeys and later horses owned by folks who used them to deliver milk.     “I was punished for that, and then I began to ride in match races with no saddle, no protection, and nobody around to help if you got in trouble,” he remembered. “They were the good old days: no fear, no worries, no problems, just fun.     “I was riding Quarter Horses when I was eight years old but stopped at 13 and dedicated myself to attending school until I no longer had interest in my studies. I came to the U.S. in 1986 intending to stay only one year.    “But a friend invited me to the races at Hollywood Park. I liked what I saw and I told him, ‘I can do that.’”    And so he did, until fate intervened.    Nearly three decades and 32 broken bones later, Sotelo called it a career as an exercise rider on September 25, 2014, following a spill that remains clouded in his memory.    “I tore my shoulders, my neck, my back, and to this day I don’t know how it happened,” Sotelo says of the mishap. “I was jogging a horse at Santa Anita, stopped in mid-stretch to let him look at something, and next thing I knew I was in the hospital. I remember nothing else about it.    “People told me an ambulance picked me up by the finish line, and I woke up in the hospital eight hours later. I lost my memory completely for a while after it happened, and that’s when I decided to retire.    “I was having episodes with dizziness, my balance wasn’t very good, I was walking like a drunk, so I decided it was enough. You have to be responsible not only to yourself, but your fellow riders. When you’re out on the track and an incident occurs, two extremes are possible: you can help somebody or you can get yourself killed.    “I didn’t want to take that chance anymore, so I made the decision I was not going to put anyone’s life in jeopardy.”    But all tales of the turf are not so maudlin, although riding a horse is never without risk. It takes confidence and valor. As World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker once said, “courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.”    Dihigi Gladney is the Ernie Banks of exercise riders. His love of the game is only exceeded by his joie de vivre. How a black kid from Watts, California, becomes the exercise rider for California Chrome is right out of Aesop’s Fables, but Gladney, 41, dismisses it as pure luck.    “When you become a part of that chain, it’s a different feeling altogether,” Gladney said of his California Chrome experience, during which an open line of communications was crucial to success.    “If you work together, good things will come,” he said. “The Chrome team never had a bad day where we didn’t communicate with one another. There were times we might not have totally agreed on something, but at the end of the day, we did what was best for our horse.”    Gladney has enjoyed a prosperous and pleasurable tour with Team Sherman, not always the case with exercise riders in other barns.    “Normally, a trainer might promise an exercise rider so many mounts a day,” he said. “A lot of barns put an exercise rider on salary, in addition to a good stake (bonus money) if they win a big race. A job with a good salary is awesome to an exercise rider. We’re all looking for that.    “Freelance riders get about $15 a mount, but there are a lot of bad (read: dangerous) horses out there. A trainer is willing to pay more to have someone get on that kind of animal, and that’s just for the exercise rider. If that horse needs to be accompanied by a pony, which takes an additional rider, then you could be looking at $20 to $55 a day.”    So how many horses can a rider get on in three workout sessions that span five hours, starting before sunup and running until 10 a.m., when the main track surface is renovated and prepared for afternoon racing?    “Ten is a good number,” Gladney said. “It could be more if someone is trying to break a record, but I’m not trying to break any records. Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowed down. It’s not about records to me; it’s about what I can teach the horse.”    Gladney, who weighs “136 pounds now without a diet,” works exclusively at Los Alamitos in Cypress, California, where Sherman is headquartered. “The only time I come to Santa Anita,” he said, “is on Saturdays and Sundays for my pony ride business.”    With apologies to the milk industry, Gladney calls his avocation “Got Ponies?” which he owns and has available on Family Fun Days at the Arcadia, California, track and for community events and birthday parties.    He says his migration from a ghetto to the Sport of Kings was “pure luck,” but it was more than that. When he was a kid, Gladney rode horses in Gardena as a trail guide for his grandfather, John Davis, who had a pony ride business “that kept me out of trouble.    “I never thought I would come from Watts to the racetrack. That never entered my mind, let alone becoming an exercise rider and then a jockey who would win nearly 300 races and have a good career. My idol growing up was Charlie Sampson, not only because he was an African-American from the Los Angeles area, but because he was the first African-American world champion bull rider. They called him ‘Pee Wee.’”    Gladney followed in Pee Wee’s footsteps, riding bulls as a student at Centennial High School in Compton. He escaped relatively unscathed on the back of El Toro, but fractures later came with the territory. The worst was a broken back on January 5, 2003, that put Gladney out of action for five years, but his positive attitude never waned.    “It broke my back,” he told the Fresno Bee in 2007, “but not my heart. As bad as it was, it could have been worse. I would have dreams that I was paralyzed, I could see myself in a wheelchair.”    The moniker of “Pee Wee” is like Smith or Jones among popular nicknames, but a first name of Dihigi? Even Gladney isn’t sure of its origin.    “Ain’t nobody ever heard of that name,” he said, emphasizing that it’s pronounced DA-ha-jee. “Many people have heard my name, and they’ve told me it sounds like another nationality. ‘What was your mom thinking?’ I said she was in hard labor with me and it was the morphine.    “Really, I don’t have the slightest idea.”     Here’s one: there is a city in Bangladesh called Dhormo Sagor Dihigi.    Huey Barnes exercised horses for greats such as Charlie Whittingham and Buster Millerick back in the day. Now, at 83, he’s an assistant starter at southern California tracks.    “An exercise rider is important,” Barnes said. “He plays a big part for the man training horses. He’s got to care about a horse, take his time with the horse, and want it to do good, and if something’s wrong, he can tell the trainer either way.    “If he works a horse and the trainer says he wants to go in such and such a time, the rider shouldn’t be more than a tick off what the trainer said. It’s the clock in the boy’s head that makes him good at what he does.    “If he ain’t got a clock in his head, he’s just another exercise boy on a horse.”
They’re your last source of information. As far as working horses is concerned, you need a good work rider at your barn

Click here to order this back issue!

PHOTO GALLERY

Exercise, as described by that consummate wordsmith, Noah Webster, is “an activity that requires physical or mental exertion, especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness.”

To that end, one could say exercise riders are a Thoroughbred’s personal trainer.

They spend considerable time with the horses, and are responsible for riding them during their exercise runs on the track, be they jogs, gallops, or breezes.

They work closely with each horse’s trainer to keep the steed at peak performance level and provide feedback regarding its condition. Exercise riders can be hired by a trainer, a stable, or work freelance.

Trainers also employ jockeys to work horses, but there are beneficial differences to using an exercise rider.

“Jockeys are lighter in weight than exercise riders and horses breeze a little bit faster with them on,” said former jockey Art Sherman, who trained two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome. “If I don’t want my horse to work too fast, I like exercise boys on them for slower works, because they are heavier (weighing as much as 30-to-40 pounds more than a jockey).

“If you want a faster work and put a jock on, that’s fine, but prepping for a race, I like to have the exercise boy on.”

Trainer Peter Eurton’s stepfather was trainer Steve Ippolito, for whom Eurton exercised horses before weight issues ended his career as a jockey, so he knows first-hand the value of an exercise rider.

“They are one of many people who are really important to your barn,” said Eurton, who runs one of the most diversified and successful operations in California. “They’re your last source of information. As far as working horses is concerned, you need a good work rider at your barn and fortunately we have one in Pepe (Jose Contreras).

“Jockeys are okay, but sometimes they can be a bit apprehensive giving you the news straight, especially if it’s not what you want to hear. In a sense, they have a vested interest, so you have to take what they say with a grain of salt, although for the most part, riders do a really good job.”

One such jockey is ‘The Man with the Midas Touch,’ Mike Smith, North America’s leading money earner through June of 2017 with more than $14 million, and that’s not counting the $6 million gleaned when he rode Arrogate to victory in the Dubai World Cup in March.

Smith’s horses have earned enough purse money this year to balance the budget of a Third World country.

The Hall of Fame member, still in peak form as he turns 52 on August 10, maintains that horses are creatures of habit and benefit from a solid foundation, the first level of which is laid by exercise riders.

“I use this analogy,” Smith said. “If you send your kids to a bad school, they’re not going to learn what’s right. You’ve got to send them to the best school possible, and it’s the same with horses and exercise riders.

“They’re teaching them everything they need to know for the afternoons. If they’re not receiving proper instructions in the mornings, they’re certainly not going to get it right in the afternoon.”

No foot, no horse

Training (NAT)Web Master
  The expression ‘no foot no horse’ is one that has stood the test of time, and discussions about hoof shape, horn quality, and foot conformation continue to dominate in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.  Thoroughbreds in particular have a reputation, perhaps undeserved, for poor foot conformation but can frequently experience problems relating to either hoof horn quality or growth rate during their training careers.  An inability to retain shoes, the appearance of hoof cracks, thin soles, white line disease, and brittle or crumbly feet are all practical issues related to horn quality that trainers may experience in some horses.  While it is easy to perhaps appreciate familial traits in foot conformation and hoof shape, experts also suggest that hoof horn quality is also influenced by genetic factors as well as nutrition, environment, and farriery.  Stable cleanliness is also very important, with studies showing that equine feces have a very detrimental effect on hoof horn integrity, especially where the structure of the horn is not robust.       The focus of this article is the influence of diet on the hoof and how this relates to a typical racing ration.  Hooves contain a large amount of protein, roughly 90% on a dry matter basis, and the most abundant structural protein present is keratin, which contains approximately 18 different amino acids.  These chains of amino acids give keratin its primary structure, and the orientation and interconnection of these chains then gives a specialized secondary structure that relates to location and its function.   The hoof tissues are complex and show a high level of differentiation to deliver functionality. For example, keratin in the hoof capsule is rich in disulphide bonds (double sulphur bonds) that bridge two cysteine amino acids to form cystine to deliver hardness and strength, whereas the keratin found in the frog and white line region have less of these disulphide bonds (S=S) and more sulfhydryl bonds (S=H), affording less strength but more flexibility. Methionine is a dietary essential sulphur containing amino acid, i.e. it cannot be synthesized from other amino acids in the body.  Methionine can be converted to cysteine, which is integral to the form and function of keratin, and is a limiting amino acid in the equine diet, together with lysine and threonine.         There are many factors, many of which are unrelated to diet, that affect the rate of growth of hoof horn.  However, like all other tissues, hoof horn requires a constant source of energy, including a supply of glucose.  It is also important that certain key nutrients are present in sufficient amounts in the diet to support and drive hoof horn growth and to maintain its integrity, which in turn delivers normal functionality.  Studies have shown that it takes about 9-12 months for the hoof wall to grow from the coronary band to the weight-bearing surface and so a great deal of patience is required to see any benefit from changes made to the diet.        Biotin is probably the most well-known micronutrient with respect to hoof quality.  It is a water-soluble B-group vitamin, used by most cells of the body when converted to carboxybiotin, a component of many enzymes.  Biotin is found naturally at a relatively low level in some feed ingredients such as alfalfa, soya, and brewer’s yeast and is also synthesized by many of the resident bacteria found in the horse’s intestinal tract.  It is assumed that this bacterially synthesized biotin is available to the horse, as under normal circumstances no supplemental biotin is required. However, this may change where the hindgut environment is compromised and the microbial population sub-optimal, which may be the case in some horses in training maintained on a high-starch diet with limited forage intake.         Horses with poor hoof horn quality or growth may benefit from additional biotin in the diet.   Biotin has been shown to have a positive effect on the intracellular glue or keratin found as an integral part of hoof horn structure. The normal maintenance requirement for biotin in the diet is about 1-1.5mg per day for an average 1,100-pound horse, but studies have revealed that for an improvement in hoof horn quality or growth, the intake of biotin needs to be significantly higher, with levels of 10-30mg per day being cited as beneficial in scientific studies. Typically, between 2-6mg per roughly 200lb bodyweight of biotin has been supplemented in those scientific trials where a positive effect on hoof has been demonstrated over a prolonged period.         Most racing diets will deliver biotin at a maintenance level and are generally not formulated to deliver the higher amount needed to improve hoof horn quality, although there may be exceptions.  Where a higher intake of biotin is advised, supplementation is usually the route taken.  Remember, however, that 10-30mg of biotin is still a tiny amount and so biotin supplements will always be provided on a carrier to ensure that the quantity fed per day is manageable.  As powdered supplements in feed can be problematic for fussy feeders, it is worth using one that is quite concentrated and so delivers the requisite amount of biotin within a relatively small serving. Excessive intake of biotin is not desirable, although, as it is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess will be lost in the urine.       There are many cases where biotin supplementation seems to have no beneficial effect, even when fed over a prolonged period.  This is because where hoof quality or structure is poor, there can be more than one type of defect responsible in the hoof horn.  Dr. Sue Kempson, a noted equine nutrition researcher, showed in the 1980s that it was defects to the outermost layers of hoof horn structure that were most often resolved with biotin supplementation.  In contrast, where there is defective horn on the innermost part of the hoof capsule -- which accounted for 94% of her cases -- biotin was ineffective on its own in resolving the issue.  However, sufficient biotin in the diet in combination with adequate calcium and quality protein to supply important amino acids was more successful in improving this type of defect, according to Kempson’s research.      Much research has also been carried out on the role of calcium in hoof horn structure and growth.  Calcium is needed to activate an epidermal enzyme, or transglutaminase, which is present and active in the cross-linking of keratin fibers and so it is important for cell-to-cell attachment.  Calcium also plays a role in depositing the intracellular lipids in the horn structure, which influences moisture balance in the hoof and the ability to repel bacteria from the environment.  Inadequate calcium in the diet is often characterized by crumbling hoof horn, especially around the nail holes and heels.  Dr. Derek Cuddeford, formerly of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, published work supporting the use of alfalfa or lucerne to improve hoof quality and growth by providing a bioavailable source of calcium, as well as an increased intake of digestible protein, delivering an important source of amino acids.      Zinc is an important trace mineral with respect to hoof structure and it is needed for the optimum activity of near to 200 enzymes in the body, including those involved in keratin formation.  Supplemental zinc has been shown to improve hoof horn quality, but this will only be the case when zinc intake was previously marginal or low.  In cattle, research has suggested that organic or chelated zinc, where the zinc is attached to an amino acid or small protein fragment, is more efficient in this respect, although this has not been studied in horses. It is believed that zinc is particularly important for adherence of the horn cells together with a sort of intracellular glue. A significant effect of zinc supplementation on the growth rate of hair, another keratin-rich structure, has been reported previously in ponies.  In Photo 1, the higher growth rate of mane hair during periods of zinc supplementation in grazed ponies is visually significant when compared with the non-supplemented periods.     Copper is also an important cofactor, as it is responsible for activating an enzyme called thiol-oxidase that is involved in the formation of the disulphide bridges in keratin.  Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is also needed for the development of horn epithelial tissue, although an excessive intake has a detrimental effect on horn structure.      While selenium is an important trace element needed in sufficient amounts in the diet, an excess of selenium can have a severe effect on hoof horn structure, as selenium has a relatively narrow margin of safety.  Excess selenium in the diet prevents the disulphide bridges being formed correctly with selenium (Se) replacing sulphur (S), making the structures inherently weaker.   The requirement for selenium for a typical 500kg horse is in the range of 1-3mg per day, but there is some controversy as to where the safety margin lies with particular respect to hoof horn structure. The scientific literature suggests that 10mg per day is the upper safe limit for selenium in the diet, while more conservative estimates suggest that this may be nearer to 5mg per day.  Kempson suggests that horses with persistent thrush that do not respond to conventional treatment may be exposed to an excess of dietary selenium. The most severe cases of selenium toxicity can result in the hooves sloughing off like slippers. Selenium intake should certainly be investigated, especially as it is common practice in racing to use multiple supplements, many of which may contain selenium.    Most people are aware of the link between excessive or inappropriate nonstructural carbohydrate intake and laminitis.  Non-structural carbohydrates, or NSC, consist of starches and sugars as well as fructans, which are the storage polysaccharide of many grasses.  Starches and sugars would predominantly be digested in the small intestine, while fructans are usually fermented in the hindgut.  When a large amount of NSC reaches the hindgut complex, it is readily and rapidly fermented, leading to significant change in the resident microbial population with associated shifts in pH and mucosal cell permeability. Laminitis can then arise, although the exact mechanism for this remains unclear.  However, the clinical signs of laminitis are unlikely to be a ‘cliff edge’ scenario and there may be deleterious effects on hoof stability long before a laminitis attack is suspected.  Vets at Rood & Riddle in Lexington, Kentucky, suggest that low-grade chronic laminitis is very common in Thoroughbred horses, and that these are the horses that will go unnoticed until further complications arise such as lameness. They also suggest that abnormal hoof growth is a common finding in these cases, with evidence of more heel growth compared to the toe, with a dished dorsal hoof wall and toe cracks.    The racing diet may add to the risk of laminitis in some cases, where a very high-starch ration is fed, often exacerbated by large meals which allow an unregulated dumping of NSC into the hindgut leading potentially to chronic hindgut acidosis.  This may also impact the biotin status of these animals, as the numbers of biotin-producing microflora are reduced in the resident population.    The rations of most horses in training should provide plenty of protein and so should easily fulfill the requirements for methionine and other important amino acids.  Racing diets are also generally well-fortified with the key micronutrients including calcium, zinc, copper, and vitamin A needed for good hoof quality.  The intake of calcium is usually far in excess of requirements, although the Ca/P ratio can sometimes be a little low, if for example diets are top-dressed with significant quantities of oats.  Maintaining the level of calcium relative to phosphorus is also important, as this may impact hoof horn quality.   The level of biotin is most likely to be present at a standard maintenance dose in most racing rations and so this is the nutrient that is more likely to require supplementation. However, we should always remember that a holistic approach to hoof quality is required with all aspects of management, feeding, environment, and farriery being considered and improved where necessary.         Dr. Catherine Dunnett BSc, PhD, R.Nutr    Independent Equine Nutrition    

Click here to order this back issue!

PHOTO GALLERY

The expression ‘no foot no horse’ is one that has stood the test of time, and discussions about hoof shape, horn quality, and foot conformation continue to dominate in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.  

Thoroughbreds in particular have a reputation, perhaps undeserved, for poor foot conformation but can frequently experience problems relating to either hoof horn quality or growth rate during their training careers.  An inability to retain shoes, the appearance of hoof cracks, thin soles, white line disease, and brittle or crumbly feet are all practical issues related to horn quality that trainers may experience in some horses.  

While it is easy to perhaps appreciate familial traits in foot conformation and hoof shape, experts also suggest that hoof horn quality is also influenced by genetic factors as well as nutrition, environment, and farriery.  Stable cleanliness is also very important, with studies showing that equine feces have a very detrimental effect on hoof horn integrity, especially where the structure of the horn is not robust.

The focus of this article is the influence of diet on the hoof and how this relates to a typical racing ration.  Hooves contain a large amount of protein, roughly 90% on a dry matter basis, and the most abundant structural protein present is keratin, which contains approximately 18 different amino acids.  These chains of amino acids give keratin its primary structure, and the orientation and interconnection of these chains then gives a specialized secondary structure that relates to location and its function.   

The hoof tissues are complex and show a high level of differentiation to deliver functionality. For example, keratin in the hoof capsule is rich in disulphide bonds (double sulphur bonds) that bridge two cysteine amino acids to form cystine to deliver hardness and strength, whereas the keratin found in the frog and white line region have less of these disulphide bonds (S=S) and more sulfhydryl bonds (S=H), affording less strength but more flexibility.

Methionine is a dietary essential sulphur containing amino acid, i.e. it cannot be synthesized from other amino acids in the body. Methionine can be converted to cysteine, which is integral to the form and function of keratin, and is a limiting amino acid in the equine diet, together with lysine and threonine.  

 

Don't forget the jockey

Training (NAT)Web Master
  Don’t forget the jockey: Horse-jockey interaction in Thoroughbred racing.    Walker, A.M. and Witte, T.H.       Abstract    The interaction between horse and jockey in racing is a fundamental partnership that can be optimized to achieve peak performance. Performance benefits have been demonstrated for major changes in jockey technique such as the change from seated to the modern martini glass posture. However, if the partnership between horse and jockey does not work effectively together in a synchronized and complementary manner then, irrespective of the ability of the horse, performance may be constrained and the risk of injury of both horse and jockey may be increased.       Jockey training techniques have developed rapidly in recent years to involve sport-specific fitness training and technique optimisation, often using mechanical racehorse simulators. Simulators allow carefully controlled, safe, and cost-effective training environments that can be used for prolonged periods to improve fitness, train neural pathways, and develop muscle memory. Simulator training allows the jockey and coach to focus on specific elements of technique with immediate and detailed feedback, which in some cases can include physical manipulation to improve position and help jockeys to ‘feel’ the correct posture. Furthermore, additional skills such as correct use of the whip can be practiced in a safe, repeatable, welfare friendly environment.       Our research set out to characterize optimum jockey technique, measure the similarities and differences between simulators and real horses, and to measure changes in ability between jockeys of different experience levels. Using wireless sensor technology we have identified targets for skill optimisation with the potential to form the basis for improved feedback to jockeys during training.       Optimizing Performance    Extensive research has been carried out for many years to establish optimal breeding and training of Thoroughbred racehorses to improve performance, reduce race times, and minimize injuries and horse falls. Methods for early prediction of performance extend to genetic, physiological, and microbiological testing, and studies have become so specific that even the effect of girth tension has been investigated. This body of work has led to the refinements of tack, breeding, training, and veterinary care that underpin the sport and wider industry.        One aspect that remains under-investigated is the jockey. It is self-evident that the jockey plays an integral role in race performance and injury prevention, but the mechanics of the horse-jockey interaction have not been quantified. We do know that jockeys are not a passive load, simply being carried by the horse. On the contrary they are high-performance athletes who work hard during a race to isolate their movement from that of the horse and reduce the negative impact of load carrying on locomotion.        Research    Recent studies funded by the British Horserace Betting Levy Board and carried out by the Royal Veterinary College in London applied modern sensor technology to measure the biomechanics of the horse-jockey interaction. Advances in technology have allowed movement and force data to be collected in the field for the first time. Data were collected to support and further develop anecdotal and historical theories, which is hoped will facilitate future training.        Improved understanding of the repetitive, cyclical movement of jockeys of varied experience and skill level helps to define optimal technique which can then be used as a model for trainee jockeys. Defining this model will provide opportunities to adapt training and feedback to best practice, as undertaken in other elite sports where such feedback has been shown to speed up the rate of skill development. In jockeys this approach has the potential to reduce the risk of injury and falls, and to improve welfare.       Simulator vs. Horse    Our most surprising results were obtained when comparing racehorse movement patterns to the movements of a racehorse simulator commonly used for training jockeys. Movement of the simulator, when viewed from the left side, formed an anticlockwise oval trajectory while movement of a real horse, subtracting the effect of forward movement, moved clockwise. In other words, both moved in a cyclical manner but in opposite directions. The simulator also had a larger range of forwards-backwards motion while the real horse had a larger up and down movement. As may be expected, jockey pelvis movement was consistently measured in a cyclical trajectory opposite in direction to that of the simulator and horse. In both cases, the amount of vertical movement of the jockey’s pelvis was found to be less than half that of the horse, supporting previous work showing that the jockey’s legs act like a damper. The jockey’s legs effectively absorb the movement of the horse resulting in a comparatively stationary, stable position of the trunk, minimizing the impact on the horse of carrying the additional weight of the jockey.       Also striking was the difference in force through the stirrups measured during galloping on a horse compared to a simulator; the forces on the horse were more than double those on the simulator. This difference stems from the fact that the simulator cycles horizontally, rather like a rowing machine, resulting in a relatively consistent weight distribution through the stirrups. In contrast, a horse effectively jumps from stride to stride with an aerial phase resulting in higher force peaks (Figure 1). Interestingly, on a simulator left to right symmetry of stirrup forces were more symmetrical in elite jockeys compared to novices. However on a horse symmetry was not significantly different across experience levels, likely due to the inherent asymmetry from horse trunk roll that is absent in the fixed simulator, where there is very little sideways movement or roll for jockeys to accommodate.        The absence of trunk roll on a simulator eliminates one of the more complex elements of the movement to which a jockey must respond and adapt. The direction and timing of the sideways displacement and roll in horses is linked to gallop lead. The start of the stride coincides with the trunk rolling away from the lead leg before rolling towards the lead leg mid-stride and then away again just before the start of the next stride (Figure 2). This movement appears to have less effect on the stability of experienced jockeys who are more balanced and displace less during a stride cycle and may thereby be able to maintain a solid base of support, an important factor in the risk of falling.          These differences between simulators and horses raise important questions about the effect of training on a simulator. Although important in the development of sport-specific endurance and stamina, simulators may be deficient in precise skill and technique development.       Jockey Experience    Epidemiological studies have highlighted jockey experience as a key risk factor for injury and falls. Novice jockeys are at higher risk of falling than their more experienced counterparts; however specific differences in technique have not been measured. As with most practical skills, technique changes as jockeys become more experienced. Experienced riders are more stable and balanced than novices. We have measured this as a smaller range of movement and more consistent movement after subtracting the effect of the horse or simulator. More even weight distribution is seen between the left and right stirrups during simulator training, although the importance of this is difficult to judge in light of the inherent asymmetry of horse motion at a gallop.       Whip use    While the effect of using a whip on jockey position and riding technique requires further detailed analysis, our initial results indicate that with experience jockeys are more able to apply the whip at a specific target time within a stride cycle. Sensor measurements suggest that jockeys move more from side to side during a cycle in which the whip is applied, which combined with twisting of the upper body enables correct contact to be made for optimal effect and to avoid penalties.       Impact on Racing    Defining and understanding what constitutes optimal jockey technique will inform future training and improve safety and welfare of both the horse and rider. By further understanding the differences between a real horse and a horse simulator, training of both novice and experienced jockeys can be optimized and simulators used for maximum benefit in training and rehabilitation. Any counterproductive exercises can be eliminated or adapted as appropriate.       Next Steps    Further investigation is required into non-steady state events such as whip use, jumping, riding out of starting stalls, and riding a finish. Real-time feedback systems should soon be available to aid the development of specific skills, providing opportunities for the objective monitoring of training, development, and performance. In preliminary testing we have found that such feedback is most effective when jockeys have already established the basic neuromuscular fitness and control required for the repetitive cyclical movement exhibited by both racehorse simulators and real horses.       Conclusions    Multiple factors influence the complex interaction between horse and jockey. Differences between a simulated and real horse gallop may limit the suitability of simulator training for skill development, but the benefits to cardiovascular and musculoskeletal conditioning and training cannot be contested. Non-steady state locomotion such as riding a finish or whip use significantly alters jockey movement and technique affecting their interaction with the horse, and these areas warrant further detailed investigation to ensure that any future changes to racing regulations remain evidence based.                Figure 1a          Figure 1b          Figure 1: Stirrup force profile during a) gallop on a real horse and b) simulated gallop from an experienced jockey. Red and blue are right and left stirrup forces respectively. The black dashed box indicates one stride cycle.            Figure 2        Figure 2: Horse pelvis roll during right lead (red) and left lead (blue) gallop. A positive roll indicates a roll to the right with negative a roll to the left. Each line represents an individual stride.
Simulators allow carefully controlled, safe, and cost-effective training environments that can be used for prolonged periods to improve fitness, train neural pathways, and develop muscle memory

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The interaction between horse and jockey in racing is a fundamental partnership that can be optimized to achieve peak performance.

Performance benefits have been demonstrated for major changes in jockey technique such as the change from seated to the modern martini glass posture. However, if the partnership between horse and jockey does not work effectively together in a synchronized and complementary manner then, irrespective of the ability of the horse, performance may be constrained and the risk of injury of both horse and jockey may be increased.

Jockey training techniques have developed rapidly in recent years to involve sport-specific fitness training and technique optimisation, often using mechanical racehorse simulators. Simulators allow carefully controlled, safe, and cost-effective training environments that can be used for prolonged periods to improve fitness, train neural pathways, and develop muscle memory. Simulator training allows the jockey and coach to focus on specific elements of technique with immediate and detailed feedback, which in some cases can include physical manipulation to improve position and help jockeys to ‘feel’ the correct posture. Furthermore, additional skills such as correct use of the whip can be practiced in a safe, repeatable, welfare friendly environment.

Our research set out to characterize optimum jockey technique, measure the similarities and differences between simulators and real horses, and to measure changes in ability between jockeys of different experience levels. Using wireless sensor technology we have identified targets for skill optimisation with the potential to form the basis for improved feedback to jockeys during training.

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