Judging Fitness

As a racehorse walks around the paddock, its health and fitness will show in the shine of its coat and in the definition of its muscles, as well as in its general demeanour. Horses will differ in the amount of work they need to attain full fitness. Clearly a small, light-framed horse will be easier to get fit on the home gallops than a strapping, heavy-topped sort. In the past many horses needed the benefit of a race to put the edge on their fitness; nowadays, however, the use of all- weather surfaces and more sophisticated training methods, such as interval training, have enabled many trainers to bring their horses to peak fitness for their first run of the season.

This gelding by Acclamation looks trained to the minute.

There’s a lovely shine on the coat of this colt by Exceed and Excel.

A fit racehorse will show the faint outline of its ribs, possibly as far back as where the back of the saddle would sit. In his autobiography, fifteen-times champion National Hunt trainer Martin Pipe says that you should be able to see a horse’s last two ribs when it is really fit (a horse has eighteen pairs of ribs). If you can’t see any sign of the ribs the horse may be backward in condition, or at least lacking the edge of fitness required to perform at its best.

This colt by Bahamian Bounty doesn’t have an ounce of spare flesh on him. His fitness is accentuated by the definition of his abdominal muscles.

Most horses that are race fit don’t carry any excess weight, but a few, even if they are fit enough to do themselves justice, may still be carrying a bit of a barrel. With these types of horses it would be useful to know whether they looked like this when they’d won or run well in the past.

This colt by Bertolini is fit, but carries plenty of condition.

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