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Technology in Racehorse Training

Written by

In The Paddock Staff

Posted on November 15, 2017

According to one leading names in the sport, training racehorses is nothing more than a question of “keeping your animals happy, healthy and fit”.

Newmarket’s legendary trainer Sir Mark Prescott, meanwhile, compares his job to that of a schoolteacher. “It is your responsibility to know as soon as possible what your pupils are capable of and to make sure that they are entered for the right exam,” he says.

What cannot be disputed is that there is no one unbeatable way to become a champion trainer, not least because of the number of different technological advances in the sport in recent years. Some have proved universally popular, others still divide opinion.

We talked to David Griffiths, the trainer of the age‐defying Take Cover, one of the most popular and talented sprinters in British racing, to find out five tools he has used as a trainer and another on his personal wish list.

1) Heart rate monitor

The theory:

A horse’s heart rate is a reliable indicator of its condition when used before, during, and after exercise. Since the cardiovascular system is responsible for delivering blood to the muscles and removing by‐products of metabolism, it is central to the horse’s ability to perform. If used regularly, you can build a database of information that should allow you to gauge a horse’s fitness and the type of training needed to improve that. It can even help to pick up on signs of injury.

The trainer says:

“We’re not using it at present as we had some technical issues with the equipment but it was interesting to see it in action and I’d certainly consider using it again. The most useful aspect for me was being able to monitor a horse’s recovery rate after exercise as it gave a very good guide to fitness. The newest products now can monitor a horse’s stride rate too, which I can definitely see as being useful.”

2) Swimming pool

The theory:

Horses are good swimmers and the activity can add variety to a horse’s training regime. Additionally, the water provides buoyancy, which relieves pressure on joints, bones and ligaments, and the water provides enough resistance to ensure a thorough workout. Swimming can also keep a horse fit without putting stress on particular injuries e.g. ligament injuries, tendon injuries, muscle problems, stress and minor fractures. Best of all, most horses seem to really enjoy the experience.

The trainer says:

“We use a swimming pool and I’m a big fan of it. I think it’s a massive help for the horses we have with funny legs. If you take a horse like Lucky Beggar, who without wanting to be too rude was basically mad when he first came to the yard, he really enjoys his swimming and it has done him the world of good. He’s won two races this year ending a losing streak going back to 2014. It’s something different for him and just seems to help his old legs.”

3) Portable bone scanners

The theory:

Portable ultrasound scanners can be used with a high degree of accuracy by veterinary practitioners to identify and evaluate tendon, ligament and joint problems. Mobile radiography devices are also available which produce images that can be viewed on screen within a matter of seconds.

The trainer says:

“The technology may not be new, but the access that trainers have to it is far easier than was the case until even quite recently. The vet comes in to do a lot of scanning and X‐rays, particularly with our youngest horses. It’s useful to identify when we need to be taking things easy with the two‐year olds and when they are ready to take a bit of extra work.”

4) The horse walker

The theory:

The ultimate labour‐saving device, horse‐walkers have become commonplace in almost every stable with more than a handful of horses. Essentially, they are like a roundabout for horses, who walk around in a circle for an hour or so, pushed by a moving cushioned board propelled by a motor. Despite the monotony, most horses seem not to mind them too much, and they can be excellent at bringing horses forward in their fitness.

The trainer says:

“Like most trainers I’d imagine, I don’t know what we’d do without them. I guess people used to just lead the horses out by hand all day. Of course, you can’t just put them on the walker, it’s only part of the picture and they need to stretch their legs in other ways too, but they are particularly useful for taking the freshness off some horses and getting them into shape.”

5) The equine spa

The theory:

This allows the horse to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of cold salt water therapy, with the water usually kept at between 2‐4°C. The treatment minimises heat and inflammation in the lower legs making it ideal for treating soft tissue injuries, and can also be used as a preventative measure against soreness, or to offer relief if a horse has been competing on firm ground.

The trainer says:

“I use it a hell of a lot. It’s basically like a starting stall filled with really cold water up to just below the knees and the horses stand in it for 10‐20 minutes. I’m a massive believer in the benefits for horses after they have worked or run or before they run too. Keeping any racehorse’s legs sound is so important so you do everything you can.”

And on David Griffiths’ Christmas wish list?

“As you’ll have guessed by now, I am a big fan of hydrotherapy for racehorses and Godolphin have a sea walker. The horses basically trot round in a circle in three or four feet of water, and because they have to raise their legs a bit to get through the water it really gets them moving. If money was no object, I’d love one!”

For more information about David Griffiths and his operation, head to

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