Recommended Reading

Thoroughbred Breeding – Pedigree Theories and the Science of Genetics (Binns and Morris)

Thoroughbred Breeding: Pedigree Theories and the Science of Genetics is a book worth reading. A friend recently gave me several boxes of books on breeding racehorses. A number of these books are cited in this book of Binns and Morris, and the theories dismissed on scientific grounds. For someone looking at the selection of stock for breeding and racing, Thoroughbred Breeding: Pedigree Theories and the Science of Genetics is a great place to start.

Binns and Morris use modern science to provide an evidence base by which to disprove many breeding theories, including those of Bruce Lowe, Harold Hampton, and Sir Rhys Llewellyn. While the book gives very little guidance in terms of strategies that are proven, its real value is in clarifying the relative merit of various breeding theories, with some discussion of line breeding and inbreeding.

A major oversight, in my view, is the absence of any analysis of the work of Clive Harper, who wrote The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Handbook. Harper analysed the pedigrees of a number of stakeswinners in New Zealand, and compared them with the pedigrees of a group of maiden horses, and found some extraordinary differences in terms of duplicated ancestors in pedigrees. Harper’s work was scientifically valid, yet Binns and Morris appear to have overlooked it entirely.

Another issue with this book is that Binns and Morris suggest that racing performance is only 1/3 attributable to pedigree/genetics and 2/3 to environment/training. Anyone who has trained horses for a while knows that good horses are extremely hard to come by, and that when they do, it doesn’t take a great trainer to be winning races. In my view, a well-bred horse counts for a lot more than 1/3 of racetrack performance.

Aside from those couple of observations, Thoroughbred Breeding: Pedigree Theories and the Science of Genetics is critical reading. It can be purchased here:

The Fit Racehorse II (Tom Ivers)

There are quite a few useful books on training racehorses.  A must-read for racehorse trainers around the world is The Fit Racehorse II (Tom Ivers). Ivers turned the racing industry on its head with this comprehensive work, in which he denounces the general poor quality of exercise regimes, diagnostics, use of medications, and feeding protocols. It is difficult to disagree with Ivers on much of his analysis. The primary challenge presented by the book concerns the topic of interval training; whether, and to what extent, trainers should consider incorporating elements of interval training into their horses’ exercise programs.

Ivers recommends a “long and slow” to “short and fast” program for horses, which is the reverse of many typical routes to racing. Some months of long slow distance (LSD) of at least 3-4 miles per day is followed by a series of interval workouts, gradually increasing in speed up until racing speeds and distances prior to going racing. This thinking is anathema to many racehorse trainers. It requires a lot more work, a lot more risk of injury, a lot more feed and lot more patience. However, Ivers cites a number of successful horses such as the Irish galloper Stanerra (who won the Japan cup) that have benefitted from an interval training protocol.

The Fit Racehorse II is a book that is well worth reading. The interval workouts are described in detail, with heat times mapped on tables throughout the book. There are expansive sections on feed and nutrition, drugs, and stable management, and Ivers also devotes whole chapters to each disclipline – harness, quarter horses and thoroughbred gallopers.

The Fit Racehorse II can be purchased through Amazon here:


The Racehorse in Training – With Hints on Racing and Racing Reforms – William Day

Another good book is The Racehorse in Training; With Hints of Racing and Racing Reforms by William Day.  You can buy this book from Amazon here:

Training Thoroughbred Horses

Another excellent book on training racehorses is Preston Burch’s book, Training Thoroughbred Horses. Very few successful trainers have written candidly about their methods, but Hall of Fame trainer Preston Burch provides a comprehensive account of his approach to developing and racing the equine athlete. Of particular interest is Burch’s record of the actual works of some of his successful gallopers. Contemporary trainers can draw great benefit from this part of the book, with its emphasis on a long preparation and ensuring that the horse is fit to run come race-day. You can buy the book here:

Well Shod: A Horseshoeing Guide for Farriers and Owners
A farrier can enhance the hard work that a trainer does, with good shoeing, or can bring all the hard work undone. An excellent book on the entire subject is Well Shod by Don Baskins. Numerous people recommended this book to me before I bought it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Whether you’re looking to start doing your own farrier work, or just need to be sure that your farrier is doing a good job, this book is outstanding.

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