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Most racehorses are Thoroughbreds, and are bred for speed. Their fine build and long, powerful legs allow them to reach speeds of around 40 miles an hour.
Each horse is an individual, and some will always be faster than others. This may be down to natural ability or conformation, which cannot be altered. However, a racehorse can be '"fine-tuned" by changing its diet, rider and fitness program to help it reach its full potential.
Before looking at any training program, your horse should be mature, fit and healthy, and have had any physical problems, such as injury, addressed by a veterinarian.
Increasing the Fitness Program
Ride your horse out for an hour a day and walk up as many hills as you can. Over a three-week period, gradually increase the time to two hours a day and introduce short periods of trot on the flat.
Trot up the hills, and walk on the flat. At the end of a two-week period, the horse should be having two hours of exercise a day, and be capable of sustaining a working trot up a long, fairly steep hill.
Increase the pace of the work. Keep the time at two hours and continue to walk on the flat, with periods of trot. Introduce canter up the hill, asking the horse to keep a steady, balanced pace. Continue this work for about a month.
Introduce stretches of fast work about twice a week. The horse should be allowed to gallop over at least a half-mile stretch of land. In-between gallops, continue to ride your horse out to keep it fresh and engaged.
Feeding for Speed
Measure your horse's weight using a weigh tape. Pass it round the horse's body in the position the girth would normally lie, and pull it tight enough to just depress the hair. Horses fed an insufficient amount for their weight will have less energy.
Feed a suitable amount of a high-protein, high-energy feed. Give the horse fresh water and plenty of hay. Feeding small amounts more often helps the horse to digest properly.
Add a vitamin supplement to the feed. Many racehorses are prone to picking up bugs because they travel so much; adding a pro-biotic supplement will help your horse function in top condition.
Riding for Speed
Work on the rider's fitness program. Perform a series of leg-strengthening exercises twice a day, and carry out half an hour of cardiovascular work, such as running or aerobics.
Work on the rider's balance. Perform a series of balance exercises twice a day.
Ask the rider to mount. Remove her feet from the stirrups and cross the stirrups in front of the saddle. Attach a lunge line to the bridle by passing it through the nearside bit ring, over the horse's head and clipping it to the other bit ring. Tie a knot in the reins.
Trot the horse in a circle around the handler, and ask the rider to raise both arms out to the side at shoulder height.
Ask the rider to raise one leg away from the saddle, and hold it there for a count of three; then change legs.
Repeat these mounted exercises at least a couple of times a week. A fit, balanced rider will help the horse to run straighter and faster and reach its full potential.
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