Welfare of the Racehorse During Training and Racing
The welfare of racehorses in training and competition can be compromised by the mismanagement of many processes. Lameness is usually identified as the major welfare concern. Previous studies on young racehorses (<3years) revealed that eighty-five per cent of the horses suffers at least one incident of injury or disease.
Recent epidemiological studies explored environmental risk factors for lameness and catastrophic incidents during training and racing, such as age of backing, trainings parameters (periodization, frequency, volume, intensity, validity, variety, recovery periods…), stabling, dietary deficiencies, racing, and track design (surface and corners) and reconstruction. Inadequate preparation of the horse for competing causes earlier onset of fatigue during a race, sub-optimal performance, an increased likelihood of injury and possibly even exhaustion and death, and excessive use of racing or competition as a training method is likely to result in fatigue and lameness and high wastage rates as well. On the other hand, overtraining will risk overloading injuries and the overtraining syndrome. Furthermore, inappropriate recovery periods after training and competition also contributes to a state of chronic fatigue, weight loss, poor performance and, again, the overtraining syndrome. Lastly, the environmental factors must be managed thoroughly as well. To maintain the homeostasis, dehydration and hyperthermia must in all times be prevented.
The main thought is that the design of suitable training programs depends on an understanding of the metabolic demands of the event. E.g. the sprint training should not be combined with long duration and distances for basic training and the trainings parameters should be managed by a periodized trainings schedule.
Expert opinion by Isabeau Deckers
This study is written in collaboration with a renowned racehorse trainer and veterinary professor and forms a chapter of the book ‘welfare in horses’ (-N. Waran). Thereby, this study gives us valuable insights into the welfare of racehorses, based on both high levels of expertise and science. Besides the trainings and environmental parameters, the primary role of the behavioural signs of issues in the horse, such as mood disturbances and reluctance to training, are established as well.
> From: Evans, Klower Academic publishers 8 (2006) 181-201. All rights reserved to Springer 2007. Click here for the online summary.