10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steeplechase Horses
All eyes are on them during race days, but how much do you really know about steeplechase horses? If you are a horse novice, read on to find out.
1. Steeplechase horses are sometimes referred to as ‘chasers
In order to compete, their Thoroughbred lineage must be proven with official Jockey Club papers.
2. They are the best of the best
Thoroughbreds are widely considered to be the most athletic breed of horse, and ‘chasers are especially known for their speed and agility.
3. Proportionally, race days are rare for steeplechase horses
Most run in no more than ten races per year. Since there are no races from December through mid-March, horses have plenty of downtime. However, they do not spend the entirety of off-season lazing about.
They are exercised in the same way every day in preparation for their next race. Like people, horses do well with a daily routine and feeding schedule.
4. The training plan for each horse must be structured to avoid causing injury or lameness
After breakfast, horses usually have around an hour before training begins. It begins with a warm-up exercise. Next is the schooling process. Schooling is a combination of advanced exercises such as completing jumping patterns, practicing quick turns, upward and downward transitions, and galloping. The horses will train in all kinds of weather to keep up with their practice schedule. Some horses are re-schooled in order to refine their technique or break unwanted behaviors.
Horses’ skeletal systems adjust in conjunction with how much they are exercised. Horses also respond well to ice and heat therapy for treating aches and pains.
5. Most steeplechase horses start their career running in flat races
They usually do not start competing in the steeplechase until they are around four years old and continue until they’re ten or eleven.
The term novice is used to describe a horse in the early stages of its steeplechase career. Novice races are held at many meets, to give horses experience over hurdles before they compete with more-seasoned jumpers.
6. Steeplechase horses generally do not train at the race track
Instead, many of them reside in country settings along the east coast, from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. This allows them to spend time outdoors.
7. Their diet mainly consists of hay and grains
In addition, medications and joint supplements are sometimes included with feeding to treat arthritis or other health concerns. It is important that a horse’s heart rate returns to normal before eating.
8. Steeplechase horses need a lot of stamina
Since steeplechase races are longer than those on the flat, the ‘chasers need to have enough stamina to carry its speed over two miles or more. It is important for horses to eat a lot in order to store ATP, which is what they use to simulate muscle contraction. Having a sufficient amount of ATP allows the muscles to contract longer without fatiguing.
9. Shoeing and trimming is required every 2-4 weeks
A farrier is normally kept on hand to provide regular maintenance to the horses. Horses hooves are similar to people’s fingernails and need to be trimmed on a regular basis. Farriers use nippers, hoof jacks, stands, picks, knives and rasps to trim the horses’ hooves. Some horses may require additional treatment for damaged hooves.
10. Horses do not need a lot of sleep
Horses only sleep for 2-3 hours per night. Contrary to popular belief, horses do have to lie down in order to get a good REM sleep. Yet, they snooze while standing up at various times throughout the day.
Witness the ‘chasers in action at the Steeplechase of Charleston on November 17th!