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Endurance and flat racing techniques meld
Conditioning principles coalesce between the two disparate forms of sport, to mutual benefit


To illustrate this point, Hooten outlines the accomplishments of trainer Mubarak Khalifa bin Shafya. He began training in 1994 and primarily managed endurance racing and breeding concerns for Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum. By 2004, Shafya was the leading endurance trainer for the Maktoum family and managed the group of horses that successfully competed at the Endurance Test Event at the Kentucky Horse Park in advance of the World Equestrian Games. That year, he was also assigned to train a few flat-racing horses that had been injured or had fallen off in performance at other stables in the Maktoum organization.

"He did not know much about flat-racing training when he started with these horses," says Hooten, "but what he did was what he knew." Shafya trained the horses like endurance horses with a lot of long trots and miles on prepared sand tracts in the desert. He first developed a good fitness base, and he then applied speed-training techniques. And the results showed. At the 2009 Dubai World Cup, Shafya recorded 12 winners for the Maktoums that included some of the horses he had originally been assigned. The hard fitness training he used as part of his endurance regimen helped heal and condition these horses for speed as flat racers.

"Most Thoroughbred flat-racing horses are not fit," says Hooten. "No professional athlete sits on the couch for 23 hours each day," he adds. Endurance training, as a base, can benefit all racehorses and may well help reduce injuries.

J.D. Fountain of Fountain Racing Stables in South Carolina says it's tough to get traditional trainers to accept this idea. Fountain trains for both disciplines. "I have trouble getting people to spend enough time riding my horses, because it's not the standard way of training," Fountain says.


Change doesn't come easily, especially in a sport as steeped in tradition as horse racing. To get the best performance from horses competing in both flat racing and endurance, trainers had to first go against established ideas. Endurance trainers had to add interval training and speed work into their programs. The dramatic increase in racing speeds and the repeated recent lowering of the 100-mile record time shows that endurance trainers have been paying attention. Flat-race trainers had to reexamine the concept of "fitness" and find ways to get their horses out more to put more miles on their feet and more fitness in their ligaments, tendons and bones. It's not yet clear if most people in the race horse world got the message.

Editor's note: A similar article by Dr. Marcella titled "Trainers from different disciplines can be successful by bringing new techniques to routines" was posted on the Thoroughbred Times website June 23, 2010.

Dr. Marcella is an equine practitioner in Canton, Ga.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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