In my last post about understanding track work (Click Here to Read), I explained that this term is simply the racing equivalent to training or practice sessions that human athletes have. However, trainers are taking into consideration a lot of varying factors in relation to the horses.
Such things that trainers look at during track work is the horses’s movement (is the horse fully stretching out? are there signs of lameness? etc), they are also looking at the gear the horse is wearing (blinkers, winkers, tongue ties, norton bits etc) this helps to determine what gear the horse might need to wear in its races (a post we will look at another time).
A crucial part of horse racing is how the horses handle the barriers (the gates that they jump from at the races). When a young horse is going through the breaking in process, they are taught to go into the barriers alone and with a friend as well as the all important mastering the jumping out cleanly from the gates without issue. If a horse is not comfortable in the barriers, then injuries can occur to rider, horse or even barrier attendant, therefore it is important that horses have no issues with these.
When a horse comes into a racing stable for the first time, it is guaranteed they have had some barrier education from the pre-trainer to help assist the trainer with continuing the work on. Most trainers therefore incorporate JUMP OUTs in their track work, this is an opportunity of having a number of horses loaded into the barriers together to practice leaving the gates. Essentially resembling the situation they will be faced with at the races. These jump outs are not necessarily just with horses from the same stable but those from other stables and in small numbers around 6.
Some people wonder why horses at the races play up in the gates, there are varying reasons for this and just like us horses have issues with things for various reasons. Some horses simply do not like to be in a confined space for too long, others do not like the feeling of the rails touching them and some may even have mental scars as they have been injured in the barriers before.
Jump outs are scheduled by the race track and trainers advised accordingly so that the horses’s preparations can include this all important aspect of ensuring a horse is ready to head to the races with the minimal possible risk of causing injury to themselves or others when in the barriers.
However, it is important to remember that horses are just like us- we can practice things to perfection and yet still on the day there are things that can go wrong. Horses are an animal that of course have a mind of their own and on the day they simply may not want to be in the barriers.
Allow me to take you back to the race days of the champion mare BLACK CAVIAR, you may recall that anytime she was put into the barriers you would see a blanket over her hind quarter- this is known as a Barrier Blanket. This is a usually piece of equipment for those horses who do not like the feel of the inside rails touching them,so the blanket is used as a in between to keep the horse happy. It is then clipped to the back of the barrier so that when the front gates open the horse can jump out and the blanket simply slides off and stays in the gates. For horses who require this equipment, trainers have to declare it on a database that such horses require a blanket, this then helps the barrier attendants identify for each race the horses that need these.
If lucky enough your trainer may take footage of your horse having a practice or Jump Out and send it to you so that you can watch this and get more of a behind the scenes look at how your horse is progressing.