Mobile Racehorse Trainer

Roush Technologies has designed a vehicle that allows racehorse trainers to work their horses themselves.  The Mobile Racehorse Trainer reportedly allows the trainer/driver to precisely control the speed of the animal, and presumably to closely monitor all possible variables as the horse responds to the exercise.  One can only wonder at the cost of such a contraption, however technology such as this should ultimately lead to better-designed workouts that are tailored to the specific requirements of individual horses.  Trainers should have a greater opportunity to assess the impact of training on the horse and to learn how to improve exercise regimes as a result.  Clearly, fewer injuries should be the ultimate result of such (literally) close monitoring; a dramatic change from leaving it all to the discretion of the work rider in the early morning darkness.

Racehorse Trainers Need to Improve Diagnostics

Tragic news over the weekend of the demise of another talented racehorse in America’s premier event, the Kentucky Derby. The filly, Eight Belles, was euthanased after breaking both front legs post-race; having run second in the race. The incident once again raises questions as to the adequacy of racehorse trainers’ diagnostic systems. As technology progresses, the well-being of horses, jockeys and exercise riders can be maintained through diligent screening for niggling injuries and pre-cursors to potentially fatal tragedies. As The New York Times reports:

John Ward, a third-generation horseman who trained the 2001 Derby winner, Monarchos, says the industry must continue working on technologies that can screen horses more closely before they go into competition.

He told a story of a 3-year-old filly who was promising as a 2-year-old but had not seemed to be her best. An early set of X-rays did not show any injuries. When Ward sent her to the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for more sophisticated full-body tests, veterinarians found she had microfractures in three of her ankles.

“She was a catastrophe waiting to happen, and she had never spent an unsound day in her life,” Ward said. “We have got to start examining these animals at the molecular level, and protect them.”

Clearly, the increasingly widespread availability and accessibility of such technology makes it incumbent upon trainers, and possibly racing boards, to monitor and screen horses for pre-existing injuries prior to competing, particularly horses with any prior history of unsoundness. A number of diagnostic tools, ranging from small non-contact laser thermometers to infrared thermography, ultrasound, x-ray and bone density scanning, are available at lower and lower costs to trainers. When lives are at stake, why not engage all possible preventative measures in the interests of preserving not only the reputation of racing in the eyes of the public, but also the lifeblood of the industry: the horses and jockeys at centre-stage?